Best Ski Resorts in Japan

Niseko Japan

Samurai, Zen, sushi, and cherry blossoms. To our mind, that’s Japan. But wait, did we forget something? Something just as iconic and important? 

Ah… Yes. The snow-capped, dreamlike, volcanic peak of Mount Fuji.

If you’re reading this, you probably know that harsh, snowy mountains standing tall under the rising sun are symbolic of Japan too. And if you’re a winter sports enthusiast, or just a mountain lover, you don’t need much else to be drawn to the land of the legendary land of the samurai. 

That’s why we’re dedicating this article to the likes of you, today. If you’re a fan of skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping, bobsleigh, or any other type of winter sport – Japan is here for you, welcoming you in its arms.

Or rather, Japan is welcoming you to its 500+ ski resorts, some of which were the home of the Winter Olympic games two times. It is also welcoming you to some of the best quality snow you can find in the world, and the most mind-blowing skiing experiences.

And we, in turn, are welcoming you to our list of the best ski resorts in Japan! 

Kagura 

If you happen to visit Tokyo and you’re itching for some fresh air and snow escapades, you’ll find all you need at the Kagura ski resort. A train ride from Tokyo to Kagura takes just 2 hours, where you’ll be welcomed by vistas that couldn’t be more different than the endless urban sprawl of Japan’s megalopolis. Kagura offers you pristine snow, chilly air, and excellent skiing, so you know what? Book that train ticket. 

Pros

  • Close to Tokyo and the neighboring Naeba ski area
  • Beautiful views and challenging, exciting terrain
  • Ride the epic Dragondola – the longest ski lift on the planet
  • Few crowds

Cons

  • Limited nightlife and sparse entertainment options

Ski Terrain

Kagura ski resort has 23 runs sprinkled across a skiable terrain of an impressive 418 acres, but it also offers many exciting off-piste opportunities to practice some skiing between the trees. Kagura sits at an elevation of over 6,000 feet, so expect some exciting vertical drops too. The skill breakdown of the runs here is 35% beginner trails, 30% intermediate runs, and 35% advanced runs, the longest of which is a daunting 4 miles! Kagura may not have any dedicated expert level skiing runs, but don’t fret – its advanced trails are as tough as possible.   

The Longest Ski Lift In The World

Finally, Kagura is sort of quiet and rarely crowded – however, don’t expect much of a night life. We could say that it is one of those undiscovered gems of skiing in Japan. Therefore, its 22 ski lifts do the job extremely well, and you won’t be wasting time waiting in lines here.

If you get bored of the trails (which we very much doubt!) you can try some backcountry skiing thanks to Mikuni Cat Skiing, or hop on the so-called Dragondola – the longest ski lift in the world – for an unforgettable ride! Which… takes you to the nearby Naeba ski area – for an additional 22 skiing and snowboarding courses. Too much? Welcome to the best ski resorts in Japan, I guess!

Verdict

Kagura is definitely one of the best ski resorts in Japan, and even more so if approachability is one of your top concerns. It’s fairly close to Tokyo, and you could visit it in a day and head back – or stay awhile – and enjoy the excellent skiing and amazing views. 

Sapporo Teine

Welcome to some of the steepest trails in Japan! Sapporo Teine is a ski resort that is known for being both affordable and approachable, since it’s just a 40 minute drive from the city of Sapporo. It is, however, a fairly small skiing resort (at least according to Japanese standards!) so perhaps it won’t be enough for insatiable powder hounds. But for everyone else – Sapporo Teine is on the menu for the best ski resorts in Japan!

Pros

  • Very close to Sapporo 
  • Steep slopes and rugged, challenging terrain
  • Amazing views

Cons

  • Fairly small, limited accommodation

Ski Terrain

Sapporo Teine has 14 runs spread over a modest skiable area of 188 acres, and the skill composition of the pistes is 35% beginner, 45% intermediate, 25% advanced runs, and no expert runs. However, wait for it: Sapporo Teine offers a vertical drop of 2,240 feet with a slope angled at a very steep 38°! So if you are a professional skier who thinks that Sapporo Teine doesn’t offer a challenge – think again.

But beginners will find plenty of terrain to learn and practice here too. Sapporo Teine has plenty of green trails for beginners, one of which even offers you a steep slide down from the height of 3,356 feet. So you can enjoy the views too – unless you’re scared of heights. But as long as you’re on the well-groomed trails, you shouldn’t be. It’s the off-piste terrain here can be downright treacherous – or tastefully challenging – depending on your temperament and skill level.

Steep Peaks & Unforgettable Views

The very peaks of the ski resort offer some impressive views on Sapporo city and Ishikari Bay, which you can see in the distance far below. The views however come with a price. Sapporo Teine is very close to Sapporo, which means that tons of people can flock here – and we can’t blame them.

Accomodation is limited, but Sapporo is so close that most visitors commute here. So, expect some crowds, especially during the weekends. Thankfully, the 10 ski lifts in operation here are diligent in quickly reducing any queues away.

Verdict

The rugged mountain that gently holds Sapporo Teine in its rocky hands offers some of the steepest runs in all of Japan. But the challenges don’t end there! The magical mountain will also test you with dizzying views that you will have a hard time stepping away from. But the best part? Once you get enough of Sapporo Teine, the excitement of Sapporo city waits for you down below. クール!

Nozawa Onsen

Any committed powder hound appreciates a good dose of face shots. And if you happen to be one of those, oh boy – Nozawa Onsen has the goods for you. But besides the large and frequent annual snowfall here, Nozawa Onsen is also known for being one of the most ancient ski resorts in Japan – Zen included.

Pros

  • Expertly groomed runs with quality snow
  • Challenging on and off-piste terrain makes for perfect face shots 
  • Authentic Japanese culture and hot spring spas 

Cons

  • A bit specific, so not for everyone

Ski Terrain

And Nozawa Onsen’s impressive career has aged it well, like fine wine. Today, the ski resort has 36 spectacular skiing and snowboarding runs sprinkled across a large skiing area of 734 acres, with trails offering something to almost everyone. All runs are expertly groomed, and are divided into 40% beginner runs, 30% intermediate runs, and 30% advanced ones. The 20 ski lifts in operation are more than enough to service all visitors, making for a pleasant experience on the mountain.

Sadly, Nozawa Onsen lacks any dedicated terrain for experts (double black diamond). However, some of the advanced runs here can get pretty steep – take Challenge Kabe (with a 39° pitch) or the Skyline Course and you’ll see what we mean.

Freezing Face Shots & Hot Spring Spas 

If you hear the call of the wild, you can also head off-piste and test your mettle in the many natural trails among the trees. Here, too, you will be at a great risk of getting face shot! Which is, we suppose, exactly what some of you need.

And did we mention the Dosojin Fire Festival, the myriad onsens (natural hot springs) in the area or the almost tangible zen-like ambiance? The village has that authentic Japanese charm and offers plenty of accomodation options for everyone’s taste. It’s small, however, so your best bet is to book as early as possible.

Verdict

Framing winter sports through the lens of the tasteful Japanese spirit, Nozawa Onsen is truly something spectacular. Which is why it made our list of the best ski resorts in Japan! So if you want to ski in Japan the Japanese way… Nozawa Onsen has a hot spring for you.

Shiga Kogen

When it comes to Shiga Kogen, it is actually not one ski resort – but 19 separate ski resorts huddled under one umbrella name. If we can compare Shiga Kogen to something huge and Japanese, then, it would have to be Godzilla! But this ‘Godzilla’ is made of many mountain slopes, tons of ski-in and ski-out hotels offering good accomodation, an innumerable number of ski lifts. And of course – many visitors enjoying themselves! Become one, and soon the enjoyment will make you forget about the crowds.

Pros

  • More like ‘Giga’ Kogen, this resort has 19 separate ski resorts fused into one
  • An almost infinite variety of terrain to master and explore
  • Modern facilities and tons of entertainment options 

Cons

  • Can feel crowded, and simply too large for some
  • Surprisingly, no dedicated expert runs

Ski Terrain

Shiga Kogen has 195 runs streaking over an immense, sprawling skiable area of 677 acres. The breakdown of the almost 200 runs here is roughly 45% beginner runs, 40% intermediate runs, and 15% advanced runs.

For such a large area it is a bit surprising that Shiga Kogen has no dedicated runs for expert skiers, but the many advanced trails offer enough challenge. A mind-boggling array of 55 ski lifts (of all kinds imaginable) services can be found in this huge skiing umbrella-resort, and they deal fine with the crowds no problem!

19 Ski Resorts In The Palm Of Your Hand

Additionally, there is a shuttle bus system that makes moving around the 19 different ski resorts a breeze. None of these are identical, though, with some offering a distinct Japanese feel, but others a believable European experience. The biggest of Shiga Kogen’s many ski resorts is Yakebitaiyama, perched over all the rest and sitting at an impressive elevation of 6,588 ft. You get excellent skiing, awe-inspiring views, world-class snow, and almost endless entertainment options. 

Verdict

No joke, Shiga Kogen is truly the largest interconnected winter sports area in the entirety of Japan. The sheer size comes with everything you will ever need, making Shiga Kogen one of the best destinations in Japan for getting an amazing winter sports – or winter holiday – experience. Needless to say, all of this makes Shiga Kogen’s spot on our best ski resorts in Japan list well-deserved! 

Kiroro

As a juxtaposition to Shiga Kogen’s immense ski resorts complex, Japan offers shy Kiroro. You definitely won’t find crowds here, and the resort’s motto, “Five Star by Nature”, tells you all you need to know about this place. Kiroro ski resort excels at offering both excellent on-piste and back-country terrain, wrapped like a candy Japan’s modern, tasteful culture. 

Pros

  • Zenlike, modern and luxurious – the Japanese way
  • A bit secluded, offering a slight VIP feel
  • Good skiing and a top-notch lift system

Cons

  • Very limited accommodation (just one hotel)

Ski Terrain

Kiroro ski resort has 21 runs drawn over a modest skiable area of 297 acres, with 9 ski lifts in operation. The skill composition of the runs here is 31% beginner, 34% intermediate runs, and 35% advanced skiing runs. Both beginners and advanced skiers will get their fill here, with one of the longest runs being over 3 miles long. 

Meditative Modernity

Kiroro is a fairly new resort, and therefore very modern. It opened in 1991, but since then, it has been growing into one of the most well-organized and efficient ski resorts. The lift system is top-notch, and everything else is designed to offer maximum comfort with a minimum waste of time. Be advised, however, that Kiroro only offers its own hotel for accomodation here, which, we suppose, just adds to all that zen-like functionality. And did we mention the amazing, charming views?

Verdict

Sadly, Kiroro ski resort is often overlooked by visitors from abroad, but here’s hoping that we can change that. It may not have a nightlife, or a huge entertainment complex, but those who want a serene refuge filled with good skiing and excellent snow should mark Kiroro on their map. Kiroro is perfect for what it is, earning its place among the best ski resorts in Japan!

Hakuba 47 & Goryu

The Japanese have a knack of combining several things into one larger, badass form. Take Tokyo for example, that long-ago outgrew its initial boundaries to become one immense megalopolis. Or the previously mentioned Shiga Kogen super ski resort, that combines 19 ski resorts into one. But unlike these, Hakuba 47 and Goryu are modest – they’re just 2 ski resorts combined into one – for twice the quality skiing!

Pros

  • Two unique ski resorts combined into one of the largest skiable areas in Japan
  • Exciting, challenging skiing
  • Few crowds

Cons

  • Limited entertainment options

Ski Terrain

Hakuba 47 and Goryu share one mountain, which is the second largest skiing area in Japan’s Hakuba Valley (right after Happo One). To make it easier for all visitors, both ski resorts have decided to have a single lift pass. But make no mistake: these resorts are not identical. Hakuba 47 is more geared towards intermediate and advanced skiing plus its own dedicated tree skiing zone, while Goryu is known to be more beginner friendly (well, at least at the base – the back ridge is a challenge.)

Hakuba 47 and Goryu have 24 runs combined, over several hundred acres of skiable terrain. You can choose from 30% beginner runs, 40% intermediate runs, 30% advanced runs, and an infinite number of expert runs among the trees off-piste. There are 19 modern ski lifts in operation, which, even in the rare case of crowds, do their job perfectly. You also have a professional class terrain park for snowboarding tricks, jumps, and freestyling, and plenty of diverse, beautiful backcountry areas to explore.

Skiing Comes First, Entertainment Can Wait

But the lack of crowds also indicates something else – there isn’t very much to do at Hakuba 47 and Goryu once you tire of blasting powder. Après-ski is very limited, along with relatively few dining and accomodation options. Which shouldn’t be a problem, since Hakuba 47 and Goryu are very close to several Japanese towns and cities that can offer you all that, and more!

Verdict

Needless to say, all of the above makes Hakuba 47 & Goryu the ideal refuge for those who prefer a quieter winter experience, or an uninterrupted winter holiday with their family. And when it comes to that, Hakuba 47 & Goryu is, without a question, one of the best ski resorts in Japan.

Tomamu

Tomamu ski resort in Japan is truly one of a kind – sky-high buildings tower 36 stories tall over a pristine natural landscape high in the mountains. It gives off that slightly Blade Runner feel as you roam around in the silky snow, under the watchful eye of modern skyscrapers. Truly, it has to be seen to be believed.

Pros

  • Did we mention skyscrapers? 
  • Expertly groomed trails and charming back-country skiing
  • World-class entertainment options including an entire Ice Village
  • Huge indoor wave pools

Cons

  • Low elevation

Ski Terrain

But when it comes to believing, the skiing here is unbelievably good too. Tomamu ski resort has 28 runs interspersed over a skiable terrain of 358 acres, offering challenges to almost everyone. The skill composition of the pistes is 30% beginner, 40% intermediate runs, and 30% advanced runs. The elevation isn’t that impressive perhaps, since Tomamu sits at 4,065 feet, but then again, there is never a lack of snow here. Or tall buildings. Best of both worlds, eh?

This synthesis between the wild and the civilized is serviced by a total of 6 ski lifts of various types, that, in modern, urbanized Japan, are more than enough to shuttle visitors around without a hitch. But if you ever get tired of the groomed trails, worry not – unlike many other ski resorts in Japan, Tomamu allows for unbridled off-piste and backcountry skiing. And it’s totally worth it, because the nature here is unforgettable!

Indoor Wave Pools & Ice Villages

But if that isn’t enough for you either, you have Mina-Mina Beach: one of the largest wave pools (indoors) in Japan. There’s also the Ice Village, where you can find bars, restaurants, slides and ice rinks, and even a church made of ice! Curling, snowmobiles, snow rafting, sledding… We could go on but this article would have to be 10 pages long.

Verdict

If the elevation may be somewhat lacking, then the list of entertainment activities that Tomamu ski resort offers is truly staggering. Whether you come for skiing, or to relax in its warm, soothing indoor pools, Tomamu’s unique atmosphere will stay with you for a long time – along with the great photos of snow-capped skyscrapers. Without a question, Tomamu deserves a place among the best ski resorts in Japan.

Furano

Powder hounds from Hokkaido often flock to Furano ski resort due to its dry, smooth champagne powder. The snow here is excellent, and some even say it’s better than the more popular Niseko – but sans the annoying tourist crowds. In a sense, Japanese winter lovers almost keep Furano like a precious secret, one that offers everyone else an authentic Japanese skiing experience.

Pros

  • The ‘hidden gem’ ski resort of Japan
  • Velvety, champagne snow made it a part of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup 
  • Furano Ropeway – the fastest ski lift system in Japan

Cons

  • A recent hot-spot for tourists, so crowds are a possibility

Ski Terrain

Furano is large – almost too large to explore. It has 24 runs spread over a total skiable area of 1,101 acres, with the runs divided into 40% beginner trails, 40% intermediate trails, and 20% advanced runs. Experts can always try and test their skills backcountry or off-piste.

Furano ski resort sits at an elevation of 3,524 feet, and has 10 ski lifts in operation that serve visitors swiftly. Not only that, but it is also the home of the fastest ski lift in Japan, called the Furano Ropeway. It’s capable of pulling 100 skiers to the very top of the mountain – at the same time.

FIS Alpine World Cup

Furano ski resort offers one of the leading ski areas in Hokkaido, and as time went by, it caught the eye of the world’s ski authorities – the International Ski Federation (Fédération Internationale de Ski – FIS). Gradually, Furano developed a long-standing relationship with the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, and more recently, it was the host of the Mid-February Snowboarding World Cup.

Without a doubt, Furano is one of the best ski resorts in Japan, offering professional winter sports opportunities and tons of excitement for everyone to explore. It is still not “Westernized,” but tourists are quickly discovering Japan’s hidden gem of skiing, and learning to ski in the company of world-class professionals.

Verdict

The skiing and the excellent snow here are so good that it earned Furano a place on the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup circuit, which turned Furano into one of the most popular – and best – ski resorts in Japan. Finally, if you’re in the mood for some extra cultural exploration, head down to the city of Furano and enjoy the amazing tastes, sights, and sounds of Japan!

Happo One

When in Japan, do like the Japanese do! Which means pronouncing Happo One correctly – it is oh-ne, not one, as in, the number. After all, Happo One is one of the most popular ski resorts in Japan and for a good reason. It was part of the Nagano Winter Olympics back in 1998, hosting competitions in downhill, ski jumping, and super-g slalom races – launched from the immense heights of 26,250 feet. 

Pros

  • Olympic-level heritage makes for Olympic-level skiing
  • Adrenaline-pumping vertical drops 
  • Good entertainment options and amenities

Cons

  • Super popular, so crowds are a certainty

Ski Terrain

If Happo One hasn’t wowed you already, wait, there’s more. It has 13 professional runs over a total skiable area of 543 acres, but those are the very tame “official” runs. The skiing terrain is much larger when you take into account the almost endless backcountry and all the exciting off-piste opportunities for both skiers and snowboarders alike. Test yourself if you dare, but be prepared for face shots! 

When it comes to the proper runs, the skill breakdown is 30% beginner trails, 50% intermediate runs, and 20% advanced runs, with the off-piste terrain offering extreme challenges for extreme powder hounds. The Happo One resort itself sits at an elevation of 6,007 feet and offers a heart-pumping vertical drop of 3,514 feet.

Your Inner Olympian Deserves Fine Dining

The ski resort has 23 lifts in operation to cater to everyone’s needs, and make no mistake – Happo One is supremely popular and draws in the big crowds. And no wonder, because coming here provides you with the exquisite and rare opportunity to unleash your inner Olympian – with all the amenities and luxuries to support that. Here, you will find many amazing accommodation options, dining, and plenty of diverse entertainment too.

Verdict

Happo One embodies the classic dream of the perfect ski resort – it has world-class snow, it hosts the Olympic games, and offers the perfect amenities for enjoyment. All in all, no list dedicated to the best ski resorts in Japan can leave out Happo One. 

Niseko

Niseko isn’t just one of the best ski resorts in Japan, it is one of the best ski resorts on the planet. And with it, one of the most popular ones. Niseko ski resort is Japan’s premier, world-class winter wonderland, and if you ever happen to book a trip to one of Japan’s snowy mountains, you just have to pay Niseko a visit!

Pros

  • Epic levels of natural snowfall bring in epic skiers and snowboarders
  • Diverse, challenging terrain for everyone’s skill level
  • Excellent accomodation and entertainment options

Cons

  • Popular, crowded, and ‘Westernized’

Ski Terrain

First off, Niseko has immense annual snowfall ensuring a skiing season of over 80 days, piling up more than 13 feet of snow. This makes Niseko a world-wide magnet for some of the best snowboarders and skiers, who can’t get enough of the mountain’s almost endless variety of challenging terrain – both on the trails and beyond. This awesome ski resort has 81 runs spread over hundreds of acres of skiable terrain, with an almost infinite number of backcountry and off-piste options to explore. 

The skill composition of the runs is roughly 38% for beginners, 32% for intermediate racers, and 30% for advanced powder hounds. Niseko ski resort manages to shuttle the crowds with ease too, thanks to its 31 ski lifts of various kinds and sizes. And once you get enough of roaming over the perfect snow, there is a wealth of apres-ski activities – with awe-inspiring views of Mt. Yotei too! 

“Westernized”

Or in other words, Niseko enjoys an almost planetary level of popularity. The excellent snow and the challenging runs tempt professional skiers and snowboarders from almost every corner of the Earth. To manage this, Niseko offers plenty of accomodation options, restaurants, bars, and other entertainment opportunities. English is spoken resort-wide, in an effort to offer something to everyone. The popularity and the crowds, however, have diminished the Japanese spirit of the place, giving it an international feel. Which is just as great – there’s the rest of Japan to explore if you’re into cultural exchange!

Verdict

Offering everything to everyone, Niseko is really a world-class ski resort and definitely one of the best ski resorts in Japan. We’re not gonna lie – it’s probably one of the best ski resorts on planet Earth, too. If aliens decide to visit us and spend some time skiing on Earth, they will definitely give Niseko a chance.

Rusutsu

But if you thought Niseko had a high snowfall… Wait until you experience Rusutsu, and its gargantuan amounts of powder! The high snowfall (500 inches per year) has a knack of dispersing the crowds, but hey – that’s almost a bonus! You’ll have Rusuku’s adrenaline shots and unique beauty all to yourself.

Pros

  • Even more epic levels of snowfall 
  • Secluded, no crowds
  • Mind blowing skiing
  • Luxurious hot baths

Cons

  • Very focused on winter sports, not for casual tourists

Ski Terrain

Rusutsu ski resort has 37 runs sprinkled over an almost endless skiable area of 4,200 acres, spreading their wings over the slopes of three mountains. Expertly powder hounds here can try their luck off the trails and sample some of the wild, impressive terrain – if they dare. Everyone else can get their fix on the many well-groomed runs, split into 30% beginner runs, 40% intermediate runs, and 30% advanced runs.

We already mentioned that Rusutsu isn’t crowded, but it still has 18 ski lifts that have zero trouble shuttling everyone up and down the amazing, untouched slopes. Once your body can’t take any more of the harsh mountain, you can enjoy the thermal hot spring baths made of maifan, the healing stone, for the perfect, luxurious pampering experience. 

And when it comes to the best ski resorts in Japan, Rusutsu has long fought for the crown like a disciplined, serene samurai – and it may just win it. It was voted as the best ski resort in Japan during the 2017 World Ski Awards, earning its spot on our list of the very best ski resorts in Japan too.

Verdict

Rusutsu is quet, and borderline obsessed with skiing. The dining, nightlife, and accomodation options here are excellent but limited, which means Rusuku may not be everyone’s favorite cup of Japanese tea. But it’s still a hot one, and tasty for those who can’t get their eyes off the mountain. So if you’re all about chasing that snow nirvana, Rusutsu is where you’ll find it. 

Article by:
Abby Ward
Senior Content Writer at Bluehouse
Last Updated September 2021