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Big in Japan

Big in Japan

Posted by Julia Örtegren

Photos by Erik Lindfors

2019-09-12 14:05

If you haven’t yet been there, you’re probably dreaming about going soon. We’re talking about Japan, the powder Mecca that always looks like heaven on earth in the social media feed. Here’s a guide on where to go and when.

Massive dumps of fluffy powder, interesting culture and open tree runs. To most of us Japan seems like an epic place to go skiing, but how do you find the best spots and when is the right time to go? Erik Lindfors works as a guide for Active Ski Travel and has spent seven winters skiing and guiding tourists all around Japan, visiting about 100 different ski resorts. We’ve asked him to give away his best tips on how to plan a really good trip to Japan.

Japan2 2.jpg
When is the best time to go to Japan?
—The majority of ski tourists are going to Japan between January 15th and February 15th. That’s when you have the best snow base and the biggest dumps. There are also other factors to consider though. If you plan your trip in December or early January, the snow base might be bad, but it can also be really good, and there are almost no people. It’s a bit of a gamble, but it can defiantly be worth it.

—The earliest I’ve been was December 15th. It was snowing every day and we were almost alone. Another time when I arrived early there were still green twigs sticking up in the pistes, but that was an unusually bad year. If you go in the end of February, there are also less people around, but the risk is that the sun makes the snow a bit too heavy. It depends a bit on where you are in the country too. Generally the further north you go, the colder it gets, Erik explains.

Erikjapan 2.jpgErik Lindfors works as a guide in Japan
Where do you find the best skiing?
Japan is a big country and a question that usually arises is whether to go to Hokkaido or Honschu. Honshu is the main island in Japan and also the island where Tokyo is located.

— Hokkaido is located further north and is more well known among ski tourists. Both of these islands have fantastic skiing and in my opinion it’s more interesting which resorts you go to on each island, than which of the islands you choose. Honshu has the largest number of ski resorts, and this is probably where you can find the more unknown ski resorts if that’s what you’re looking for.

Japan4 2.jpgLooking for powder? Japan offers lots of snow each year.
Which is your favorite spot?
— It’s always hard to recommend a certain spot. The best answer is to go where it’s snowing at the time, but generally I would say that there are two choices to make.
1. If you only want to prioritize your skiing or snowboarding, you should look for smaller ski resorts that aren’t too well known. That’s the way to avoid competition and get lots of fresh snow to your self. I can for example recommend Kiroro and Shiga Kogen, or if you’re into ski touring Kagura and Kurudake. What you will miss out on at the smaller resorts are things to do at night, so make sure to bring lots of good movies.

2. If you want experiences besides skiing, such as After Ski and good restaurants, you should go for bigger more well known ski resorts. The most famous ones in Europe and Australia are Niseko, Hakuba, Nozawa, Onsen or Myoko.

— According to google, there are about 500 ski resorts in Japan, but I know that there are even more. We have sometimes found ski resorts by systematically going through the mountain ranges on google earth and found skiing systems that cannot be found online as they have no English website, or no website at all.

What is so special about skiing in Japan?
—The amount of snow is the biggest thing, it usually snows around 15 meters each winter. The open tree riding is also special and perfect for snowy conditions with bad vision.

Japan3 2.jpgSome other advice when going?
— Bring a buff to protect your face, and powder straps if you would loose your skis in the middle of a ride. It can be very hard to find otherwise.
— I would definitely recommend hiring a guide when you go to Japan, especially if you are not there for such a long time. You can often find local guides who speaks English at each resort, or just organize your trip with a travel company before hand.

—The Japanese culture is very special. You’ll experience a lot just by moving around the country, taking a train, bus or staying at their hotels. Swimming in the hot springs, and visiting a temple are classic things to do. I would also advice you to visit Tokyo and of course to try out one of the traditional teppanyaki restaurants. If you meet me skiing in the forest, I can recommend some of my favorite ones!

Thank’s a lot Erik, have a great winter in Japan!
Active Ski Travel: https://www.activeski.se

Text: Julia Örtegren
Photos: Erik Lindfors


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