8 Tips for Skiing and Snowboarding in Hokkaido, Japan


Planning your first snow trip to the Land of the Rising Sun? If so, here are some helpful tips that the crew at Whiteroom Tours have uncovered during our time in Japan.

1 – Low Light Goggle Lenses
All of that legendary Japanese powder equals a lot of days under cloud in low light.  Sure, you’ll have some bluebird days too, but more often than not you’ll experience patchy and changing light conditions.  Low light goggles will help you read the terrain better when everything around you is white on white.  While you’re at it, bring a spare pair too.. it won’t be long until they are full of powder from the odd tumble.  Most resorts offer night riding too, and getting faceshots in Japan at night is a definite must do.

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On deep days you’ll be eating a decent amount of powder

2 – Cash
Japan is a very cash based society, and while you will find ATMs in Post Offices and convenience stores, they are not as common as you may expect.  Many resorts only accept cash for lift tickets, and many bars and restaurants will prefer cash payment too.  Withdraw as much as you are happy to carry at the airport and you’ll save yourself some hassle.  Post offices have the lowest fees for cash withdrawals.

3 – Facemask/Neckwarmer
Even if you have Chuck Norris levels of resistance to cold, think again.  Turn after turn sending light dry powder into your face tends to make you a bit cold.  Even if you never wear one, consider bringing one, especially for deeper days. Temperatures hover between -5C and -15C mid winter across Hokkaido, before adding windchill.

4 – Fatter Skis
Do you want to work hard or do you want have fun? Consider bringing a pair of 100mm+ skis if you want to enjoy floating through Japanese powder.  Most of our ski guides are on 105 – 125mm skis. If you wanna gloat, you gotta float.

5 – Snowboard with Directional Stance
Many snowboarders, myself included, enjoy riding park boards with a centered stance.  Playing this game in Japan can destroy your back leg in a matter of days when the pow is on.  Consider pushing your stance back at least one space.  I love riding a twin setup, but in Japan pushing it back a bit further keeps me riding longer.

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Japan, where it even snows on bluebird days

6 – Bring your Own Gear
While there are some areas with decent rental/retail options (such as Niseko + Sapporo), many areas of Japan carry limited options.  If you have the option to buy before you leave, do it.  You won’t find much clothing/footwear in taller/larger sizes either.  We’ve tried.

7 – Mobile Phones/Internet
Getting a phone in Japan is fraught with difficultly, so your best option is to hire: either a phone itself or a data sim card (cheapest option).  Rates for data sims are reasonable, and there are long term options.  We’ve had good service from CD Japan.

8 – Language
Learning a few words of Japanese will go a long way on your trip, especially if you intend to wander off the beaten track. English is not commonly spoken amongst the locals, so you’ll be doing some charades style communication fairly often.  There are also some handy apps out there to translate the written language (such as Google Translate, and Waygo, which works offline) that can prove more than handy.

We’ll be updating this blog on a regular basis in the coming winter months so stay tuned for the adventures of our tour groups while they are in Japan.

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Sunrise at Mt Yotei

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