Winter is about to come in Hokkaido as I recently heard the news of the first snowfall of the year. Anyway, what are the best ski resorts in Japan? If you have this question in your mind, you have come to the right place to find your answer. When winter arrives in Japan, many people tend to do some exciting outdoor winter activities across the country. And one of the most prominent outdoor winter activities is skiing. In spite of the freezing cold weather, many winter sports fanatics visit country’s top ski resorts.

I don’t sit on my couch all the daylong when it snows outside; instead I try myself having some fun time on the snowy slopes of the mountains located in my home town. Experts say skiing is much cooler than snowboarding. Do you agree with this? Maybe they are right but snowboarding is a fun winter sport as well, could be dangerous too!

Recently I read an article where it says “Skiing is easier to learn but harder to master” – surprised knowing it?! Whatever it could be, I really don’t care. The thing I do care the most is the ski resorts that are located throughout Japan, especially the ones mostly found in northern Japan.

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Winter season in Japan is really awesome! Photo Credit: Kikuko Nakayama at Flickr.

Whether you are a beginner or expert skier and snowboarder, all the Japanese ski resorts that I will highlight here suit well for you. Most of the resorts are highly recommended as family-friendly ski resorts. While on the other hand, some other ski resorts are internationally recognized as famous places for skiing and snowboarding.

Skiing and snowboardingthese two winter sports can be enjoyed visiting Japan’s top ski resorts. They are quite addictive at the same time a perfect gateway to experience a wonderful winter holidays in the land of the rising sun. Just to inform you one thing that you won’t just have a great time while skiing and snowboarding but much more than that!

Let’s explore the top 10 Japan’s top recommended ski resorts now.

1) Niseko United in Niseko, Hokkaido

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Niseko ski resort. Photo Credit: Tetsuji Sakakibara at Flickr.

If Tokyo is famous for its beautiful traditional Japanese gardens, then for skiing and snowboarding it is Niseko. It’s a small town in Hokkaido, and widely known for its ski resorts. It is one of the snowiest towns in Japan. Besides it’s considered to be the most venerated and largest ski resort in the country. Every year, Niseko is visited by thousands of local skiers/snowboarders coming from different parts of the country including foreign tourists.

Many Australians have made the ski resort quite popular writing and sharing their travel experiences on their personal blogs and social media. Thank you Guys! Needless to say, it is one of the top reasons why you should visit Japan in the winter. Do you know why Niseko is considered to be the most famous ski resort in Japan?

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Take a chair lift and reach to the top! Photo Credit: hirotomo t at Flickr.

The answer is here – it has the highest quality of fresh dry powder snow, long ski terrain, night skiing, electronic lift pass system, the surrounding breathtaking landscapes, local convenience stores, wide range of snow activities, family-friendly, great accommodation service with hot spring bath facility, and four distinct ski resorts.

You will be surprised to know that these resorts can be accessed with only one ski pass (Niseko All Mountain Pass). The four ski resorts are: Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Annupuri, and Hanazono. Please note among these, Grand Hirafu is the largest ski area. Check out more info about the Niseko United All Mountains Pass.

2) Furano Ski Resort in Hokkaido

View of Furano Ski Resort. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Summer and winter are the best seasons to visit Furano. It is arguably a beautiful city in the central Hokkaido featuring a number of beautiful flower farms in the summer and a fantastic ski resort in the winter. Though I heard people saying that Furano’s summer beauty is much more fabulous than what it offers during winter. Do you believe in that?

Totally agreed! But Furano Ski Resort is very stunning with its top quality powder snow and panoramic views of the surrounding areas, especially the views of the snow-capped Mount Tokachi is truly breathtaking. Like other top ski resorts in Hokkaido, Furano ski resort is dedicated to promoting the ski and snowboard industry.

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Furano ski area and the surrounding landscapes. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Every year, the ski season here starts in late-November and continues till May. With the longest run of 4000 meters, it comprises 23 (day and night) courses that offer plenty of variety for advanced and beginner level skiers/snowboarders including lifts, cable cars and gondolas.

Being one of the top family-friendly ski resort in Japan, it attracts thousands of visitors every year where activities such as snow rafting, hot air balloons, snow trekking, snowmobiles are quite popular.

3) Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture

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Night skiing at Naeba Ski Resort, Niigata. Photo Credit: suri at Flickr.

I never knew how to ski like a legend – never ever thought of this idea though, but I am quite skilled in skiing than snowboarding. If you are going for skiing on the snowy slopes of Mt. Naeba, the whole family of yours together would enjoy it. You can play with the snow and ski together. Night skiing here is particularly very impressive, it is my personal opinion and it does not mean that day skiing is not attractive there.

It is massive and interconnected with another popular ski resort known as Kagura Ski Resort. One single winter trip to Naeba ski resort will make you explore the Kagura perfectly. Various courses are offered there for visitors and the lifts there are first and always ready to transport you safely to the upper point of the mountain.

I suggest you to stay a night at The Naeba Prince Hotel. In fact, it is the only accommodation option you have there. It has 20 wonderful restaurants and packed with hot springs and souvenir shops.

4) Zao Onsen in Yamagata Prefecture

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Zao Onsen Ski Area. Photo Credit: zaoropeway.co.jp.

The surrounding picturesque landscape of Zao Onsen is stunningly awe-inspiring. In comparison with Niseko, where winter is seen to be the best time to visit, Zao Onsen can be visited year round. Its four season natural beauty offers you different unique experiences. With a ski season stretching from early-December to early-May, Zao Onsen has one of the longest ski seasons in Japan.

Located in Yamagata Prefecture, it’s a well known ski resort in the country as well as a famous hot spring resort town in the Tohoku region. Meanwhile it is a quite famous tourist spot for viewing Juhyo or so called Snow monsters/frosted covered trees. Visitors here actually just don’t come here for skiing/snowboarding, instead they are offered to participate in the Zao Snow Monster Festival.

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Juhyo the Snow Monsters at Zao Onsen. Photo Credit: zaoropeway.co.jp.

The ski resort extends to 15 different slopes and 12 courses for both beginners and experts skier and snowboarders. The terrain that it offers is pretty good for first-time skiers. Sounds cool, right?! If you wish then you can ski from one side of the mountain to another on a 10km downhill course which in fact it is said to be the longest course of the ski resort.

As you begin your skiing course, please enjoy the views of snow monsters along the way. If you want to improve your snowboarding and skiing skills, take a lesson from one of the skiing schools located there and learn the ultimate guide from them. The best time to visit Zao Onsen is in mid-February. Learn more here.

5) Tomamu Ski Resort in Hokkaido

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The quality of powder snow it receives is GREAT! Photo Credit: www.snowtomamu.jp.

Not all the ski resorts you have been to so far in your life either in Japan or outside the country is family-friendly. I won’t be afraid of naming Tomamu ski resort as the best family-friendly ski resort in Hokkaido. It deserves this status! Don’t you think so? It is too risky and not suitable when there is limited amount of powder snows on the slopes of a mountain with limited courses offered where only advanced level skiers could take part in.

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The Ice Village at Hoshino Resort Tomamu. Photo Credit: www.snowtomamu.jp.

From this point of view, Tomamu ski resort (Hoshino Resort Tomamu) has it all. It receives about 8 to 10 meters of snowfall on average per season. I think that’s enough to be on the safe side and go for skiing and snowboarding.

Tomamu resort has everything to make your trip a great adventure and you are offered to experience a number of activities such as as snow rafting, dog sledding, snowmobiles, cross country skiing, ice skating, snow playground for kids, ice village and many more.

And your trip does not end without paying a visit to the illuminated Ice Village. Visit this site and let your kids enjoy their time discovering the village. Please visit its official site here and make your reservation as soon as possible.

6) Nozawa Onsen in Nagano Prefecture

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Nozawa Onsen in Winter, Nagano Prefecture. Photo Credit: Hideyuki KAMON at Flickr.

Before leaving for a certain destination, I always think of one thing, that’s “how to experience a certain place than just traveling to it?” When it is time for you to visit Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort, prefer getting there before January 15th. Do you know why? It is my personal request to you; please don’t ignore this because on the day, Nozawa Onsen celebrates one of Japan’s most popular winter festivals called Dosojin Fire Festival.

Skiing and snowboarding along the terrain is fantastic but you can add a charm by participating in this fire festival. The festival is totally frightening but entertaining at the same time. It is all about burning down a giant wooden shrine (shaden) by a group of people. For more details click here.

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During the Dosojin Fire Festival. Photo Credit: U-ichiro Murakami at Flickr.

Locals say that Nozawa Onsen ski resort is a true snow paradise. Located at the foot of Mt. Kenashi (1,650m), perhaps it is one of the most beautiful ski and snowboard resorts in the world. The onsen itself is a small village comprise of hot spring baths, restaurants, ski school, hotels and shops. It becomes extremely beautiful when the mountain slopes get blanketed with tons of fresh dry light powder snow.

Skiing in fresh dry snow means having a lot of pleasures! There you can find unlimited variety of slopes and courses with an exciting Snow Park make your trip unforgettable. In addition, for little bit of history, you must visit the ski museum. Besides, don’t forget to take a leisurely stroll in the village. That would be a charming experience. Please note that the resort hosted the biathlon events during the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.

7) Rusutsu Resort in Hokkaido

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That’s stunning! Photo Credit: rusutsu.co.jp.

I think there is no other place like Hokkaido in the world that offers endless things to discover in the winter. The area offers some of Japan’s most exciting winter festivals, ski & snowboard resorts, hot spring baths, winter dishes and many more.

Rusutsu resort is one of the most popular ski resort areas in the Hokkaido region offering you a large ski area, variety of long runs with a good mix of groomed trails, tree runs and great dry powder. Moreover, the resort offers visitors a wide variety of activities and events.

It features total 37 courses that add up to 42 kilometers long stretching over three mountains. Winter here is full of fun as there are 12 tree run courses, trekking, dog sleigh, snow mobiles, tubing and other fun winter outdoor activities.

One thing that impresses me the most about this ski resort is that it is very family-friendly with high quality lift infrastructure. You can have fun joining in the outdoor activities with your kids, there is not problem, everything is safe! Also, it is less crowded than Niseko! For more info about accommodation, food, winter activity, map, ski guide, and ticket price, click here.

8) Appi Kogen in Iwate Prefecture

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Skiing in APPI is truly marvelous! Photo Credit: www.appi-japan.com.

If you are dreaming about skiing in the land of the rising sun, I could recommend you many ski resorts including both ordinary and popular ones. Fortunately, Appi Kogen Ski Resort is a popular one, and a perfect winter spot for spending this year winter vacation in Japan. The 282 hectare Appi ski area has 21 slopes and offers you variety of courses.

It offers you a number of facilities such as rental services, a ski & snowboard school, kids room, and APPI Family Park, a snow park. At the base you will find hotels to stay overnight including hot spring baths and restaurants to satisfy your stomach. Click here for more info about the resort.

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Skiing on the slope of APPI. Photo Credit: www.appi-japan.com.

I still remember the day when I was there with my uncle’s family. My uncle invited me to spend a lovely winter holiday with them but there was a condition! Yeah, I was hired to teach my cousins a ski lesson.

It was just fun and my first advice to them was “listen to me carefully before we start, the art of skiing is to keep yourself steady enough on the slippery slope.” My beloved cousins did listen to my words and they really enjoyed the day skiing for a while in the specific child ski area with me but mostly they were busy playing with snow there.

9) Tanigawadake Tenjindaira Ski Resort in Gunma Prefecture

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Tenjindaira Ski Area. Photo Credit: www.tanigawadake-rw.com.

For skiing and snowboarding you need a good weather condition with tons of fresh powder snow. You can’t be hopeful to have an unforgettable ski experience just by considering the infrastructures you are given.

A mighty blizzard might ruin your entire trip all of a sudden and it can snatch your dream so badly. Therefore, before you plan on visiting a ski resort in Japan, take a good look at the weather forecast. You should always think of enjoying skiing on a sunny day to embark on a trip to Tanigawadake Tenjindaira Ski Resort.

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Mount Tanigawadake in Winter. Photo Credit: www.visitgunma.jp.

The whole resort is blessed with deep snow powder offering you endless backcountry skiing experience with limited piste skiing opportunity. It was amazing skiing through the un-groomed slope that heads down into the valley. It was very steep but that did not make me stop.

Tenjin Ski Resort is a paradise for passionate backcountry skiers. If you are one of them, I welcome you to arrive here in late-November and spend as many as days you need to explore the beautiful traditional Japanese winter vistas.

10) Kiroro Ski Resort in Sapporo

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Your kids could enjoy skiing at Kiroro Resort. Photo Credit: MIKI Yoshihito at Flickr.

I am not a beach lover but a mountain lover who likes skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer and autumn. I admire these outdoor activities which are adventurous and challenging. Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido amazes me with its countless winter discoveries.

When I visit Sapporo to participate in its greatest Sapporo Yuki Matsuri I don’t forget to head to Kiroro Resort. Many people usually head to Niseko in February which makes the resort very crowded. Just to avoid the crowds, I change my direction and head to this well organized ski resort. Often it’s great to spend some days in a less crowded place where there is still no shortages of winter activities.

This is a high quality ski resort that offers its visitors lots of backcountry runs. It is surprising to know that it snows almost every night during winter! So far you have been informed about some other ski resorts that are family-friendly and this one is no different. It is completely a great family-friendly ski resort with plenty of outdoor activities and modern lift system. In addition, enjoy the gondola ride and view the surrounding snowy landscapes.

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Setting out for backcountry skiing in Asahidake. Photo Credit: Perfect Zero at Flickr.

In conclusion, I want to ask you one question. What makes the winter so special in Japan? Being one of the most visited four season’s destinations in the world, Japan has nothing to hide from you.

It offers endless things to discover during the winter months. I believe, the above top skiing & snowboarding hot-spots have everything you need for your upcoming ski vacation.

If you are inspired by reading this post, I hope someday or soon you will arrive in Japan to experience all these famous ski resorts. So, don’t forget to check out the top ski gear. Those who admire this snowy season of the year should pay a visit to Japan this winter and enjoy their time at the ski resorts. In addition, don’t bother trying some of the delicious winter foods.

Thanks for reading.