Magazine

The Best Time to Ski Japan - Honshu Vs Hokkaido.

Jan 24, 2018

One of the hardest things about planning a ski vacation is deciding on when to go. It’s always hard to predict when the best snow will fall at each ski resort (and of course, we’re at the mercy of the weather gods), however, here’s a guide to help choose the best time to head to Japan for your next Winter ski holiday.

When thinking of skiing in Japan, it’s often the choice of which island – the main island of Honshu, or the smaller island of Hokkaido located up North. Both have incredible skiing opportunities, with challenging slopes, traditional villages, and copious amounts of that famous Japanese powder snow. Due to their location, Honshu and Hokkaido ski resorts also have varying seasons, some starting earlier and some lasting through until April.

When to travel? Peak season for almost all resorts in Japan are over Christmas and New Years Eve, during Chinese New Year, and the Fire Festival in Nozawa Onsen (January 15th each year). Prices are much higher of these dates, as well as the number of people on the slopes, so it can be more crowded – restaurants, bars, shuttle buses, and of course, lift lines and slopes. January is the most popular time to visit Japan ski resorts due to work and school holiday breaks for those in Australia. Many resort offer Spring passes and deals to encourage travellers later in the season, and you’ll find many more lodging options available to suit your needs over these dates. Travelling in March and April also means you may see the wondrous Cherry Blossoms, more bluebird days, superb après ski, and exceptional mountain views.

Honshu.

The main island of Japan, Honshu is home to some of Japan’s major ski resorts, including Shiga Kogen, Hakuba, Myoko Kogen, Madarao, and Nozawa Onsen. Many of the popular resorts are located in the Niigata and Nagano prefectures, which are renowned for their exceptional snowfall. Being close to the Sea of Japan (only 25km away), these areas receive mammoth amounts of light and dry powder (up to 16 metres a season!) as the moisture is drawn up over the mountain ranges and condenses into snow atop the ski resorts.

Best time to travel? Start of January through to the end of February for the best powder snow conditions. Spring skiing from the start of March is also a fun-time to visit the resorts with low crowds and great deals on accommodation, however, some of the tour operators including airport transfers only offer limited services during this time. Travel in December is hit and miss and snow cover varies considerably each season.

Hokkaido.

This northern island of Japan is world renowned for its incredible dry powder snow, especially at the major resorts like Niseko, Furano, Kiroro, Rusutsu and Tomamu. The cold Siberian winds cross the Sea of Japan from the North-West/West to Hokkaido, where the uplift of the mountains brings the moisture to the resorts, subsequently dumping copious amounts of fresh snow. The Japanese Alps are particularly well shaped to enhance the updraft of moisture and clouds, hence why we see amazing snowfall records in Japan each season.

Best time to travel? Hokkaido is known for having a good early start to the season, with snowfall often in December creating the start of a good snowpack. Generally, powder days come with more frequency from early January until the end of February and then hit sporadically throughout March. There will be weeks where you don't see the sunshine or mountains around you as it just doesn't stop snowing and temperatures can be very cold. Many resorts still receive powder days well into April.  It’s not uncommon to see Spring-like conditions early in the season, then excess snowfall in Spring.

Overall, snowfall patterns are becoming less and less predictable with the change in global weather. At the end of the day it really does come down to luck - we've arrived at resorts where it's been dumping with snow for weeks, but a warm spell melts away our powder dreams, and equally turned up to resorts where there's more grass than snow only to ski powder the next day.

Let us know if you need futher advice, however if you want a really accurate prediction of "what will the snow be like at... in..." you will have to ask Ullr (the god of snow) - we simply cannot answer for him. Send us an email or check out our Guide to Skiing in Japan.

◀ Back to the magazine
More about Appi Kogen

Appi Kogen

Famous for its high standard of grooming, Appi Kogen is a purpose built ski village and resort, with a few large hotels, ... read more

Appi Grand Villa

Located across the ski slopes from the Appi Grand and the Appi Grand Tower, the Appi Grand Villa is a budget friendly ... read more

Pension Mutti

A classic family-run Japanese style pension lodge located in the Appi Kogen pension village, Pension Mutti offers simple ... read more

See hotels in Appi Kogen
More about Tomamu

Tomamu

Tomamu is a fantastic resort for families as well as advanced, powder-hungry tree skiers. read more

Risonare

Built in 1991, Risonare Tomamu hotel is the more luxurious of the two options in Tomamu.   read more

The Tower

The Tower hotel is made up of the two biggest buildings right at the Tomamu base area.  read more

See hotels in Tomamu
More about Shiga Kogen

Shiga Kogen

Shiga Kogen is an intermediate groomer lover’s paradise. It is the perfect place for families or couples who want to explore ... read more

Hotel Grand Phenix Okushiga

Designed like a Swiss style ski lodge, the Grand Phenix is one of the finest hotels in the area. It is nestled at the base ... read more

Hotel Alpenburg

An Austrian Style hotel with a friendly and warm ambiance, Hotel Alpenburg is a terrific choice for people who love the fusion ... read more

See hotels in Shiga Kogen
More about Sahoro

Sahoro

Sahoro Ski Resort in central Hokkaido is an un-crowded gem that’s particularly great for families thanks to a Club Med ... read more

Tokachi Sahoro Resort Hotel

Tokachi Sahoro Resort is perfect for shorter stays or for independent travellers looking for a Japanese style hotel at Sahoro ... read more

Club Med Sahoro

From families to couples to solo travellers, Club Med at Sahoro Ski Resort is a fantastic hassle-free way to experience ... read more

See hotels in Sahoro
More about Rusutsu

Rusutsu

Rusutsu is a powder skiing and boarding paradise close to Niseko and Sapporo airport, with some hilarious Disneyland-style ... read more

Rusutsu Resort Hotel North & South Wing

Rusutsu Ski Resort’s less luxurious accommodation option (North and South Wing) provides comfort and convenience together ... read more

The Westin Rusutsu Resort

Under new management by Starwood, The Westin Rusutsu Resort is a luxury hotel at the foot of Rusutsu Ski Resort. read more

See hotels in Rusutsu
More about Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen

An authentic Japanese ski village packed with natural hot spring onsens. read more

Naraya Ryokan

Naraya is an authentic, warm and welcoming ryokan in Nozawa Onsen. Japanese hospitality at its finest. read more

Nozawa Grand Hotel

Nozawa Grand is a classic Japanese-style hotel that’s great for families. It is located relatively close to the Hikage ... read more

See hotels in Nozawa Onsen
More about Niseko

Niseko

Whether you’re a powder hound seeking some of the lightest, driest snow in the world, or a beginner looking for a safe ... read more

Kozue

Kozue are seven stunning, luxury apartments in Hirafu that feature high-end finishes and peaceful outlooks. read more

Kizuna

Kizuna offers stylish mid-high end apartments in an upper Hirafu location at Niseko Ski Resort. read more

See hotels in Niseko
More about Naeba

Naeba

Naeba is one of the most family-friendly ski resorts in Japan, purpose-built with all the bells & whistles! read more

See hotels in Naeba
More about Myoko Kogen

Myoko Kogen

Myoko Kogen combines several great ski resorts, a superb ski school, endless powder snow and tree skiing with a friendly, ... read more

Morino Lodge Myoko

Morino Lodge Myoko is a cool ski lodge in a great location, packed with excellent facilities, amenities and the most comfortable ... read more

Myoko Vista

Myoko Vista in Myoko Kogen is a new boutique slope-side property located right by the ski slopes. read more

See hotels in Myoko Kogen
More about Madarao

Madarao

Madarao Mountain Resort is a small resort that’s big on surprises. Whether you’re a tree-loving powder junkie or a family ... read more

Madarao Kogen Hotel

The finest hotel in Madarao, Madarao Kogen Hotel is also your best option if you want the prime location right on the ... read more

Monaile Madarao

Madarao resort’s second major hotel is Monaile Madrao. It’s close to the slopes and great for those on a budget ... read more

See hotels in Madarao
More about Kurodake

Kurodake

Kurodake is a steep, backcountry-style ski mountain in central Hokkaido that’s best suited to advanced and expert skiers. ... read more

See hotels in Kurodake
More about Kiroro

Kiroro

Kiroro is a powder lover’s paradise and a great option for families who want convenience, value and smaller crowds than ... read more

Sheraton Hokkaido Kiroro Resort

The Sheraton Hokkaido Kiroro Resort is a upscale hotel right at the base of the Kiroro ski resort. read more

Kiroro Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Hokkaido

A large, Japanese style luxury hotel, The Kiroro, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, is a short shuttle ride to the base area of ... read more

See hotels in Kiroro
More about Hakuba

Hakuba

With 9 great ski resorts in one valley, Hakuba is one of Japan’s most popular ski destinations for Westerners. read more

Hotel Moegi

Hotel Moegi is a moderate Japanese hotel in Hakuba with easy access to Happo One Village and just one minute walk to  Happo ... read more

Goryukan

Goryukan offers Japanese styling with western facilities; perfect for those looking for an all-round experience while staying ... read more

See hotels in Hakuba
More about Hakkoda

Hakkoda

A powder playground for advanced skiers and boarders, Hakkoda is a unique backcountry-style ski area in the very north of ... read more

Sanso Lodge

Sanso Lodge is a small Japanese style lodge that is situated near the base of the Hakkoda ropeway station.  read more

Hakkoda Resort Hotel

Hakkoda Resort Hotel is the most upscale hotel located right at the Hakkoda base area. read more

See hotels in Hakkoda
More about Furano

Furano

Furano in Hokkaido offers a wide variety of terrain, lots of powder, a good selection of accommodation and a relatively authentic ... read more

New Furano Prince Hotel

Nestled in an isolated area right on the slopes, the New Prince is the most luxurious hotel in the Furano area.  read more

Pension Snow Crystal

Pension Snow Crystal is a classic Japanese style pension a short walk from the base of Furano Ski Resort. read more

See hotels in Furano
More about Asahidake

Asahidake

Asahidake is a backcountry style ski area in Hokkaido with just one ropeway (tram) and with mostly ungroomed, unpatrolled ... read more

Hotel Bearmonte

Located in the foot of Daisetsuzan Asahidake, Hotel Bearmonte is a mid-range hotel. read more

La Vista Daisetsuzan

La Vista Daisetsuzan is a surprise package with high quality hotel facilities and fantastic onsen in Asahidake.  read more

See hotels in Asahidake
More about Arai

Arai

Arai resort is a powder paradise with a hint of luxury, & re-opening for the first time in 10 years this coming season in ... read more

See hotels in Arai
More about Zao Onsen

Zao Onsen

Zao Onsen ski resort has a charming, traditional village, a great selection of hotels, natural onsen hot springs and a vast ... read more

Yoshidaya Ryokan

Yoshidaya Ryokan is a charming and basic traditional Japanese Ryokan in the heart of Zao Onsen read more

Meitoya So Ryokan

Meitoya So is a beautiful, traditional Ryokan in the heart of Zao Onsen village. It also happens to be great value. read more

See hotels in Zao Onsen

Share with a friend

Send a link to this page to a friend. The email addresses you enter will not be stored or used by us in any way.

Loading

Looking for something different? We can find exactly what you need.
Contact us by phone or fill out this simple form.

We've been there. We're here to help.

Stay ahead with Scout

Subscribe to the Scout newsletter - a regular roundup of news from the slopes and magazine articles.

Loading
Subscribe
Please enter the email addresses that will receive a copy of the booking request

Email address 1 :
Email address 2 :
Email address 3 :

Loading
Submit
Clear Dates
Clear Dates
Clear Dates
Clear Dates