Ja Ski Japan

When you ski Japan you’re on the slopes of one of the world’s leading ski nations and the main ski country in Asia. There are more than 500 Japanese ski resorts spread across the country – a number only matched by Austria, Germany and the United States.

The ski centres stretch across the country and have a reputation of excellent snowfalls, particularly on the northern island of Hokkaido where annual snow accumulations are normally among the deepest in the world, officially only beaten by Mt Baker in Washington State just across the Pacific in the USA.

Skiing in Japan also has the longest history of downhill winter sports in the continent, with the sport introduced by famous Austrian pioneer Hannes Schneider from the Arlberg who popularised skiing in early films and books all over the world and is now commemorated in a dedicated ski museum in Nozawa Onsen, one of the country’s best known resorts where Schneider taught skiing in the early 1920s.

Most of the resorts are comparatively small in extent but in some cases up to a dozen small areas are inter-linked or at least very close together, such as the many sectors of 1998 Winter Olympic venue Nagano – one of two Olympics staged in Japan, the only country outside Europe, the US and Russia to stage a winter games.

The evolution of wintersports in Japan is a unique one and reflects both economic and consumer trends.

While in most first world countries with a long history of skiing the sport gradually grew and matured and has remained relatively stable for two or three decades now, interest in skiing among the Japanese population peaked in the 1980s and then dramatically dropped at the start of the 1990s after a collapse of the Japanese economy coincided with growth in interest in other activities, particularly computer gaming.

Skier numbers declined from 20 million a year to around a third of that number, although they have now recovered to about 10 million.

During the boom years Japan was known for having very crowded slopes – there are almost no drag lifts in the country and multiple chairlifts deposited Japanese skiers en masse at the top of slopes. As Japan is a very polite and respectful society, this rarely caused the kind of bad temper, pushing and shoving it might in Europe or North America and instead everyone made space. Many ski areas were efficiently accessed by rail from the country’s cities too and skiers would arrive in the early hours of the morning to ski through the small hours as ski areas operated nearly 24 hours a day to cope with demand.

Another consequence of the 1980s popularity of skiing was that in its early years, snowboarding was largely banned on the country’s slopes, with resort managers seeing no reason why they should complicate matters by allowing boarders on their ski runs. There was also little of the Western model of diversification in activities and resort facilities. There were basic hotels, ski runs only, childcare facilities were rare and while most skiing nations have a mix of nationalities on their slopes, non-Japanese skiers very rare too. This was partly due to the lack of any languages being spoken or signage other than Japanese and partly as the Yen was riding high making skiing very expensive.

The ski boom also led to Japan being a pioneer of indoor skiing with one of the world’s earliest centres opened in the 1950s and in the modern era a dozen indoor centres opening in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including what is still the biggest ever built – the SSAWS dome in Tokyo harbour with a 500m long, 100m wide slope built on earthquake absorbing piles to save the centre from the potential danger of an indoor avalanche. This centre was eventually demolished to make way for Japan’s first IKEA store, having never repaid its construction costs.

Indeed the 1990s saw many Japanese ski areas mothballed. Japanese business ownership rules meant it was generally better to close a ski centre down and leave it potentially operational rather than dismantle it.

Seeking to re-invent itself, the country’s major ski areas have, particularly in the last decade, followed Western business models far more, diversifying their resort activity range, dining and accommodation options.

None has been more successful in doing so than Niseko which has risen to worldwide fame as a cult free riding resort attracting powder hounds from around the world and particularly Australia, as Aussies have realised they have a shorter trip and no jet lag travelling to Japan than their traditional choices of Canada and to a lesser extent the US and the Alps. This has allowed Niseko to have far more English language information than other resorts, making the resort instantly more attractive to the global market.

A main attraction is the remarkable snow conditions, but visitors have also found that modern Japan also offers great food in its restaurants and relatively affordable prices. Service standards are also very high and the local population friendly and respectful in their welcome. Japan also has several unique attractions including the hot spring onsen baths found at many resorts and eternally popular karaoke bars for après ski.

It comes as a surprise to many freeriders that much of Japan’s extensive off piste terrain often buried metres deep is off limits as well as off piste and if skied or boarded can result in prosecution and certainly loss of lift ticket. Some resorts, including Niseko do have off piste zones available however.

Another point to be kept in mind is that Japanese snowfall can be unremitting. Photos of snow banks towering above tour buses can only result from periods where snowfall has lasted for weeks when a cycle of dry air sweeping in from across the vast Siberian plains sucks up moisture as it passes out over the Sea of Japan, depositing it all once it hits the mountains.

Japan’s ski areas are also frequently subject to earthquakes and resort facilities and buildings are designed to cope with this. Fukushima, where the nuclear power plant was damaged by the 2011 Tsunami, is a popular ski region where radiation level reports are now posted along side snow conditions.
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Japan: latest snow conditions round-up


JAPAN After more depressingly warm and wet days in Hokkaido, it looks like conditions are starting to change with 10cm of fresh snow reported in Niseko on Tuesday and a snowier picture in the forecast for the week ahead. There's nothing really open (just a few beginner runs with minimal snow cover) at present as the resort waits for a base to build.

It's a fairly similar picture across Japan with most of the major areas affected by rain at the start of this week but many with a simple 500-1000 metre long run available to make some turns, but nothing yet to reflect the ski conditions Japan is famous for.

Summary of forecast snowfall and ski conditions for resorts in Japan. Fresh snow is forecast at 2 resorts. Powder is reported at 0 resorts and 0 are reporting good piste conditions.

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Recent Eyeball Snow Reports for Japan

A–A

B–E F–G H–H I–J K–K L–L M–M N–N O–R S–S T–T U–X Y–Z

Ski resorts in Japan from A to A

Bottom Mid Top
Resort Webcam Top
snow depth
top and bottom
Good piste
on-piste
Powder
off-piste
Fresh snow depth
Last Snow
Fresh snow depth
Next 9 Days
0–3 | 3–6 | 6–9
snow (cm)
Weather Next 5 days weather forecast.
Freezing level (m)
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu

(25m — 205m)

snow report 2 days ago

1 cm
2 days ago
5
4
light snow
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
snow showers
Mid station 115 m
0m 0m 700m 1250m 650m

(500m — 1200m)

snow report 2 days ago

11 cm
2 days ago
partly cloudy
cloudy
partly cloudy
cloudy
snow showers
Mid station 850 m
1150m 1500m 2250m 2350m 1250m

(850m — 1220m)

snow report today

1 cm
today
1
4
partly cloudy
clear
partly cloudy
cloudy
snow showers
Mid station 1035 m
350m 800m 2100m 2400m 1300m

(210m — 340m)

snow report today

2 cm
today
1
1
snow showers
clear
partly cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 275 m
300m 850m 2100m 2200m 1100m

(838m — 1200m)

snow report today

2 cm
today
2
5
8
snow showers
partly cloudy
cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 1019 m
350m 850m 2150m 2400m 1200m

(510m — 1000m)

snow report today

8 cm
today
3
6
8
light snow
partly cloudy
cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 755 m
350m 900m 2150m 2300m 1150m

(720m — 1240m)

snow report today

7 cm
today
2
6
8
snow showers
clear
partly cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 980 m
550m 1150m 2150m 2350m 1150m

(943m — 1650m)

snow report today

2 cm
today
2
4
8
snow showers
partly cloudy
cloudy
cloudy
snow showers
Mid station 1296 m
400m 950m 2150m 2400m 1200m

(535m — 620m)

snow report today

1 cm
today
1
2
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
Mid station 578 m
100m 550m 1700m 2100m 900m

(96m — 369m)

snow report today

12 cm
today
6
14
9
light snow
partly cloudy
cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 232 m
0m 0m 500m 900m 550m

(1350m — 1400m)

snow report 3 days ago

1 cm
3 days ago
1
clear
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
cloudy
clear
Mid station 1375 m
1100m 1200m 2250m 2700m 1650m

(740m — 1500m)

snow report today

3 cm
today
6
8
6
light snow
clear
partly cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 1120 m
600m 1150m 2050m 2250m 1200m

(660m — 1511m)

snow report today

Akakura Kanko webcam
2 cm
today
6
8
6
light snow
clear
partly cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 1086 m
600m 1150m 2050m 2250m 1200m

(700m — 1000m)

snow report today

2 cm
today
5
6
5
light snow
clear
partly cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 850 m
600m 1150m 2050m 2250m 1200m

(800m — 1050m)

snow report today

1 cm
today
2
3
5
snow showers
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
snow showers
Mid station 925 m
750m 1100m 2100m 2550m 1350m

(950m — 1200m)

snow report today

22 cm
today
3
17
28
light snow
partly cloudy
clear
light rain
light snow
Mid station 1075 m
0m 500m 1250m 1650m 800m

(700m — 1280m)

snow report today

2 cm
today
1
4
6
snow showers
clear
partly cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 990 m
300m 850m 2100m 2250m 1150m

(640m — 1350m)

snow report today

14 cm
today
1
13
24
snow showers
partly cloudy
clear
partly cloudy
snow showers
Mid station 995 m
0m 350m 1100m 1700m 800m
Ani

(537m — 1200m)

snow report today

18 cm
today
3
13
17
light snow
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
light rain
light snow
Mid station 868 m
0m 450m 1100m 1600m 750m

(396m — 921m)

snow report today

8 cm
today
2
10
9
light snow
partly cloudy
light rain
rain showers
light snow
Mid station 658 m
0m 450m 1150m 1550m 750m

(550m — 650m)

snow report 2 days ago

1 cm
2 days ago
clear
clear
partly cloudy
rain showers
partly cloudy
Mid station 600 m
1350m 1750m 2050m 2050m 1300m

(523m — 1328m)

snow report today

Appi Kogen webcam
15 cm
today
1
10
25
snow showers
partly cloudy
clear
cloudy
snow showers
Mid station 926 m
0m 400m 1250m 1700m 800m

(300m — 460m)

snow report 2 days ago

7 cm
2 days ago
light rain
clear
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
light rain
Mid station 380 m
1100m 1700m 2200m 2200m 1350m

(81m — 162m)

snow report 2 days ago

16 cm
2 days ago
light rain
clear
partly cloudy
cloudy
moderate rain
Mid station 122 m
600m 1050m 2050m 2200m 1200m

(1140m — 1320m)

clear
rain showers
partly cloudy
cloudy
clear
Mid station 1230 m
1350m 1550m 2450m 2800m 1750m

(97m — 221m)

snow report today

14 cm
today
11
12
7
light snow
partly cloudy
cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 159 m
0m 0m 450m 800m 500m

(900m — 1100m)

snow report 10 days ago

1 cm
10 days ago
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
clear
cloudy
clear
Mid station 1000 m
1100m 1450m 2200m 2400m 1350m

(450m — 760m)

snow report today

10 cm
today
1
1
4
light snow
clear
partly cloudy
cloudy
snow showers
Mid station 605 m
200m 800m 1950m 2050m 1000m

(550m — 1080m)

snow report 2 days ago

2 cm
2 days ago
clear
clear
partly cloudy
rain showers
cloudy
Mid station 815 m
1300m 1700m 2050m 2050m 1250m

(1100m — 1600m)

snow report today

23 cm
today
17
48
16
moderate snow
partly cloudy
snow showers
light snow
moderate snow
Mid station 1350 m
0m 0m 750m 1050m 600m

(150m — 650m)

snow report today

5 cm
today
2
cloudy
clear
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
Mid station 400 m
450m 750m 1750m 1950m 1100m

(1880m — 2050m)

snow report 3 days ago

1 cm
3 days ago
clear
clear
clear
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 1965 m
950m 1300m 2150m 2600m 1400m

(120m — 450m)

snow report today

11 cm
today
8
11
9
light snow
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
rain showers
light snow
Mid station 285 m
0m 100m 800m 1000m 500m

(120m — 270m)

snow report today

12 cm
today
6
13
8
light snow
partly cloudy
cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 195 m
0m 0m 500m 950m 550m

(425m — 602m)

snow report 2 days ago

15 cm
2 days ago
1
rain showers
clear
partly cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 514 m
950m 1550m 2150m 2200m 1150m

(1050m — 1100m)

clear
clear
clear
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 1075 m
1900m 2400m 2750m 2450m 1800m

(520m — 1188m)

snow report 2 days ago

29 cm
2 days ago
1
4
4
partly cloudy
clear
partly cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 854 m
950m 1550m 2150m 2150m 1150m

(800m — 1350m)

snow report today

2 cm
today
1
4
7
snow showers
clear
partly cloudy
cloudy
light snow
Mid station 1075 m
300m 850m 2100m 2350m 1250m