With Qantas now offering a new seasonal service with direct flights from Sydney to Sapporo for the December 2019 ski season, and double-daily flights to Japan – from 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 nearly 600 resorts. Here are three of the best spots to enjoy the country’s slopes.
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 every season. Niseko is the world’s “snowiest” ski resort; no resort on Earth gives you anywhere near the chance of riding waist-deep powder. As a bonus, Hirafu Town is known for having one of the most vibrant après ski scenes in Japan. It’s also easy to get to – from 16 December 2019 to 28 March 2020, the new Qantas seasonal service will operate three direct flights departing Sydney every week.
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. Buses also travel along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route carved out between Tateyama and Omachi – the towering snow walls attract thousands of tourists who are also able to walk the route. 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.