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 Conditions in Japan, on the island of Hokkaido, have completely transformed compared to a week ago. The snow has arrived at last, dumping down every day for the last week as it tends to once it starts. Niseko (75/150cm / 30/60”) has had a metre (40”) of snowfall in the past seven days; the snow falling with fairly similar 10-20cm (4-8”) accumulations of fine powder each day.

This precipitation is expected to continue over the coming week with similar amounts of snow falling. Further south, conditions have been improving too but not quite as much, Naeba reports 30cm (1ft) of fresh snow in the past week but there has been warm weather here limiting what's open so far.

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)
Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon

(25m — 205m)

snow report 6 days ago

1 cm
6 days ago
1
4
3
clear
partly cloudy
light snow
partly cloudy
snow showers
Mid station 115 m
0m 0m 0m 0m 0m

(500m — 1200m)

snow report 6 days ago

11 cm
6 days ago
2
1
snow showers
cloudy
light snow
clear
partly cloudy
Mid station 850 m
500m 0m 850m 0m 1350m

(850m — 1220m)

snow report 4 days ago

1 cm
4 days ago
6
1
3
snow showers
partly cloudy
snow showers
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 1035 m
350m 250m 600m 350m 0m

(210m — 340m)

snow report 4 days ago

2 cm
4 days ago
3
1
3
light snow
partly cloudy
rain showers
rain showers
clear
Mid station 275 m
300m 0m 550m 0m 0m

(838m — 1200m)

snow report 4 days ago

3 cm
4 days ago
17
3
10
light snow
partly cloudy
snow showers
cloudy
clear
Mid station 1019 m
300m 0m 600m 0m 0m

(510m — 1000m)

snow report 4 days ago

7 cm
4 days ago
18
3
11
moderate snow
partly cloudy
snow showers
cloudy
partly cloudy
Mid station 755 m
300m 0m 550m 0m 0m

(720m — 1240m)

snow report 4 days ago

6 cm
4 days ago
19
4
12
moderate snow
partly cloudy
snow showers
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
Mid station 980 m
350m 0m 650m 300m 1000m

(943m — 1650m)

snow report 4 days ago

3 cm
4 days ago
19
3
11
moderate snow
partly cloudy
snow showers
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 1296 m
350m 0m 650m 0m 900m

(535m — 620m)

snow report 4 days ago

1 cm
4 days ago
partly cloudy
snow showers
light snow
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 578 m
0m 0m 400m 0m 0m

(96m — 369m)

snow report 3 days ago

15 cm
3 days ago
15
8
12
moderate snow
partly cloudy
light snow
partly cloudy
snow showers
Mid station 232 m
0m 0m 0m 0m 0m

(1350m — 1400m)

snow report 7 days ago

1 cm
7 days ago
2
1
snow showers
partly cloudy
snow showers
clear
clear
Mid station 1375 m
650m 450m 950m 400m 1050m

(740m — 1500m)

snow report 4 days ago

7 cm
4 days ago
17
1
12
moderate snow
partly cloudy
snow showers
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 1120 m
500m 0m 800m 400m 1500m

(660m — 1511m)

snow report 4 days ago

Akakura Kanko webcam
6 cm
4 days ago
16
1
11
moderate snow
partly cloudy
snow showers
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 1086 m
500m 0m 800m 400m 1450m

(700m — 1000m)

snow report 4 days ago

5 cm
4 days ago
11
1
8
light snow
partly cloudy
snow showers
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 850 m
500m 0m 800m 400m 1450m

(800m — 1050m)

snow report 4 days ago

2 cm
4 days ago
12
3
8
snow showers
partly cloudy
snow showers
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
Mid station 925 m
500m 0m 800m 300m 1050m

(950m — 1200m)

snow report 4 days ago

21 cm
4 days ago
39
7
21
light snow
light snow
moderate snow
light snow
partly cloudy
Mid station 1075 m
0m 0m 150m 0m 0m

(700m — 1280m)

snow report 4 days ago

2 cm
4 days ago
12
2
8
light snow
partly cloudy
snow showers
light snow
clear
Mid station 990 m
300m 0m 500m 0m 0m

(640m — 1350m)

snow report 4 days ago

14 cm
4 days ago
23
2
10
snow showers
snow showers
moderate snow
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 995 m
0m 0m 250m 0m 0m
Ani

(537m — 1200m)

snow report 4 days ago

15 cm
4 days ago
28
6
10
light snow
light snow
moderate snow
light snow
cloudy
Mid station 868 m
0m 0m 200m 0m 0m

(396m — 921m)

snow report 4 days ago

8 cm
4 days ago
28
3
8
light snow
partly cloudy
light snow
light snow
cloudy
Mid station 658 m
0m 0m 200m 0m 0m

(550m — 650m)

snow report 6 days ago

1 cm
6 days ago
clear
cloudy
rain showers
clear
partly cloudy
Mid station 600 m
800m 950m 1100m 1350m 2300m

(523m — 1328m)

snow report 4 days ago

Appi Kogen webcam
15 cm
4 days ago
26
4
14
light snow
light snow
moderate snow
snow showers
partly cloudy
Mid station 926 m
0m 0m 200m 0m 0m

(300m — 460m)

snow report 6 days ago

7 cm
6 days ago
light rain
partly cloudy
rain showers
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 380 m
800m 700m 900m 700m 2250m

(81m — 162m)

snow report 6 days ago

16 cm
6 days ago
heavy rain
partly cloudy
rain showers
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 122 m
500m 0m 750m 500m 1500m

(1140m — 1320m)

1
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
snow showers
clear
partly cloudy
Mid station 1230 m
850m 800m 1050m 900m 1500m

(97m — 221m)

snow report 3 days ago

20 cm
3 days ago
14
7
14
light snow
snow showers
light snow
snow showers
snow showers
Mid station 159 m
0m 0m 0m 0m 0m

(900m — 1100m)

snow report 14 days ago

1 cm
14 days ago
1
clear
partly cloudy
snow showers
clear
partly cloudy
Mid station 1000 m
600m 400m 950m 300m 1150m

(450m — 760m)

snow report 4 days ago

10 cm
4 days ago
7
3
6
snow showers
snow showers
light snow
snow showers
clear
Mid station 605 m
200m 0m 500m 0m 0m

(550m — 1080m)

snow report 6 days ago

2 cm
6 days ago
partly cloudy
cloudy
rain showers
clear
partly cloudy
Mid station 815 m
750m 800m 1050m 950m 2350m

(1100m — 1600m)

snow report today

Asahidake webcam
7 cm
today
57
13
58
heavy snow
light snow
moderate snow
light snow
light snow
Mid station 1350 m
0m 0m 0m 0m 0m

(150m — 650m)

snow report 4 days ago

5 cm
4 days ago
3
2
3
light snow
rain showers
moderate rain
light snow
clear
Mid station 400 m
450m 450m 550m 400m 600m

(1880m — 2050m)

snow report 7 days ago

1 cm
7 days ago
clear
partly cloudy
snow showers
clear
clear
Mid station 1965 m
650m 350m 1000m 400m 1250m

(120m — 450m)

snow report 3 days ago

16 cm
3 days ago
20
6
13
light snow
partly cloudy
light snow
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
Mid station 285 m
0m 0m 0m 0m 0m

(120m — 270m)

snow report 3 days ago

16 cm
3 days ago
15
10
14
moderate snow
partly cloudy
light snow
partly cloudy
snow showers
Mid station 195 m
0m 0m 0m 0m 0m

(425m — 602m)

snow report 6 days ago

15 cm
6 days ago
5
1
4
light snow
partly cloudy
heavy rain
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 514 m
400m 0m 750m 250m 1650m

(1050m — 1100m)

clear
partly cloudy
partly cloudy
clear
light rain
Mid station 1075 m
1250m 2250m 1500m 2350m 2400m

(520m — 1188m)

snow report 6 days ago

29 cm
6 days ago
12
1
8
light snow
partly cloudy
light snow
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 854 m
350m 0m 750m 0m 1600m

(800m — 1350m)

snow report 4 days ago

2 cm
4 days ago
11
1
7
light snow
partly cloudy
snow showers
partly cloudy
clear
Mid station 1075 m
300m 200m 550m 300m 750m