Snowboarding in Japan - Cortina Backcountry

Snowboarding in Japan – A Guide to Shredding Japow

Japan is a trip like no other.

Slash through pristine fields of powder snow, experience traditional Japanese culture, and taste some of the best food in the world. The land of the rising sun is a must-visit destination for any avid snowboarder.

Pack your board and gear, grab your passport, and prepare for an unforgettable adventure in the land of Japow.

Before you book your trip, there are a few things you need to figure out, from choosing the best Japanese ski resorts to when to come for the best snow conditions. In this guide, we’ll cover all the essential information you need to know before shredding Japow.

So strap in and get ready to discover the beauty and magic of snowboarding in Japan.

1 – Where to Snowboard in Japan

Japan has some fantastic ski resorts. From large resorts with hundreds of runs to smaller, lesser-known gems – there’s something for every snowboarder in Japan. 

Here are our top picks for the best places to ride in Japan:

Hokkaido

Snowboarding in Japan - Hokkaido

Niseko United

Niseko United is the powder skiing mecca and a famous Asian ski resort. It is the premier ski and snowboard destination on Japan’s Northern Island of Hokkaido. It is known for its consistent deep powder. Niseko United is several ski resorts, all connected at the peak. They include An’nupuri, Niseko Village, Grand Hirafu, and Hanazono.

Rusutsu Resort

Rusuts is renowned for its tree skiing and powder snow. With over 37 runs and abundant off-piste opportunities, it’s a perfect spot for intermediate and advanced riders looking to challenge themselves.

Kiroro

Kiroro is off the beaten path, making it a hidden gem for riders seeking untouched powder and fewer crowds. Kiroro offers plenty of opportunities for fresh tracks.

Nagano

Snowboarding in Japan - Nagano

Famous for snow monkeysF, powder snow, and, of course, hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano is a must-visit for any snowboarder. 

Here are the top resorts in Nagano:

Hakuba Valley

Hakuba is not just one ski area but a collection of 9 popular ski resorts. With over 200 runs, plenty of off-piste skiing, and beginner and intermediate runs, it’s a popular spot for experienced riders and first-timers alike. The village also offers a lively après-ski scene. If you’re looking for an English-friendly ski school, Hakuba boasts several, and many other Western amenities.

Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen is a charming traditional Japanese village that offers a unique cultural experience and great snowboarding. With over 50 kilometers of runs and plenty of off-piste opportunities, it’s perfect for intermediate and advanced riders.

Shiga Kogen

Shiga Kogen is reported to be the largest ski area in Japan, with a whopping 18 interlinked resorts and over 80km of trails. With plenty of beginner and intermediate runs, it’s an excellent spot for families or those looking to improve their skills on the slopes. The resort also offers night skiing, making it perfect for those who want to keep shredding after the sun goes down.

Niigata

Snowboarding in Japan - Niigata

Niigata is known for its heavy snowfall and some of the best powder in Japan. Here are the top resorts in Niigata:

Naeba

Naeba is a popular resort among locals and international visitors due to its variety of runs, including long runs perfect for beginners.

Myoko Kogen

Known for its consistent powder and traditional Japanese charm, Myoko Kogen offers plenty of off-piste opportunities and a variety of runs suited for all levels. The village also provides a range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious ryokans.

2 – When to Snowboard in Japan

Japan’s ski season runs from mid-December to the end of April, with peak season from late December to early January. However, the best time for snowboarding in Japan is between January and February, when fresh powder is more likely.

3 – Lift Passes in Japan

Most ski resorts in Japan offer day, multi-day, and season passes. Prices vary usually between ¥5,000 – ¥8,000 per day depending on the resort. Some resorts also offer discounted rates for night skiing.

Epic Pass

Epic pass holders get five consecutive days in Hakuba Valley and Rusutsu with their passes. The Epic Pass Australia holders also get access to multiple ski areas in Australia, North America, and Europe.

Ikon Pass

Like the Epic Pass, the Ikon Pass offers access to various ski resorts in Japan. Depending on the type of Ikon pass, you get 2 – 7 days at Lotte Ari and Niseko United.

4 – Traveling to Japan

Japan has several international airports ideal for winter travelers – Haneda Airport, Narita International Airport, and Chitose Airport in Hokkaido. From there, travelers can easily take domestic flights, trains, or busses to reach ski resorts.

The most convenient way to travel between ski resorts in Japan is by combining trains and buses. The Japan Rail Pass offers unlimited train rides for a set period, making it cost-effective and efficient for travelers.

  • Train travel: The train system in Japan is highly efficient and expansive, making it an excellent choice for travelers. The Japan Rail Pass offers unlimited travel over a set period and covers many routes, including the Shinkansen or bullet train. Remember to reserve your seat in advance during peak travel times.
  • Bus travel: Buses are economical in Japan, especially for routes not covered by the train system. Most long-distance buses are comfortable and punctual.
  • Car rental: Renting a car allows you to travel at your own pace and explore off-the-beaten-path destinations. Note that an International Driving Permit is required to drive in Japan, and traffic is on the left side of the road.

5 – Snowboarding in Japan Cost

Lift Tickets

The cost of snowboarding in Japan can vary depending on the resort and season. Generally, lift tickets in Japan are cheaper compared to popular destinations like Europe or North America. On average, a one-day lift ticket costs around ¥5,000-¥8,000.

Restaurants and Dining

Food in Japan is typically affordable, especially if you stick to local restaurants. A meal at a mid-range restaurant can cost around ¥1,000-¥2,500 per person. For budget meals, convenience stores such as 7-Eleven or Lawson offer inexpensive options.

Accommodation

There are various accommodation options for snowboarders in Japan, ranging from budget-friendly hostels to luxury hotels. On average, a night at a mid-range hotel or traditional ryokan can cost around ¥10,000-¥20,000 per person. Most hotels in Japan rent on a per-person basis versus per room.

Rental

If you don’t have snowboard equipment, renting is convenient and cost-effective. On average, rental fees for a complete set of snowboarding gear (including board, boots, and bindings) can range from ¥3,000-¥6,000 per day.

Transportation

As mentioned earlier, transportation costs in Japan can be expensive. However, investing in a JR pass may save you money if you plan on snowboarding at multiple locations. A 7-day JR pass costs around ¥50,000 and provides unlimited travel on the extensive JR network.

Lesson/Tours

Most Japanese ski resorts offer ski and snowboard lessons. The more popular resorts usually offer English lessons that cater to international tourists. If you are hunting for powder, consider taking a backcountry tour. Hakuba, Niseko, and Hokkaido are popular backcountry skiing and snowboarding destinations. Private lessons start from ¥20,000 for a 2-hour lesson and are generally about ¥50,000 – ¥80,000 for a day lesson. Backcountry tours usually range from ¥10,000 – ¥20,000 for a full-day tour per person.

6 – Other Tips

Travel Tips

  1. Learn basic phrases: While English is spoken in many places, it’s always helpful to know a few basic Japanese phrases, especially when traveling in rural areas.
  2. Try the hot springs: After a day on the slopes, nothing beats a soak in one of Japan’s many natural onsen (hot springs). Be sure to understand the etiquette before you go.
  3. Stay connected: Consider purchasing or renting a pocket Wi-Fi device for your trip. It ensures you stay connected and helps with things like navigation and translation.
  4. Plan for New Year’s: If you’re visiting over the New Year, note that many businesses close from December 29 to January 3 (including the bank and ATMs), so plan accordingly. 

These tips should ensure a stress-free and enjoyable winter trip to Japan!

Conclusion

As you plan your snowboarding adventure in Japan, envision the powder-packed slopes, cultural experiences, and the seamless infrastructure that awaits. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a first-timer, Japan’s diverse offerings promise a snowboarding adventure. Embrace the thrill, savor the culture, and prepare for an unforgettable ride in Japan’s powder paradise.

FAQ

Why does Japan get so much snow?

Japan’s location near the Sea of Japan and Siberia creates perfect conditions for heavy snowfall. The region is also known for its microclimates, which produce pockets of intense snowfall in certain areas.

Does Japan have good ski resorts?

Yes, Japan has over 500 ski resorts, including some of the best in the world. These resorts offer a variety of terrain, top-notch facilities, and unique cultural experiences.

Is skiing in Japan expensive?

It depends on the resort and accommodations you choose. Some resorts offer more affordable options, while others cater to a luxury market. However, compared to skiing in other countries, Japan’s ski resorts are known for providing great value for money.

Is skiing in Japan good for beginners?

Yes, Japan’s ski resorts have terrain suitable for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. Many resorts also offer lessons and beginner-friendly areas to help newcomers learn the ropes.

What is the largest ski resort in Japan?

The largest resort in Japan is Shiga Kogen, located in Nagano Prefecture. It has 18 interconnected resorts, offering over 600 hectares of skiable terrain.

About Us

Hakuba Ski Concierge is a ski school in Hakuba, Japan, offering high-end personalized lessons to small groups and private individuals. We provide great lessons with instructors who go beyond to ensure you have the best experience possible.