Skiing and Snowboarding in Japan – Outside Hokkaido

Skiing and Snowboarding In Japan – Outside Hokkaido

After numerous trips to Japan to go skiing, I often get asked about the places to go.

So I thought I’d put together a short guide on my top picks for Japanese ski resorts. Aside from Niseko in Hokkaido (which offers some of the best skiing in Japan), here are some of my favorite places for skiing and snowboarding on Honshu Island.

Zao Onsen

This is a small town with a fun nightlife scene. The slopes are nice and long but not that challenging for experienced skiers. Aside from skiing, there’s a long hike that departs from the top of the mountain, with some people taking their snowboards along the backcountry trails here.

Myoko Kogen

This long-established ski resort is halfway between Nagano and Niigata and a great option for dedicated skiers and hikers. The slopes are challenging, with plenty of options both at Myoko and at nearby Seki Onsen. I only skied for half a day, then decided to hang out in one of the dozens of small onsen. When we visited in January, the snow was fantastic – ideal for me as I fall quite a lot!

Madarao mountain resort

Located in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture, this ski resort is famed for its un-groomed courses and backcountry trails. It’s ideal for skiers of all levels and doesn’t have the crowds that you’ll find at some of Japan’s other ski resorts.

Gala Onsen

Just 90 minutes by Shinkansen from Tokyo, this ski resort is an easy day trip if that’s all you’re looking for. The bullet train station is right at the base of the slopes, so you’re on the snow in no time!

Shiga Kogen

If you like apres ski, then this is the place to head, with a distinctly European feel in its architecture and villages. At 607 hectares, it’s also one of the largest ski resorts in Japan, with something for everyone.

Jigokudani Monkey Park

Not exactly a ski resort, but the Jigokudani Monkey Park is a must-visit winter destination in Japan, with snow blanketing the landscape around 1/3 of the year. It’s a paradise for wild Japanese macaques who come to bath in the hot springs and a highly photogenic wildlife experience. You can bunk down at the nearby Shiga Grand Hotel, which offers access to not only the Jigokudani Monkey Park but also the slopes of Shiga Kogen.

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