How to Prepare for a Ski Trip in Japan this Winter

From delicate and dry powder snow to excellent service, delicious cuisine, relaxing hot springs, and a beautiful landscape, a ski trip to Japan is a dream. But, if you want to make this dream come true, it will take some work. To properly prepare for a ski trip in Japan this winter, you’ll have to do a lot of research. We hope this guide will help you get started with that research. Spending the winter in Japan is a truly unique experience, so you should do what you can to get the most out of it.

The best places to go skiing in Japan

As it’s a predominantly mountainous country, you can find ski resorts all over Japan. Most are in Hokkaido, Nagano, Niigata, and Tohoku (the North-East region). As a foreign visitor, there are a few factors to consider before choosing where you’ll be going. Some of the essential things would be:

  1. The convenience of travel;
  2. The popularity of English in the region;
  3. The facilities offered;
  4. The scale of the resort area.

Aside from being on every hiker’s bucket list, during winter, Mount Fuji is one of the most popular choices for a ski trip in Japan. However, the fun isn’t limited to just this one mountain. Let’s go through a few equally (if not more) popular options for skiing in Japan.

Nagano

Nagano offers plenty of ski resorts suitable for all levels. The most popular ones would be Hakuba, Nozawa, and Shiga Kogen. Hakuba is an excellent choice for beginner and intermediate-level skiers. Nozawa is better suited for advanced skiers. Snowboarders can also enjoy Nagano. However, Shiga Kogen is better for skiing rather than snowboarding.

Hokkaido

Being one of the most popular choices for skiers, Hokkaido offers a lot of ski resorts. No matter what level of skier or snowboarder you are, there is a place for you in Hokkaido. The three most popular options are:

  1. Niseko – This is the largest ski resort area in Hokkaido. It’s easy to access. English is widely spoken here. There are great nightlife opportunities in neighboring Hirafu;
  2. Rusutsu – The second largest after Niseko, offers many hotels and facilities. It’s a very family-friendly area but with limited nightlife;
  3. Furano – A smaller resort. The nearby town of Furano is a great family-friendly location with lots to do off-piste.

The snow quality in Hokkaido is one of the best in Japan. And since the entire island is so well connected, it’s an attractive option for people who want to venture outside their resorts and explore the full range of what Japan offers. If you’re planning to move overseas to Japan with your family, this trip is a great chance to introduce the other members of it to the culture and beauty of Japan. It’s sure to help you get everyone on board for moving there.

Niigata

The two most popular resorts in this area are Naeba and Gala Yuzawa. Naeba is excellent for all levels. Gala Yuzawa might be boring for advanced skiers and snowboarders. Though it can not compare to Hokkaido, the snow quality is still amazing. While this place should be on your list if you want to prepare for a ski trip in Japan this winter properly, it’s better suited for travelers who wish to spend a few days skiing and the rest exploring Japanese culture.

When does ski season start in Japan?

The ski season in Japan typically lasts from early December to late April. However, it extends to early May in Hokkaido. However, if you prefer skiing during peak season when the snow is perfect and all facilities are active, you should plan to be here between mid-January and late February. To avoid large crowds and slopes full of skiers, you should take advantage of the shoulder season.

Choosing suitable accommodation is crucial

If your goal is to prepare for a ski trip in Japan this winter properly, you must choose a suitable accommodation for your needs. Here are a few things to consider while making this choice:

  1. Choose a hotel with beds if it’s your first time – Most homes and hotels in Japan have futons rather than beds. Remember that you’ll probably be exhausted after a day of skiing, and if you’re not used to futons, a mattress will probably be a lot more comfortable;
  2. Ski-in ski-out is the best choice, but not the only one – While there are a lot of options for ski-in ski-out resorts, they can be pretty expensive. Many hotels offer shuttle bus services, so don’t be exclusive.
  3. Choose a hotel with loads of facilities – The weather during ski season can get nasty from time to time. Having something to do without leaving the hotel can mean a lot during those days.

What equipment should you bring and what should you rent

Most resorts will have all the clothing and equipment you need for rent. You don’t have to worry if you don’t have any of your own. However, some resorts will only have the essentials like boards and skis. So, if you have your helmets and glasses, it’s better not to risk them. The most brilliant move is to call and check in advance.

Eating out in Japan

Japanese food is famous worldwide, and for a good reason. It’s fantastic, and if you plan well, dining out usually doesn’t have to be expensive. The cheapest meal option is to visit a ramen shop. Here you can get a warm bowl of delicious noodles for as low as ¥1000 ($9). Many restaurants offer meal sets at lunchtime. These usually go from ¥1000 to ¥2500 ($9-$20) per person. Tip culture isn’t widespread in Japan, so you shouldn’t leave one unless you see a sign saying the restaurant welcomes tips. There are so many foods to try in Japan that you should not skip. Information is your best tool, so make sure you’re smart about your choices.

Money-saving tips

Japan is relatively inexpensive compared to other popular destinations for skiing. Most all-inclusive ski passes cost around ¥4200 ($40) per day. And you can expect to pay around ¥4500 – ¥6500 ($40 – $60) for ski rentals. Remember that you’re not the only one excited about the affordability of ski trips in Japan. If you plan on visiting more popular sites, always book in advance.

Let’s go through a few tips that are sure to help you enjoy Japan without going broke:

  1. Early bird tickets – Booking early in Japan makes a real difference. You can save over 30% by getting an early bird ticket.
  2. Japan skiing packages – You can, for example, ask your accommodation or resort shuttle bus for a package discount.
  3. Make good use of the JR Rail Pass – This is an excellent way to go on day trips outside your accommodation area.
  4. Japanese-style family rooms are usually enough for four to five people; you probably don’t need more.
  5. If you are traveling with a larger group, it’s cheaper to drive – Public transport is paid per person. When you count it all up, it may be cheaper to rent a car.

Final thoughts

While this is old news to some people, it’s still common for travelers to be surprised that Japan is one of the world’s premier ski destinations. While Japan’s cities, culture, and food, are lovely on their own, their popularity usually leads people to neglect its beautiful nature and outdoor activities. If you take your time and adequately prepare for a ski trip in Japan this winter, you will find out just how many sides there are to this beautiful country.

Plan an unforgettable cross-country skiing experience

Whether you already love cross-country skiing or are just dipping a toe
into the popular winter sport, you’re in for a real treat if you have
not yet embarked on a hut-to-hut excursion. We might think of
cross-country skiing as a form of exercise, but in Scandinavia and
China, it’s one of the oldest means of travel. And today, there are all
kinds of hut systems that allow skiers to go on multi-day ski adventures
with the promise of a warm, cozy shelter each night.

In the United States, you can find several hut systems, like the Sun
Valley Linkup in Idaho, the Wallowa Alpine Huts in Oregon, the San Juan
Hut System in Colorado, and the Maine Hut and Trails System. Distances
between the huts range from three to 10 miles, and different systems are
better for different experience and fitness levels. Make sure to do
your research. Find more tips for booking the perfect hut-to-hut cross-country skiing adventure in this helpful infographic!

Cross Country skiing infographic

10 Late Season Skiing Destinations in Europe

Person skiing

European mountains give us the pleasure of a pretty long skiing season. Yet, true ski lovers still disagree – they always look for a place to extend it for a bit longer. The late-season in most European skiing locations lasts until late April. Therefore, if you didn’t have time to enjoy this fantastic sport yet this season – this is a perfect moment to start looking for the best spot. We present to you the guide to selecting the top 10 late-season skiing destinations in Europe – it’s time to take a look and pick a favorite for your next trip.

Why ski lovers enjoy the late season

Experienced skiers love practicing this sport all the time. However, some of them claim the late season is the best. The main reason is the arrival of spring, which means longer days and more sunshine. Clear skies and sun make the skiing experience even more enjoyable, ensuring you relish those fantastic landscapes. Furthermore, the late season is excellent for beginners, too. Warm temperatures make the snow softer and the whole experience a lot easier for first-time skiers. Finally, Europe skiing in the late season is like going on the beach in September – it can help you spend less money and still have all the fun.

Skier in a blue jacket and black pants

Where to go skiing in spring? Here are the top 10 late-season skiing destinations in Europe

Now let’s see what the best locations to hit the snow with the arrival of spring are.

1.      Ischgl, Austria

This small Austrian town has transformed from a remote border village to one of the top skiing resorts in the country. With the growth of tourism over the years, Ischgl has become more and more popular. Now, it’s one of the most popular locations in the Alps and undoubtedly one of the top late-season skiing destinations in Europe.

2.      Val Thorens, France

This is such a great place to go skiing in spring because it’s located at 2,300m with lifts over 3,000m. With the days being longer in spring, you can truly enjoy the slopes as much as you can during the day. Apart from all the skiing features, the place is also known for its entertainment aspect. There are parties and other events you can enjoy here and have an unforgettable experience even as the season is closing.

3.      Cervinia, Italy

Let’s pop in Italy for a moment and check out one of the best late skiing destinations in Europe. Even though Italy is known for wine-tasting in Florence, you can also have a memorable skiing experience here. Cervinia is located in Aosta Valley, and it is known for its high-altitude slopes that are suitable for skiers of all levels. Visitors can enjoy a relaxed atmosphere in the town and soak up the sun until late in the evening, surrounded by glaciated mountains and beautiful views.

4.      Tignes and Val d’Isere, France

The Espace Killy region is known for these two fantastic skiing locations, and it’s named after a famous French skier. Snowy slopes connect these two skiing resorts and make it skiing heaven for skiers of intermediate and advanced levels. You can visit both places by hopping on a bus, exploring their distinct features.

5.      St. Anton, Austria

St. Anton belongs to this list as it is one of the largest ski resorts in the country, but it also guarantees a snowy season late in the spring. Its high altitudes ensure high lifts and low temperatures for longer, so you can be sure you’ll enjoy its 88 ski lifts even though spring has arrived. Even when not skiing, you can have fun, as St. Anton is great for families and friends.

6.      Verbier, Switzerland

This lovely place in Switzerland is known for its beautiful scenery and the fact that the height of 3,300m keeps the snow longer in spring. It’s open until mid-April and ensures the snow stays longer with the snowmaking technology. This is also a great location to visit other Vallees’ areas, so make sure to plan a more extended stay in Switzerland.

7. Saas-Fee, Switzerland

If you’re traveling with your family, choose Saas-Fee for your next skiing destination. Its slopes are great for beginners and intermediate skiers, but experienced skiers can also have fun on red slopes. This is a rather traditional place with unique Swiss architecture and only about 2000 residents. It also includes a leisure center where your family can have fun even when you’re not skiing.

8. Riksgransen, Sweden

Located in the country’s far northwest corner, Riksgranses has long been a popular skiing destination. The shiny mountains and sparkling snow will help you have an unforgettable skiing experience and enjoy the unique natural beauties of the area. In spring, days are longer, and you can be out from early in the morning until late in the evening when mountains are glowing with beautiful orange and yellow hues from the evening sun.

9. Narvik, Norway

This skiing location is open until the beginning of May, which is excellent for those who truly want to use the season until the very last moment. The resort is relatively small, but it has different ski slopes, and it’s suitable for skiers of different levels. Narvik is a great place to visit with a family, as it’s not too crowded.

10. Ruka, Finland

This lovely Finnish town is one of the top ski resorts in the country. It’s where many professional sports teams train, which tells more about its quality. There are many other things to do here apart from skiing. For instance, be sure to try out dog sledding, snowmobiling, or going to a party.

Person in blue coveralls snowboarding on snow

Late season skiing tips

After choosing your destination for some skiing in the late season, be sure to remember some of these tips for a smooth and safe winter experience:

  • Look for deals and discounts to save as late-season can mean lower accommodation and travel costs;
  • Improve your safety gear, as lower snow can mean more rocks and trees are sticking out
  • Check the weather and wear layered clothes, as spring skiing means different temperatures throughout the day;
  • Prepare your sports gear for the next year when you’re finished—though, knowing the best methods to put away your equipment in a storage unit and keep it safe after your trip is essential. This will ensure everything is in good condition for the next skiing season.

Final words

Our list of top late-season skiing destinations in Europe will quickly help you decide where to go and arrange a new skiing experience. But it will also make the bucket list longer for passionate skiers – are you one of them?