With Qantas now offering double-daily flights to Japan – Sydney to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and Brisbane to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport – you might want to think about getting your ski legs on.
Thanks to its varied mountainous terrain and reliable snow, Japan is a skiier’s paradise that boasts more than 600 resorts. Craig Tansley reveals three of the best spots to enjoy the country’s slopes.
OK, OK… so some call Niseko “the Bali of the ski world” for its large influx of Aussie skiers but there’s a good reason we’re all going there: more than 15m of snow falls on average a season. Niseko is the world’s “snowiest” ski resort; no resort on Earth gives you anywhere near the chance of riding waist-deep powder. Just don’t come looking for an authentic Japanese experience. The trade-off is that Niseko has the most vibrant après ski scene in Japan. It’s also easy to get to – fly to Sapporo from Tokyo then take a two-and-a-half-hour shuttle bus west to the resort.
If you’re looking for a variety of terrain, there’s simply nowhere better to ski or snowboard in Japan. Located near Honshu’s west coast, the Hakuba region is less than a four-hour drive from Tokyo. There are 10 resorts here, all on the one lift pass, offering more than 200 runs and free buses running between resorts. Hakuba has something for every level of skier and snowboarder – challenging-terrain parks, Japan’s best wide-open beginner slopes and the nation’s steepest mountains. Even though it has the best après ski scene in the country outside Niseko, it still manages to maintain a traditional Japanese feel.
Shiga Kogen is like Disneyland for skiers. It’s the biggest ski area in Japan with 21 interlinked resorts all on the lift ticket – if you hit the same run twice, you only have yourself to blame. But the ski slopes are just a small part of why you’ll want to visit. Stay in the centrally located village of Ichinose and you’ll be close to the Jigokudani Monkey Park, where wild monkeys live (and bathe) in hot spring waters. Located close to Hakuba, Shiga Kogen is accessible by shuttle or, from Tokyo, by Shinkansen bullet train, which takes four hours.