We haven’t even had a look at the winter season in Japan yet, but know it’ll be worth a mention – last year we were amazed at the wonderful quality and quantity of snow they received…
And 2010 is no different.
An interesting fact is that snowmaking is banned in Japan, but fortunately that’s not a problem for the island of Hokkaido. Indeed the only complaint has been ‘too much snow’, with some visitors complaining of snow falling for weeks on end.
It is perhaps a little known fact that Japan has more than 500 ski resorts, and those on the northern island of Hokkaido experience more snow than anywhere else in Japan. Sub Arctic storms race out of Siberia across the Sea of Japan and dump vast loads across the island of Hokkaido. It is some of the lightest, driest powder snow found anywhere in the world.
Mt Niseko is one of Japan’s most popular ski resorts. The mountain is home to 5 different resorts: Annupuri, Higashiyama, Hirafu, Hanazono and Moiwa, and your lift pass is interchangeable between them all except the smallest resort of Moiwa.
The prevailing weather pattern means that this resort receives dump after dump of great snow throughout the winter. Barely a day goes by without new powder snow coating fabulous slopes on which enthusiastic skiers can lay fresh tracks.
In addition, Niseko has the largest floodlit night skiing area in the world. The lifts are open from 8:30 in the morning until 9:00 p.m. at night 7 days / week.
A very efficient lift system of gondolas and covered chairlifts will get you to the top of each mountain quickly and in comfort. The terrain is varied. There are legendary tree runs like Strawberry Fields and Miharashi, and some huge powder fields off The Peak which will blow your mind. There are some great steep runs at the Alpen Super Course and under the Kogen gondola. For beginners, there are beautifully groomed slopes at the base of the mountain. All runs are long and the 900m vertical drop ranks Niseko up there with other world class resorts. The longest run is a fabulous 5,600m.
Being at a low altitude, 1,200m only, it rarely experiences true white-out conditions, although when it is snowing, visibility is reduced to around 200m.
The expected average snowfall during any given month is mind boggling: 1 metre in December, 3 in January, nearly 4 in February and over 4 in March.
Ski Rusutsu is about an hour from Niseko and has 3 main mountains – East, West and Mt. Isola. Together there are 42 kilometres of runs, including a long cruiser of 3.5 kilometres. Despite its low altitude by the standards of Europe’s Alps or the Rockies, Rusutsu is particularly well known for its remarkable natural snowfall.
Here you’ll find untracked powder runs, amazing variety of terrain and some awesome natural terrain features not found in other resorts. It has the best tree-skiing in Japan, particularly on Mt. Isola, and the backcountry is superb. The uncrowded groomed runs are amazing, resembling gigantic freeways with long consistent fall-lines. Add to this one of the best half-pipes and snow-parks in the area and you’ve got a resort that offers everything you could ever want in a ski resort.
And then there’s Furano, located in the middle of Hokkaido at the foot of Japan’s mountain range. It has a wide selection of varied terrain for every level of skier and snowboarder with cruising trails, beautiful views and high speed lifts plus the added advantage of a vertical drop of over 950 metres making it one of the steepest mountains in Hokkaido. It’s a powder skiing mecca, and usually receives an average 8 metres of the lightest, driest snow each ski season, and yet has more blue sky sunny days than any other resort in Hokkaido.
And we will end with Hakuba…
… which means ‘white horse’ in Japanese This is an epic valley with 10 different ski resorts and hundreds of kilometres of trails spread over a huge variety of terrain. Hakuba boasts the longest vertical run in Japan and other runs exceeding 6 km.
There is something here for everyone – skiers and snowboarders, beginners to experienced skiers alike. You’ll find perfectly groomed cruisers & super-long meandering trails for beginners, plenty of powder bowls for high alpine riding and powder laden forests for the more advanced. There are 4 terrain parks with jibbers and super pipes, rails and jumps to satisfy even the most spoilt adrenaline junkie, and for the powder buffs, waist-deep powder is pretty common here.
The town of Hakuba is nestled in the middle of a huge valley, towered over by huge rugged peaks, 10 ski resorts and spectacular alpine scenery. Cortina consistently receives the highest snowfalls in the Hakuba valley and the whole area sports a long season from mid-November to early May.