The most popular resort among western visitors, Niseko sits 100km southwest of Sapporo and boasts some of the best powder skiing in Japan. The area has 5 interconnected resorts with corresponding villages of the same names: Niseko Hirafu, Niseko Village, Niseko Annupuri, Niseko Hanazono, and Niseko Moiwa.
Grand Hirafu is the largest resort in Niseko and thus has a variety of runs and 17 chair lifts. Hirafu Village, which sits at the base of Grand Hirafu, is the center of Niseko and a great place to stay, eat, and drink.
1 Day Lift Ticket: ¥5,900
Super Cheap Tip: Visit between February 8 and February 12th. You’ll be able to visit both the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, one of the world’s largest snow and ice festivals, and the Otaru Lantern Festival, an intimate celebration of snow and community.
The Hakuba Valley
A winter wonderland 3 hours west of downtown Tokyo, Hakuba is home to great diversity of terrain across its 11 resorts. In addition to great terrain, the valley combines high levels of annual powder snow with an epic night life, and as a result, has become one of Asia’s most popular ski destinations.
The largest resort in Hakuba and home to several different events during the 1998 Winter Olympics, Happo-One is a great option for intermediate and advanced riders as the pitch is quite steep with a 1701 meter vertical drop. The resort also has the best terrain park in the Hakuba Valley and has great tree runs for powder days.
1 Day Lift Ticket– ¥5,200
1 Day Hakuba All Valley Pass– ¥6,000
Super Cheap Tip:
Want to visit different mountains throughout Nagano on the super cheap? The Nagano Snow Chasers is the tour for you. It leaves Hakuba every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday and visits Nozawa Onsen, Myoko Kogen, and Madarao Kogen. For ¥12,000, you receive transportation, lift tickets, mountain guiding, and an after ski soak in the onsen.
Nozawa Onsen is one of the most beautiful ski resort villages in Japan. Nozawa Onsen is made up of one ski resort but it is quite large, offering 300 hectares of terrain and a big-for-japan. This place is the powder-hound’s dream; it receives over ten meters of snow each season.
There’s only one, but it’s an epic mountain. With 1,085 meters in vertical drop and copious amounts of fluffy powder snow now each season, this mountain is a pleasure to ski. The best time to visit is the week of January 17 as you can see the Nozawa Fire Festival.
1 Day Lift Ticket– ¥4,800 yen
Super Cheap Tip
It’s famous for its abundance of hot springs which were discovered in the 8th century. The steam rises up throughout the town from the used Onsen water that escapes downhill, and there are 30 onsens dotted throughout Nozawa which are FREE to use! Each does have a box outside for donations however.
Madarao Kogen is two hours from Tokyo via Shinkansen and is broken down into 30% beginner – 40% intermediate – 30% advanced, meaning it’s suitable for the whole family. Madarao features 60% ungroomed runs, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to enjoy some deep powder skiing right on top of the piste.
Madarao Kogen Ski Resort and Tangram Ski Resort are interconnected and accessible with the same lift pass. Madarao claims the most official tree ski runs of any Japanese Resort, and has easy access to untouched back and side country terrain.
1 Day Lift Ticket- ¥4,500
Super Cheap Tip:
Stay in Hakuba and visit Madarao on the all-day Nagano Snow Chasers Tour. The night life in Madarao is quite limited, and unless you’re looking for a quite getting away, Hakuba will be a better option for you.
Shiga Kogen is the largest ski resort in Japan with 52 lifts and gondolas spread out among 19 separate ski areas. One lift pass gets you access to all the lifts, but you’ll need shuttle buses to travel between the various resorts.
Ichinose is the main area of Shiga Kogen and caters well to families and beginners with wide groomed runs. There are a number of mogul runs and tree runs too, but powder hounds will be disappointed as off-piste riding is predominantly banned.
1 Day Lift Pass– ¥5,000
Super Cheap Tip
The famous snow monkeys are only 20 minutes from Shiga Kogen. Hop on a bus or take a taxi over to the monkey park for an unforgettable experience.
For more information on the Hakuba Valley, including weather reports, resort information, and more, please visit Hakuba.com.