Asia

7 Top Japan Ski Resorts for Freshly Fallen Powder in the Land of the Rising Sun

Tired of your usual slopes and thinking about heading to new pastures? Book the vacation of a lifetime to the land of the rising sun and experience all that powdery snow at one of these top Japan ski resorts.

Known to be blessed with some of the driest powder in the world and an annual snowfall of up to 46 feet, Japan is no longer the ski destination underdog. With more than 500 ski resorts to choose from, it has something to offer everyone, from beginners looking for gentle Blue runs to experienced skiers hunting adrenaline on the slopes.

It’s also a unique cultural experience combining thermal hot springs (known as onsens), traditional Japanese cuisine made from world-class beef and seafood, or maybe a thrilling stopover in dazzling Tokyo. You can catch a short flight to the northern island of Hokkaido or take in snowy landscapes at high speeds on the iconic Shinkansen bullet train.

When it comes to where to stay, you can have cushy ski resorts or modern hotels brimming with entertainment options – not to mention ski-in, ski-out access. Or you can go for a secluded hotel in the forest, still close enough to reach the slopes at sun-up but away from the après-ski parties. From Hokkaido to Hakuba, the Land of the Rising Sun lets you experience alpine skiing at its best.

Ski-in, Ski-out Luxury

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Step straight out onto the slopes from The Vale Niseko, a five-star luxury resort with ski-in, ski-out access to 2,100 acres of alpine terrain. Located right next to the Ace Family Chairlift in Niseko, you’ll be out of the locker room and onto the snow in minutes. Better yet, The Vale is one of the only places in Hirafu village with access to natural thermal springs, ideal for soaking those aching muscles after some epic runs down the mountain. Luxuriate in the public indoor onsen with views over a Japanese Zen garden and breathe in the soothing aromas of mountain pine, sandalwood and jasmine.

For privacy, you can choose a sleek two or three bedroom Ski-Side Apartment with your own balcony hot tub to watch the falling snow melt into mineral-rich spring waters. Back inside, you can curl up on one of the spacious sofas and watch the flames flickering in your own modern fireplace. Or if you’re feeling swanky, go all out with the three bedroom penthouse for panoramic views of Mount Yotei from both the apartment and your private outdoor onsen.

Breakfast at The Vale Bar and Grill is complimentary with Hotel Resort Rooms, so you can fill up on eggs benny or fluffy pancakes topped with berries. Come back in the evening for a mouthwatering meal like Tomahawk steak carved at your table, or slow-cooked beef ribs washed down with a glass of Pinot Noir.

The Vale Niseko

8.3 Very good (94 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.1 / 10
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Mountain Views and Thermal Hot Springs

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In a low-rise building beneath the immense Mount Annupuri, The Green Leaf Niseko Village is a ski-in, ski-out setup with a modern design aesthetic. Local graphic artist Emi Shiratori has created unique hand-drawn artworks throughout the hotel, which has a minimalist, Nordic style that complements the natural beauty outside.

Retreat to the rock-lined Green Leaf Onsen, surrounded by snow-covered pine trees, and plunge into the thermal water sourced from a natural hot spring. Follow that with massage therapy at The Green Leaf Spa, whose holistic, organic products will reinvigorate you after a day on the mountain (or even just a long morning in bed). After your treatment, return to your spacious corner suite in dreamlike state and drink in uninterrupted views of Mount Yotei from your Eames-designed armchair. Slip into your yukata robe and sip on a cup of Japanese tea to slowly coax yourself back to (a very cozy) reality.

Regain your energy with a delicious hot chocolate or signature Green Leaf cocktail at Tomioka White bar, then indulge in some people-watching from a luxe Chesterfield sofa. Warm up fireside at Goshiki Restaurant before dining on fresh local seafood, warming noodle soups and crisp salads at the international and Japanese-fusion buffet.

The Green Leaf Niseko Village

8.3 Very good (592 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.8 / 10
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A Cozy Mountain Ski Resort in Japan’s Niseko

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Nestled between mountains at the foot of An’nupuri Ski Resort, Niseko Northern Resort An’nupuri puts you in range of enviable ski runs. Step out onto the piste and ski down the green run until you reach the An’nupuri Gondola for access to the higher slopes. Or take the afternoon to settle into your modern, clean room decorated in neutral earthy tones – you can book a twin or double setup, or spring for a Junior Suite to host your own après-ski in your comfy sitting area.

After an exhilarating day, wind down in the indoor natural hot spring before letting off some steam in the sauna. Brace yourself against the cold and jump into the always-hot, open-air spa surrounded by snow-capped treetops –trust us, it will be worth it.

Catch up on some reading in the Wilderness Library, filled with Japanese and English books, from the comfort of a designer chair. If you need a pick-me-up, you can order a steaming cup of coffee from next door’s Forest Lounge, or head over and nab a seat in front of the fireplace in time for a pre-dinner cocktail. And speaking of dinner, you’ll be spoiled for choice at the Eclat buffet, with more than 30 dishes on display and others prepared before your eyes in the open kitchen. Or try An-non for local delicacies like sashimi, grilled salmon with miso sauce, octopus shabu shabu (steamy hotpot) and pickles.

Niseko Northern Resort An'nupuri

8.4 Very good (463 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.8 / 10
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Onsens and Teppanyaki

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With majestic vistas of Mount Yotei and snow-capped birch trees, the views don’t get much better than from the outdoor onsen at Hilton Niseko Village. Tucked at the foot of Niseko An’nupuri Mountain, the resort is adjacent to the Niseko Village gondola, which will whisk you to the top of the mountain in under 10 minutes.

After a day on the slopes, drop into après-ski spot Ezo Pub overlooking the runs, or book one of the private karaoke rooms. Mingle around the spectacular hanging fireplace at The Flame Bar and Lounge and sip on warm sake before enjoying a theatrical teppanyaki display at Pirka restaurant. If you’re here on a romantic trip, you can book the couple’s treatment room at Wakka Spa for a soak in the deep Hinoki cedar wood bath before enjoying an After Ski Warm Healing Massage with heated organic oils and hot stones.

In your Deluxe Panorama room, change into your Japanese yukata kimono and take in sweeping views of Niseko Annupuri Mountain through floor-to-ceiling windows. Or book a Mt. Yotei View Room and wake up early to see the spectacular Sea of Clouds phenomenon (Unkai in Japanese) floating across the valley.

Hotel Hilton Niseko Village

8.1 Very good (1247 reviews)
Excellent Service 8.6 / 10
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Just a Short Trip from Tokyo

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Just 90 minutes by Shinkansen train from Tokyo, Sierra Resort Yuzawa is located in Iwappara on the southern slopes of Mt Iiji. You’ll experience an authentic stay in one of the Japanese-style rooms with woven tatami mats, and you can warm up chilly bones under one of the Kotatsu winter heating tables. Or choose a Garden Room and decide which run you’re going to tackle next as you gaze out across the garden and swimming pool to the ski slopes.

Climb into the resort’s open-air onsen and contemplate the intricately raked Zen garden or spot stars in the night sky as you ease your tired muscles in the alkaline hot spring water. If you swap your skis to visit in summer, you can enjoy the expansive wooden deck overlooking the outdoor pool. During ski season, admire the same view from behind the floor-to-ceiling glass with a cup of warming cocoa.

Replenish your energy with dinner at the on-site restaurant, where you can treat yourself to a 5-course French menu for adults and a special menu for kids. Return for a generous buffet breakfast in the morning to take your pick of Japanese and Western dishes to get you and your brood piste-ready.

Sierra Resort Yuzawa

Top rated
8.7 Excellent (33 reviews)
Excellent Service 8.7 / 10
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Where Local Tradition Meets French Cuisine

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Set within 25 acres of natural forest and manicured gardens, Sierra Resort Hakuba is a cool alpine retreat just outside Hakuba Village. You can take the public bus to the gondolas of four nearby ski resorts, including the renowned Happo-One.

Before heading out, fuel up at the breakfast buffet filled with hot and cold Western and Japanese favorites. In the evening, grab a table by the window and admire the garden waterfall between tantalizing plates selected by the award-winning chef. Think classic French dishes like sole meunière, velouté aux champignons de Paris or poulet aux herbes. Or if you’re in the mood for Japanese cuisine, try some sashimi or traditional sukiyaki for slow-simmered hotpot right at your table.

Before retiring for the evening, check out on-site Mizubasho Onsen – the largest hot spring in the Hakuba area and made from reclaimed timber that’s over 100 years old. Soak in the mineral spring waters under a cathedral-style ceiling and admire the forest treetops, mountain ranges, and clear starry skies.

In your guest room, you’ll find a large jet bath and nature-inspired features like wood and stone wall panels. Book into a Junior Suite to end your day on your private balcony or before the fireplace after a long day on the slopes.

Hotel Sierra Resort Hakuba

Top rated
9.1 Excellent (244 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.2 / 10
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A Secluded Forest Hotel

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Based on the concept of a forest hideaway, Hakuba Resort La Neige Higashikan is set within eight acres of lush wilderness populated by trees more than 100 years old. With the base of Happo-One ski resort only a five-minute walk away, this hotel offers the ultimate in seclusion and tranquility while still keeping you close to the slopes.

Check in at the European manor-inspired front desk, where you’ll be dazzled by ornate antique furniture, stained glass windows, and a roaring fireplace. Once your bags are in your room, settle into a comfortable armchair for a good read while you sip on a complimentary hot drink. Though you might prefer to spend the afternoon in your large stone Jacuzzi (found in most of the 21 guest rooms) overlooking the wintry woodlands. If you’re traveling with the family, you can choose an intimate log cabin separate from the main building for extra privacy and ultra coziness.

Dinner is an experience in itself here – sip on a single-malt whiskey or port in the bar before treating yourself to a lavish French dinner at the on-site restaurant. Select from an à la carte menu, or follow the chef’s guidance with seven degustation courses made with fresh local produce. Both kids and the young at heart will love toasting marshmallows over the fireplace as a sweet way to end the day.

Hakuba Resort Hotel La Neige Higashikan

Top rated
9.0 Excellent (166 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.1 / 10
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Originally published in trivago Magazine Canada