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Skiing in Japan with Teenagers: How to Plan a Family Ski Holiday

Skiing in Japan with Teenagers: How to Plan a Family Ski Holiday

By Vicky LengUpdated Dec. 1, 2023

Japan has the best snow and the most ski resorts in Asia, and it is cheaper to ski there than in Europe. No matter what level of skier you are, you can find a suitable ski resort there.

Japan's ski resorts are concentrated in Hokkaido, Nagano, and Niigata. There are many family-friendly ski resorts in Japan, which not only have quality powder snow, perfect surroundings, convenient transportation, and clear English signs, but also have skiing lessons and fantastic service.

1. When is the Best Time for Skiing in Japan?

Skiing in Japan is popular Skiing in Japan

Japan's ski season usually runs from December to April. But the actual open dates depend on each resort and its location. Due to the northernmost location of Hokkaido and the high elevation of Nagano's mountains, snow in these places comes earlier than elsewhere — in early November, while elsewhere in Japan it begins to fall in December.

January and February are the peak months for skiing, which have steady snowfall and dry, light powder snow — the two most important elements of a perfect ski resort. Christmas and New Year holiday also attract lots of people to go skiing.

There are fewer people in December, March, and April. Although it still snows in March and April, the snow is unstable due to warming temperatures, and artificial snow is used when there is not much natural snow.

Suggested reading: January Weather in Japan and January Travel Tips

2. Where to Ski in Japan?

Almost all ski resorts in Japan have hot springs and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), which are a great way for families to experience traditional Japanese culture. Japan's ski resorts are mainly in Hokkaido, Nagano, and Niigata prefectures. We recommend the ski resorts in Hokkaido and Nagano, because they are easy to get to, and there are many attractions to see around them.

  • For families who want to go skiing in Japan in November, we recommend going to the ski resorts in Hokkaido, as there's unlikely to be snow elsewhere.
  • For families who want to ski exclusively, Hokkaido is the place to go, because it has the best powder snow and most of Japan's ski resorts.
  • For families visiting Japan for the first time, ski resorts in Nagano, which is only two hours' drive from Tokyo, offer both the highlights of Tokyo to see and good skiing opportunities.

3. Which are the Best Family-Friendly Ski Resorts in Japan?

For family skiing, we recommend Hokkaido and Nagano. The ski resorts in these two places not only have good powder snow, but also good surrounding facilities, English-speaking staff, and warm service. Here are our top 4 recommendations:

Hokkaido:

  • Niseko United
  • Rusutsu
  • Furano Ski Resort

Nagano:

  • Hakuba Valley

1) Niseko United — From 400–500 USD per day per person

Niseko, Japan Niseko, Japan
  • Features: largest ski resort in Hokkaido, family-friendly, high quality of powder snow, nightlife
  • Location: 2½ hours by car from Sapporo City and Sapporo's New Chitose Airport
  • Skiing season: December to early May
  • Trails: 80 trails including many cross-country ski areas
  • Night skiing: 16:30–19:00
  • Ski in ski out: yes
  • Rental shop: yes
  • Suitable for: all, especially families with teenager to have winter fun

Niseko United is the largest ski resort in Hokkaido, with four interconnected resorts: Hirafu, Annupuri, Niseko Village, and Hanazono. The powder snow is light and dry in these four areas, and is said to be the best natural powder snow in Japan, so you can really enjoy skiing there. Whether you like alpine skiing, tree skiing (glading), or cross-country skiing; whether you are a beginner or a professional skier, there is the terrain and perfect trail range to suit your needs.

Many international skiers choose to go there, but if you want to go to a Japanese-style ski resort, then this is probably not the best place to go. You are suggested to choose Hakuba Valley instead.

English is widely spoken there, so there should be no communication problems. There are ski classrooms at the resort, which are divided into private lessons and group lessons, all taught in English by highly-qualified ski instructors. Parents can have their kids learn skiing there, or they can learn skiing as a family.

You don't have to worry about renting equipment at Niseko United. There are rental shops in each of the four areas with standard and top-of-the-line equipment, so you can even come to ski empty-handed!

Niseko United is an ideal resort for families with teenagers. There are activity parks in each of the four areas where fun snow rafting, sledding, and snowmobiling can be enjoyed.

There are many options for lodging in Niseko. You can choose from a family hotel, a ryokan, or a family room in a star-rated hotel.

Other Things to Do at Niseko United Beyond Skiing:

Bathing at an onsen (hot spring resort) is a popular cultural experience in Japan, and there are many places to try it. In Niseko, some onsens are single-gender, but there are a few onsens that offer mixed-gender bathing (where families can soak together).

Suggested reading: 9-Day Best of Japan's Winter – Hokkaido Private Tour

2) Rusutsu — Around 300–400 USD per day per person, less crowded than Niseko United

forest skiing in Rusutsu Forest skiing in Rusutsu
  • Features: best powder snow, less crowded and cheaper than Niseko United, the best forest skiing, well-equipped
  • Location: 2 hours from New Chitose Airport by car
  • Skiing season: December to April
  • Trails: 37 trails (30% beginners, 40% intermediate, 30% advanced)
  • Ski in ski out: yes
  • Rental shop: yes
  • Suitable for: all, especially family holidays

Rusutsu is located 40 minutes east of Niseko United. It has the best powder snow, as Niseko does, but is less crowded and cheaper, so you can potentially enjoy skiing more there. Rusutsu has won many fans due to its modern infrastructure, interesting terrain, and most important: its powder snow.

The ski area is divided into two areas — West Mountain and East Mountain, which are connected by cable cars. West Mountain has jumping platforms, jumping boxes and stump obstacle courses made from natural terrain and trees. On East Mountain, there are more wooded ski runs and long pistes. Night skiing in the West Mountain area continues until 20:00.

There are many winter snow activities to enjoy at Rusutsu. Families are recommended to enjoy snow rafting and snowboarding with snowmobiles and rubber boats. In addition to these, dog sledding and horse riding are among the activities that should not be missed when visiting Rusutsu.

There are many restaurants and shops in the resort, and the whole resort is like a city. Accommodation includes small suites, family-room-type cottages, and cabins, and there is a rich variety of room types to choose from.

3) Hakuba Happo-One Snow Resort — 2 Hours' Driving from Tokyo

  • Features: the venue for the 1988 Winter Olympics, a family-friendly ski resort close to Tokyo
  • Location: 2 hours driving from Tokyo
  • Skiing season: December to March
  • Maximum altitude: 1,071m (3,514ft)
  • Night skiing: 17:00–21:00
  • Ski in ski out: yes
  • Rental shop: yes
  • Suitable for: beginners to professionals, especially mountain skiing

Hakuba Valley has more of a Japanese-style-ski-resort feel than Niseko United and is the largest combined ski resort, consisting of 10 resorts in Nagano Prefecture. Among them, Hakuba Happo-One Snow Resort is the largest and most popular, and it was the main venue of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.

Hakuba Happo-One Snow Resort is famous for its mountains, which are known as the Japanese Alps. The mountain snowscape will make you want to grab your equipment and go for a few laps as soon as you get there. Skiers enjoy the variety of trails at the resort. There are several areas for all levels of skiers, including tree skiing and mountain skiing, that will excite even the professionals.

The resort holds competitions, music weeks, and other entertainment programs throughout the winter that families with teenagers can attend for some fun family time. With a history of more than 70 years, Hakuba Happo-One Ski School offers many ski certification professionals and courses, attracting many skiers to learn there. Families can learn together or parents can arrange for their kids to learn while they go skiing.

English is widely spoken at the resort, so you don't have to worry about difficult-to-talk-to service staffs. Surrounding accommodation is very comprehensive, including resort hotels, cabins, and traditional ryokans, which meets the needs of most travelers. You can taste traditional Japanese cuisine at the resort.

Other Things to Do at Hakuba Happo-One Snow Resort Beyond Skiing:

snow moneky soaking in the onsen Snow moneys soaking in the onsen

You can't miss seeing snow monkeys soaking in the hot springs at Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano Prefecture. Take as many unforgettable pictures as you like, but remember: don't feed or pet them.

Soaking in the hot spring at Hakuba Happo Onsen in between enjoying the snow could also provide some great family memories.

4) Furano Ski Resort — from 250–350 USD per day per person

Furano Ski Resort Furano Ski Resort
  • Features: smaller ski resort than Niseko and Rusutsu, powder snow, warm service
  • Location: 1 hour and 20 minutes by car from Asakawa Airport
  • Skiing season: December to March
  • Trails: 28 trails (11 beginner, 10 intermediate, 7 advanced)
  • Maximum altitude: 964m (3,163ft)
  • Night skiing: until 20:00
  • Ski in ski out: yes
  • Rental shop: yes
  • Suitable for: all, especially for beginners and intermediates

Furano Ski Resort is a small ski resort in Hokkaido, but it is well equipped and has great snow quality, so it attracts a lot of skiers. This resort is less crowded and cheaper than some popular resorts though. You could take a cable car to the top of the mountain, then enjoy a long slide from the top of the mountain with a scenic views.

Exciting Family Snow Park is recommended if you want to have a happy family time with teenagers. In addition to skiing, you can also experience snow activities, such as snow rafting, snowmobiles, snow banana boats, etc. There are also English ski classrooms for families.

Other Things to Do at Furano Ski Resort Beyond Skiing:

Furano Ski Resort is close to the city of Furano, so taking a day trip downtown is a good idea. You can choose a hotel with a hot spring to relax in.

4. How Much Does It Cost to Ski in Japan?

In Tokyo and Kyoto: Typically, a 3-star private tour based on a group of 2–4 people starts from about $650 USD per person per day, including a private guide, private car, full-day itinerary, tickets for attractions, and a local 3-star hotel.

At a ski resort: You can expect to pay around 300–500 USD per day per person, including four-star hotels, ski passes, and transportation.

5. What to Pack for a Ski Trip in Japan

  • Average temperature from December to February: 0–10°C (30–50°F)

Winter in Japan can be very cold, with temperatures often dipping below zero, especially in Hokkaido, the northernmost part of Japan. Therefore, if you choose to go skiing in Japan in winter, you should bring a down jacket to keep warm.

Snowsuits are necessities because they are designed for snow sports and are more resistant to cold and water than normal clothing. Goggles, gloves, and hat for skiing also should be packed.

While rental shops at the resorts rent or sell skis, poles, and ski boots, most experienced families choose to bring their own equipment. Traveling through Japan with your skis or snowboard isn't easy. But you can pay for a delivery service that will ship your skis directly to the resort, so you don't have to carry a heavy load to get there.

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