If you want powder skiing, then you need to ski and/or snowboard in Japan. Up to 30m of the stuff can fall any given season meaning that if you time it well, you will get at least one 1+ foot dump any 7 days you are there between late December and mid-March. Most of the time it snows non-stop with 3-4 foot accumulating literally overnight. If you’re thinking that these storms would force you to spend a few days indoors, you’d be mistaken, well most of the time. The low altitude and abundances of trees shield most areas from the wind and depending on the resort, visibility is generally good.
Japan was really discovered 12 or so years ago when powderhounds were drawn by tales of stupidly deep powder days on practically deserted resorts. This still holds true in many of the 500+ resorts in Japan, but if you go to Niseko and Hakuba you’ll find two resorts on their way to being world-class complete with 1000’s of other Aussies tracking out the pow by midday. However, it’s still quieter than a powder day in the US, Canada or Europe though and the snow is much more consistent.
If you’d like to read about taking the train from Tokyo to the north island, check out our blog article on the journey from Tokyo to Hokkaido by Shinkansen Bullet train!
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‘There’s more to skiing Japan than Niseko and Hakuba. Ask us for where to find that solitary Japan powder!’
Whiteroom Tours – Japan Powder Promo
We can confidently say that if you travel there to ski between late December and mid March you will not be disapointed. Even late November and late March can be epic as we’ve experienced. To give you the low-down –
December is a cold, -15 to -30 in some areas. The weather brings consistant falls but the storms can hold off till later in the month meaning you’ll be skiing through thick brush amongst the trees as there just isn’t enough base. Generally you’ll be safe from mid Dec onwards.
January is still very cold but you’ll get huge storms with loads of snow often falling for days at a time. Visability is surprisingly good but if the resort has alpine expect it to be shut or a white-out. Jan brings the driest snow but it is also very busy at the major resorts of Niseko and Hakuba so please book ahead.
February is THE month in our books. Flights are cheaper, the mountains less crowded and the base is well above 2-3m, so the hits and all the epic tree runs are ON! The temps are anwhere between -5 and -15 and the storms keep rolling in so you still get plenty of powder, but you get more blue-bird days too. It’s the best of both worlds and our tours tend to always book out during this month.
March is a great time to go if you want a few warm days and big dumps clearing to blue-bird. Flights are super cheap as is accommodation and often lift passes too. You really feel that you have your own private resort during this month as it feels as there is just no-one about. We’ve had some of our best days in March so don’t discount it as not being an option. If you are keen to do some hiking then the snowpack is generally stable, visibility great and you don’t freeze your but off when you stop for lunch. Get in touch with us about some great March specials!
There are 2 main regions where the best skiing and riding is focused; on the main island there is Nagono and Niigata prefectures, sitting side by side they are both easy to reach from Tokyo, and then there is Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. While Hokkaido is perhaps more famous for its champagne powder, the resorts of the main island offer more varied terrain and bigger verticals, along with wonderful cultural opportunities.
However, all of these areas offer something for every level and for every budget, and everyone from families to ride hard/party hard snowboarders will find Japan a great place to ski or ride, with wonderfully friendly people, great food, high quality accommodation and a fascinating culture. It’s not only the thigh deep powder, snowy day after day, that keeps people coming back to Japan year after year.
The main island of Japan is packed with interesting cities and cultural sites. If you have time for a stopover I’d at least check out Tokyo for 3 nights. You’ll get two and a half days of sightseeing and you wont regret it. If you can spare a week we recommend travelling down to Kyoto. Take the bullet or Shinkansen train and watch the countryside, including Mt Fuji, fly by. You’ll be down there in around 3 hours and once off the train you’ll feel as though you have stepped back in time. The whole of Japan is worth a look if you have loads of time. Get and JR rail pass from us and go exploring.
Check out the Tsukiji Fish Markets to truly understand the connection the Japanese have with the ocean and all the creatures living in it – it’s amazing what they sell for consumption! If you make it to Kyoto, try to squeeze in a day trip to Nara – a beautiful old city, and old capital, that survived intact from WWII bombing.