With autumn almost upon us it’s time to start planning a trip to the slopes. With 70% of Japan made up of mountainous areas the country has more ski resorts than any other, not to mention the infamous J-Pow snowfall; Niseko resort is famed for an annual snowfall of 15m or more. Not only is Japan excellent for those who love to hit the slopes but it hosts a number of unforgettable non-skiing activities such as outdoor onsen, husky sledding, snow festivals, and more. Japan is famous for its impeccable hospitality with systems in place including luggage forwarding for those travelling with their own skis, taking any stresses away from the trip. Here we’ve rounded up some inspiration and news on what’s coming to the 20/21 winter season in Japan.
How Hokkaido’s ski resorts are staying safe post-Covid, Hokkaido
In response to Covid-19, Hokkaido Prefecture launched the 'New Hokkaido Style' campaign, encouraging new lifestyle habits and business customs as part of a new normal. In the resort, protective screens at desks, sanitation of high-touch areas, provision of hand sanitiser, floor stickers for social distancing, daily health checks for employees and temperature and travel history checks for guests are just a handful of the industry-wide approaches that have already been incorporated. Rusutsu resort in Hokkaido is operating reduced capacity on its airport transfer buses in order to better assure social distancing and gondolas are being disinfected between each ride. Kiroro resort has introduced digital menus in its restaurants, as well as implementing a strict guided seating process led by restaurant staff members. Over 500 ski resorts in Japan are operated by hoteliers all of which have brought their own supplementary initiatives to safety measures helping to keep ski resorts up and running in a safe way.
Nozawa Onsen unveils new gondola system, Nagano
Nozawa Onsen resort has announced a new gondola system will be unveiled in time for the 20/21 season. Nozawa Onsen Village is located at the foot of the ski resort spanning across three main areas covering 730 acres. The new gondola will replace the existing system, reducing travel time from 16 minutes to just eight minutes, skipping the mid-station stop making the resort more accessible. Nozawa Onsen ski resort in Nagano is already well set up to welcome international guests and even has a local micro brewery producing beer from the fresh onsen water. This resort has a fully preserved traditional town centre which is extremely rare within ski areas, meaning travellers can enjoy the unique Japanese culture both on and off the slopes.
Nest rebrands as Miru Collection, Niseko
Niseko based hotel Nest, has rebranded as Miru Niseko, part of the Miru Collection group. Miru Niseko is located an eight minute drive from Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu and Niseko Village Ski Resort. Miru, meaning to see or look in Japanese, embodies a refreshed point of view. Representing a union of design, nature and culture, each of the hotels within the group has a distinct mix of thoughtfulness and surprise, inspired by the richness of its location. Miru Niseko is made up of hotel rooms, apartments and lodges to suit the needs of all guests. Perfect for a winter getaway, Hangetsukohan Natural Park and Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area are within a 15-minute drive from the property.
Best for post-ski relaxation: Manza Onsen Ski Resort, Gunma
Located northwest of Gunma Prefecture, the Manza Onsen Ski Resort is renowned for its combination of excellent powder, stunning views and relaxing Japanese onsens. Manza Prince and Manza Kogen hotels both double up as relaxing hot-spring resorts featuring naturally warm water from geothermally heated springs. After a thigh burning day exploring the 4.9km of slopes, situated between 1,646 and 1,994m, visitors of the ski resort can soak in the outdoor baths. The waters are rich in minerals including sodium and calcium all of which are proven to naturally cure fatigue and muscular pain.
Best lesser-known resort: Soyumura Village 229 Ski Land Snow Festa, Hachinohe
Located in Tako-cho Soyumura 229 Ski Land is the southernmost ski resort in Aomori Prefecture, northern Honshu. Whilst visiting Hachinohe City, visitors can travel just over an hour to the Soyumura 229 Ski Land, offering an abundance of snow to enjoy. There are plenty of slopes here for both beginner and advanced skiers alike, so mixed parties will fair well. Additionally, the slopes are family friendly making it the perfect place for first time skiers and those travelling with kids. For those who don’t ski there is still plenty to do, 229 Ski Land Snow Festa is a fantastic event that can be enjoyed by children and adults. Family activities include hunting for treasures in the snowy mountains, making snow lanterns, taking part in dual-ski/snowboard races (for those that ski) and more. The resort even holds a spectacular fireworks display in the evenings for visitors to marvel at.
Best place for fine dining: Snow Peak Field Suite Hakuba Kitaone Kogen, Nagano
This winter season enjoy a glamping style dinner tour, ‘Après & Dining’ at the Snow Peak Field Suite Hakuba Kitaone Kogen in Nagano. This private alpine retreat includes an exclusive five course meal by the fire with locally sourced ingredients and each course is paired with a selected local Nagano wine. The extravagant full-course dinner is served in a warm and cozy dining room after skiing hours. Before and after dinner, visitors can take in the views of the beautiful Northern Japan Alps, enjoying a well deserved evening cocktail around the bonfire.
Best place for deep powder and unique views: Hakkoda Mountain Resort, Aomori
The Hakkoda mountain range includes 20 mountains and is the cultural border between the Western Tsugaru area, home to Hirosaki Castle, and the Eastern Nanbu area, home to Hachinohe City. Located just an hour and twenty minutes from Hachinohe City, Hakkoda's mountains boast the famous deep ‘J-Pow’ with an average snow base of four+ meters each year. The resort hosts ski runs up to seven km that stay true to the mountain’s natural form, challenging the best of skiers. Hakkoda mountain resort is also famed for its unique ‘Snow Monsters’ creating an unforgettable scenic backdrop. During the winter months, weather-beaten trees in Hakkoda transform into monstrous but beautiful and magnificent silver frost sculptures. Visitors can embark on a tour to walk through these Snow Monsters and enjoy taking a hot spring bath at the end of the tour. Note: Hakkoda's ski season typically runs from mid-December until mid-May depending on snow and weather conditions. Snow Monsters are at their best from January until the end of February.