What You Need to Know About Skiing in Japan
Japan has so much to offer travelers, from the delicious food to the unique culture. These are certainly good reasons to visit the land of the rising sun, but there is also an under-the-radar attraction: skiing and snowboarding.
Believe it or not, Japan actually has the most ski areas of any country in the world, and some of the best snowfall every winter. Taken together, Japan’s great riding, food, and culture make for an epic winter adventure. That said, a trip around the globe to chase storms is a little bit different than packing up and heading to your local mountain. With this in mind, we put together some tips and tricks.
We’ve already mentioned that Japan has the highest number of ski areas, but where are they?
Japan is actually a pretty mountainous country, far beyond just the famous Mount Fuji. There are great ski areas on both the main island of Honshu (which is home to Tokyo) and Hokkaido, the large northern island - home to Sapporo. The former is a bit easier to get to, a train or bus ride away from Tokyo while getting to Hokkaido requires a flight to Sapporo. Making travel accommodations can be a bit confusing, for those not looking to deal with these logistics might want to look into the many Japan ski and snowboard packages that are available.
The mountains in Honshu are larger and steeper, while those on Hokkaido are snowier and have great tree riding. The shared element? Snow and lots of it.
Cold air coming from mainland Asia, think frigid places like Siberia, combines with moisture from the Sea of Japan to deliver consistent snowfall all winter long. This does mean the skiing and snowboarding in Japan can be super cold, so pack your warm mittens, and bundle up! Both areas have awesome riding and the snow that skiers and snowboarders dream of. For those looking for the most complete resort experience, Niseko is most reminiscent of the ski resorts in North America and Europe.
International travel can be logistics-intensive, adding skiing and snowboarding to a trip adds its own challenges. One of the first major choices is to bring your gear, or rent upon arrival. Renting has become easier in Japan in recent years, with newer and nicer gear from top companies like Rossignol skis.
That said, if you’re particular about your gear, you may want to bring your own. We recommend powder skis or a snowboard built for riding deep snow - even the best all-mountain snowboards might be outgunned in the deep Japanese powder!
Japan has some great resources for visiting skiers and snowboarders. The first is Ta-Q-Bin, or the Black Cat delivery service. This service can deliver your luggage (ski bags & snowboard bags included) to your final destination. You just drop them off at the airport, and they’ll meet you at the lodge!
Additionally, if skiing and snowboarding is only a part of your visit, the airports in Tokyo both have baggage storage. We recommend spending at least a few days exploring the capital city and all its wonders and delicious food. Navigating Tokyo with a bulky ski or snowboard bag is tough, so store your bag and hop on the train! Bringing versatile layers like a Patagonia ski jacket can help you cut down on luggage, too, because it works great in the city and on the mountain. Some other travel resources we recommend are a portable wifi hotspot and downloading the Google Translate app.
The most important thing to remember when traveling to ski and snowboard in Japan is being open to new experiences. Sure, the mountains and the snow are the big draws, but what makes a trip like this memorable is what happens along the way. Try new foods, make an effort to communicate and learn some of the language (it’s appreciated, even if you embarrass yourself along the way), and get ready for the trip of a lifetime!
This article was produced in collaboration with evo. All images courtesy of evo.
We are evo - a ski, snowboard, mountain bike, surf, wake, skate, camp, and lifestyle retailer based in Seattle, Washington, USA, with stores located in Seattle, Portland, Denver, Whistler, and Salt Lake City (coming soon). We also offer trips to remote locations across the globe in search of world-class powder turns, epic waves, and legendary mountain biking through our evoTrip Adventure Travel Trips.
evo explores the collaboration between culture and sport by seamlessly joining art, music, streetwear, skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking, and wakeboarding. Our aim is to bring all things relevant to the urban, action sports lifestyle into one creative space. Whether it is on the website, on the phone or in our stores, our aim is to make all who come into contact with evo feel welcome and excited about their experience.