10 Popular Ski Resorts in Japan That Even Beginners Can Enjoy
More and more tourists are visiting Japan with the purpose of skiing. Here is a list of 10 recommended ski resorts in Japan that even beginners can enjoy, including ones with high-quality snow and ones that are easily accessible.
1. Shigakogen Ski Area
The Shigakogen Ski Area is a collection of 18 ski resorts in the Shiga Kogen area of Joshinetsu-kogen National Park, making it the largest ski area in all of Japan. There are 47 ski lifts in total, and you can ride all of them as many times as you want with a single pass. It includes the ski slopes where the Nagano Olympics were held, and has a huge variety of courses with high-quality powder snow that can be enjoyed by everyone from beginners to experts. The Ichinose Family Ski Area, a central area with beautiful nature and scenery, is recommend for beginners as well as families. There are various courses that will be appreciated by beginners, from the wide and easily ski-able Central Area, to the Long Course where even beginners can ski down from the mountain peak.
2. NISEKO Mt. RESORT Grand HIRAFU
Skiers and snowboarders come from all around the world seeking the "Japow" (Japanese powder snow) at this world-class ski resort. Japow is light and fluffy snow that even beginners can ski on easily and experience the joys of high-quality snow. Another highlight is the dynamic view of Mt. Yotei before your eyes. A recommended activity other than skiing is putting on a pair of snowshoes, which take no special skills to use, and going on a tour through the snow-covered forest. There are many activities to enjoy after skiing as well, such as visiting the collection of dining and drinking establishments at the base of the mountain, or taking a dip in an onsen (hot spring) to soak away your tiredness.
3. NOZAWA ONSEN Snow Resort
You can enjoy powder snow as well as a post-ski visit to a refined onsen town at this ski resort located in the northern region of Nagano Prefecture. The longest course here is an astounding 10km! Due to its rising popularity since the Nagano Olympics, this ski resort is visited by large numbers of tourists, including many from abroad. The Uenotaira Course, a spacious and gentle 2km slope from which you can see juhyo ("snow monsters," or trees covered with snow and ice) while you ski, is recommended for first-timers. After you're done skiing for the day, why not try entering one or a few of the 13 public baths in the onsen town (free, but they have a tip box)?
4. Zao Onsen Ski Resort
This area is famous for juhyo, a rare natural phenomenon. The ski resort is popular for its high-quality, expansive ski slopes that make use of the natural shape of the earth. The Yokokura Slope and the Ohira Course, which are wide and have plenty of lifts, are recommended for beginners. There are several places to transfer ski lifts, so it is essential to check your course map. The juhyo at the top of the mountain are an absolute must-see! If you aren't confident in your ability to ski down from the top of the mountain, you can also descend via ropeway gondola instead. If you are intending to ski down, then you can transfer between the Omori Course and Kurohime Course ski lifts to avoid the crowded Zao Ropeway Sanroku Station.
5. Ishiuchi Maruyama
This ski resort is accessible from Tokyo in just 90 minutes via shinkansen and a free shuttle bus, making it perfect for a day trip. There is a beginner-friendly park located among the slopes for beginners to practice in peace. Also, while many of the ski courses accessible at the top of the mountain are meant for expert skiers, there is one meant for beginners as well, which can be accessed by any of the entrances. This resort also boasts the highest number of courses (12) that operate during the nighttime, with some of them offering even higher quality snow at night than during the day.
6. Madarao Mountain Resort
Even beginners can enjoy this resort, which has a kind of powder snow called "madapow," and is known for having the most "Tree Run" courses (ski courses that utilize the natural shape of the land where you can ski through trees and nature left as-is) in Japan. This resort has courses for everyone, including 10 different courses aimed at beginners, so you won't have to worry about having to ski the same course over and over. You can also access the neighboring Tangram Ski Circus via Lift #15 if you have a Mountain Pass ticket.
7. Furano Ski Resort
This ski resort boasts high-quality powder snow that is just as good as in Niseko, as well as stunning views of the expansive Hokkaido scenery, including the Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group and Mt. Tokachi. There are two areas, Furano Zone and Kitanomine Zone, with plenty of courses suitable for all skill levels, from beginner to expert. Even beginners will be able to enjoy a pleasant ski down from the mountain peak, so make sure to take a trip to the top of the mountain in the famous Furano Gondola, which can carry 101 passengers at once! However, note that there are no beginner courses that can be accessed from the Kitanomine Gondola. You can enjoy classic Hokkaido dishes, such as sushi and jingisukan (grilled mutton dish), in the Furano city center after finishing your day of skiing.
8. Joetsu Kokusai Ski Resort
You can directly access the ski slopes of Joetsu Kokusai Ski Resort by taking the Joetsu shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Echigo-yuzawa Station, and then taking a Joetsu Line train to Joetsu International Skiing Ground Station. In fact, this ski resort is amazingly accessible by both car and train. There's something to satisfy everyone, from small children who just want to play in the snow to expert skiers, among the various courses that are split into 4 areas in this large resort. The recommended course for beginners is the 6km Family Woodland Course, as you can enjoy the scenery while skiing, and there is a ski lift that offers descending rides as well that you can take if you get tired halfway through the course.
9. APPI Kogen Ski Resort
Along with the previously introduced Zao Onsen Ski Resort, this is one of the most iconic ski resorts in the Tohoku region of Japan. Due to its favorable location, this resort enjoys superb powder snow that can be enjoyed even on the beginner courses. The Karugamo Course is the recommended spot for beginners to practice, and then once they feel a little more comfortable, they can move on to the 5.5km Yamabato Course. This course has many changes in incline despite being one for beginners, so it will really let you improve your skills! There are many shops, restaurants, and public bath facilities located near the resort entrance.
10. Naeba Ski Resort
This popular ski resort is easily accessible from Tokyo. You'll be happy to know there are plenty of courses here to match your skill level, such as Trail No.4, a beginners' course that also includes many lift stations, toilets, and restaurants, and the Takenokodaira Trail, on which even beginners can enjoy a pleasant ski. The resort also offers snowmobile tours (no license required), snow shoe tours that can be enjoyed at any time of the day, and many other activities. Be sure not to miss the fireworks display, which is held mostly on Saturdays after the night skiing sessions are finished.
That wraps up our introduction to ski resorts around Japan where even beginners can have their fill of fun. By all means, go out and enjoy some winter sports in a world covered in snow!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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