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Japan is just starting to appear on European skiers’ radars, and with very good reason. The powder is reliable, the resorts run like clockwork, there are hot springs to dip in to and volcanoes to ski on and what’s not to like about après-ski sushi? Even better, there are a mere 600 resorts to choose from on the main island of Honshu and the northerly Hokkaido island, so there’s likely to be somewhere to suit every type of skier. This being Japan there are no particularly budget options, granted, but if you want super original, and Original, skiing, Japan is the place to head.
In terms of specific resorts, it's hard to look beyond Niseko, on the island Hokkaido, which boasts legendarily consistent (and enormous) snow falls, a huge network of lifts and runs across four areas, and easily accessible off piste skiing of a high quality. There's skiing for all standards from beginners through to powderhound pros, and an excellent range of accommodation, restaurants and bars to choose from, making this one of the most civilised ski resorts in the world, let alone Japan. If you ski in Hokkaido, it might be worth swinging by Sapporo, the island's capital and home of the famously good beer.
Back on the main island of Honshu, the snowfall is not quite as freakishly fecund as in Hokkaido, but still pretty outstanding in many of the resorts near the city of Nagano, which hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics. Japan's hyper-efficient transport network means you can either stay in Nagano itself and ski different resorts daily, or stay in a resort complete with onsen hot spring town such as Nozawa Onsen, a wonderfully traditional resort that is now twinned with St Anton in Austria. Nozawa is also near the Jigokudani National Park, home of the iconic hot spring bathing snow monkeys. Not something you get in St Anton.
Whichever resort you choose, you can guarantee that the experience will be extraordinary because skiing with a Japanese twist is a deeply civilised affair with good facilities, outstanding restaurants and decent accommodation. The powder and snow monkeys await….
The northern island of Hokkaido is famous for the quality and quantity of its dry powder snow.
Frances, Original Traveller