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Skiing in JAPOW - There's a smile in your future

I wasn't sure what to expect when I was first told that I was going on a ski trip to Japan. I thought... WOW Japan, that is so amazing or "sugoi" (the Japanese word for amazing). It was indeed sugoi, as the snow was fantastic, the people warm and welcoming and the experience unique. 

I took an 11 hour international flight to Tokyo, connected on a domestic flight to Sapporo before boarding a resort bus to Niseko. I also made sure to wear my compression socks for the journey, for walking around and for skiing. This is the story of my JAPOW, a smile filled tale of snow, food, more snow and epic skiing.

Compression socks  Compression socks

 Let's start with some general information about skiing in Japan. 

  • Ski resorts in Hokkaido get dumped with an average of 10 to 18 meters of snow per season.
  • There are hundreds of ski resorts in Japan on the north island of Hokkaido and the main island of Honshu.
  • The weather systems that move across the Sea of Japan from Siberia are responsible for the massive amounts of snowfall.
  • There are many epic and deep powder shots to be had in Japan.

I had a lot of fun skiing in Japan, from the variety of resorts, food and sites to be seen.

Backcountry skiing in Japan

Taking some powder turns in the backcountry near Chisenupuri.

Backcountry skiing Japan

With 50 cm of new snow fall, we were told it was an okay day.

Resort skiing in Japan

We also explored many different resorts: Moiwa,  Annupuri,  Kiroro, Rusutsu and Sapporo Teine, to name a few. My favourite part of the experience was all the great people and the ski culture. There are often school groups taking lessons at the hill and they are easy to spot, but your ski buddy might lose you in the crowd. Despite the school groups, the ski hills never felt crowded and you will still be able to find first tracks to build your portfolio of smiles.

Skiing in Rusutsu  Skiing Sapporo Teine

There are many unique features at all the resorts and we would always take a moment to enjoy the view. The first photo is at the end of the day at Rusutsu with Mount Yotei in the background. The second photo is skiing at Sapporo Teine, exploring the trail between the Highland zone and the Olympia zone. Both resorts make for some unique photos. How often do you get to explore a Ferris wheel and a roller coaster on skis?

The food in Japan is truly original and exploring all the various dishes was just as exhilarating as the tree skiing. All the resorts offered a great selection of soups, curries, rice dishes, desserts and dishes I can't pronounce. The ordering system is different than most western ski resorts -

  1. You pick your meal from an electronic kiosk with images of the dishes on offer.
  2. Pay using various options, cash is the most common option.
  3. An order ticket is printed.
  4. Present your ticket to the kitchen staff.
  5. Pick up order.

Most cafeterias are open concept and you can see your meal being made, which is better than any show on the food network.

There are also a variety of sushi options available and we explored many, from sushi boat to small family owned restaurant.

Ski food in Japan

Ski food in Japan
Sushi in Japan Sushi in Japan

My favourite meal is dessert and finding sweet pastries in the shapes of animals was one of the highlight of my trip. I should note that these animal shaped desserts were only found at various bakeries near the Tokyo Zoo and I got mine near the Ueno station.

Food in Japan Food in Japan

The other reason for visiting Japan, aside from the snow, was exploring the culture and heritage sites. (1) is Ameya-Yokocho shopping street were you can enjoy hours of shopping in this outdoor market. (2) is the Pagoda and the (3) Hozomon Gate at the Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa district of Tokyo.    

(1) Ameya-Yokocho   (2) Pagoda (3) Hozomon Gate
Japanese culture Japanese culture Japanese culture

I really enjoyed my time in Japan and I would definitely recommend a visit to anyone planning a trip.

Just in case you thought I was exaggerating about the snow fall levels, 173 cm tall person leaning against a Japanese snowbank.

Skiing in Japan

If you would like to discover more about skiing in Japan, feel free to send us an e-mail at or checkout these links -

Powder Magazine - Skiing in Japan for Dummies

Powder Life 


Japan Guide - Skiing & Snowboarding