Japan has long been famed as a mecca for deep, quality snow, and most fluff-hungry skiers and snowboarders have at least one Japan ski resort at the top of their bucket list of must-visit powder destinations. Japan also has a reputation for the consistency and reliability of its snowfall, and as a result, there tends to be a rather large window of time in the winter season to experience the best of the white stuff. With Japan ski resorts open from late November until early May, when really is the best time to ski in Japan?
Early Season: December
While most Japan ski resorts open up in late November, it is generally recommended to wait until at least early December to book. Snow in November can be hit or miss, and usually only a handful of lifts are open at this time. This, along with the fact that many resort restaurants and cafes do not open up until later in December, makes November a less desirable time to visit.
December though can be one of the best times to visit Japan. Historically, December has seen a lot of snowfall, sometimes even more than any other month, especially in the more northern ski resorts such as Niseko and Kiroro. As long as you can avoid the peak holiday dates around Christmas, the price of accommodation in December is often very affordable. This, coupled with the ski resorts being relatively uncrowded makes December a top choice for a Japan ski holiday.
Holiday Period: Christmas, New Year, and Chinese New Year
Christmas and New Year in Japan is a wonderful opportunity for guests to experience a completely different Christmas to what they are used to. Enjoy the world-class cuisine served at some of the famous Niseko and Hakuba area restaurants, stunning natural hot springs, and a pretty good chance of some amazing powder.
The holiday period does bring an influx of visitors, and accommodation prices can be high at this time, but the bustling village and cozy winter wonderland atmosphere guarantees a winter holiday to remember. The New Year period brings resort fireworks, and a lot of evening celebrations for those who love the nightlife.
Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, can fall any time between the end of January and the middle of February. There are many cultural events which take place during this time along with other non-ski activities for guests. While conditions tend to be excellent at this time of year, the resorts tend to be at their busiest, and accommodation prices are often inflated.
January in Japan
Calling all powder lovers! Japan’s frigid January temperatures almost guarantee buckets of the white stuff. If you plan to visit a Japan ski resort in January, be sure to bundle up. Temperatures can dip below -10 degrees celsius at village level in the evening, especially in the more northern resorts like Niseko and Furano. High snow banks cover the village streets, creating a true winter wonderland.
January is also when many sidecountry gates open, and with the temperatures delivering some of the best powder snow of the season, it is also the best time to experience it. Make sure you follow the rules! Gate access will be subject to the wearing of a helmet and avalanche beacon, and generally it is recommended that you carry a full backcountry pack including beacon, shovel and probe. All equipment is available to rent in the resort for those without their own.
Also Read: 8 Foremost Things To Do In Sapporo-Japan
March in Japan
March is a wonderful time to visit Japan. If you time it well, there is a chance you can enjoy both incredible snow conditions, while experiencing the incredible cherry blossom season in Tokyo. While the snowfall can become inconsistent with the rising daytime temperatures, bluebird days are much more likely than at any other time of the season, offering incredible views and opportunities to snap some amazing photos.
Niseko resort’s famous Mt Yotei also becomes regularly visible, after hiding behind snowfall for much of January and February. Backcountry is a great way to find untracked powder and get in some extra runs.
March is also a great time to visit for anyone visiting with a family, and for those on a budget, with a lot of discounts on offer. In addition to very low accommodation prices, kids ski free in March and April in most larger Japan ski resorts, with a free rental package and lift pass with every adult package and pass purchased, making this period an ideal time to visit for those with children.