10 Largest Ski Resorts in Japan & Where to Stay
Japan is home to many of Asia’s best ski resorts and some of the best snow conditions in the world. Spoiled for choice when it comes to the number of resorts on offer, the first question many people ask is which is the biggest ski resort in Japan? In this section you will find the following information:
Japan boasts a huge number of ski resorts and ski fields, spread across many of the country’s forty-seven prefectures. As such, choosing which resort to head to can be a confusing decision, especially for first-time visitors. It is worth noting that while Japan claims a large number of ski resorts, many are very small, with little more than a handful of runs serviced by one or two chairlifts. This page is one of several on our website intended to help you make the choice of which resort suits you best.
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On this page you will find details of the ten biggest ski resorts in Japan all of which are located within just five prefectures: Nagano, Hokkaido, Niigata along with Iwate and Yamagata (which lie within the wider Tohoku region). When reading the information below, you might note that even the largest ski resorts in Japan would only rank as mid-sized resorts when compared to those in Europe and North America. Japanese resorts are typically smaller and lower than their European and American counterparts, but what they lack in size and elevation they more than make-up for in terms of snow. Subject to heavy snowfall each winter, the resorts of Nagano, Niigata, Tohoku and Hokkaido are blessed with amazing powder – typically very dry and very deep – that people will tell you rates among the best ski and snowboard conditions in the world.
10 LARGEST SKI RESORTS IN JAPAN
The question of which is the largest ski resort in Japan is always a contentious one and indeed, you might come across different resorts claiming to the biggest. In the end, it’s a matter of how you calculate overall size however from our point of view, most people want to know how much connected terrain is on offer within the resort boundary – that is, marked trails and courses you can ski / snowboard directly between and using the resort’s system of lifts and gondolas and without needing to get on a bus, taxi or drive. To the best of our understanding, the following ranking of Japan’s ten largest ski resorts is correct with sizes provided in hectares (ha) – noting that 1 hectare is equivalent to 10,000 square metres. Now let’s get into it with the largest ski resort in Japan:
1 / SHIGA KOGEN SKI RESORT / 425 (600) hectares
Where To Stay In & Around Shiga Kogen?
As Japan’s largest ski resort, Shiga Kogen is comprised of multiple ski…
Located around 45km from central Nagano City, Shiga Kogen is Japan’s largest ski resort. Comprising 18 ski areas and between 90 to 100 courses – depending on how you count them – the resort totals around 600 hectares of terrain of which 425 hectares is connected – the ski fields of Kumanoyu, Yokoteyama and Shibutoge are not connected to the rest of the resort but are covered by the all-mountain pass. Not only is Shiga Kogen the largest resort in Japan, it is also the highest with multiple areas rising to over 2000 metres including the highest chairlifts in Japan at 2307 metres. As such, Shiga Kogen enjoys Nagano’s longest season – running from late-November well into April and even as late as May – and most reliable snow conditions with terrain suited to all levels, although it is worth noting that backcountry is only permitted with a guide.
2 / JOETSU KOKUSAI SKI RESORT / 380 hectares
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Joetsu Kokusai Ski Resort is the second largest resort in Japan at 380 hectares. Easily accessed from Echigo-Yuzawa Station in Niigata – a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line – Joetsu Kokusai flies under the radar for international visitors; indeed it’s largely unknown despite being Japan’s second largest ski resort. The resorts offers 22 courses divided into four zones – more than enough to keep you entertained for multiple days. The true highlight of Joetsu Kokusai is its size and sprawling layout, that undulates through forested hills and provides one of Japan’s most picturesque ski and snowboard experiences. Most terrain is mellow making it ideally-suited to beginners and lower-intermediate skiers and snowboarders, with no notable side or backcountry.
3 / NISEKO UNITED SKI RESORT / 325 hectares
Best Places to Stay in Niseko
Boasting some of Japan’s best ski resorts including the always popular Nise…
Niseko United is the most popular and famous resort in Hokkaido and the third largest in Japan. It is comprised of four connected resorts – Hanazono, Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village and Annupuri – covered by an all-mountain pass, with a fifth area – Niseko Moiwa Ski Resort – accessible via sidecountry. It offers 325 hectares of terrain, fantastic powder (and huge amounts of it), and some of Japan’s best accommodation, nightlife and plenty of facilities targeted solely and foreign visitors. If you want an ‘authentic’ feeling Japanese resort, then Niseko isn’t for you. However, if you don’t mind the crowds and the cost – it really can get busy and is usually notably more expensive than other resorts in Japan – and want the seductive combination of world-class skiing/boarding, accommodation and restaurants, then Niseko United is your best option in Hokkaido.
4 / NOZAWA ONSEN SNOW RESORT / 300 hectares
Where To Stay In Nozawa Onsen?
One of the most popular ski resorts in Japan, Nozawa Onsen boasts some exce…
Located around 50km to the north-east of Nagano City, Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort is one of the most popular ski resorts in Central Japan. Nozawa offers visitors 300 hectares of terrain accessible via 36 courses, 2 gondolas and 19 lifts. Situated between 565 to 1650 metres, Nozawa offers an impressive 1085 of vertical however the lower altitude at the bottom can make the snow a bit sketchy. Nevertheless, the resort is usually blessed with outstanding powder in the upper areas – where you’ll find good sidecountry but sadly, backcountry is not permitted – and when everything is open, Nozawa lays claim to Nagano’s longest course at an impressive 10km! Ideally-suited to snowboarders who love its powder and youthful atmosphere, Nozawa village offers some of the best apres ski of any resort in Japan.
5 / APPI KOGEN SKI RESORT / 282 hectares
Best Places to Stay in Appi Kogen
Located in Iwate Prefecture, Appi Kogen Ski Resort takes time to get to but…
Located in Iwate Prefecture – around 4-hours from Tokyo – Appi Kogen Ski Resort is another relatively big resort by Japanese standards, with lots of excellent long, groomed runs. In total, 282 hectares of terrain can be accessed across 21 runs offer around 830 metres of vertical. With a reputation for beautifully-groomed runs and good infrastructure that makes moving around the resort easy, Appi also offers some nice tree zones where you can find some excellent powder. All-in-all, Appi offers something for all levels. There isn’t much nightlife so if that’s important, it might not be for you.
6 / RUSUTSU SKI RESORT / 236 hectares
Best Places to Stay in Rusutsu
Hokkaido’s largest stand-alone ski resort, Rusutsu offers big powder, fanta…
Located 40-minutes to the east of Niseko, Rusutsu Ski Resort is often rated Hokkaido’s best resort. Spread across three small mountains – they really are small, each under 1000 metres – Rusutsu is a low-lying resort but one that receives a huge amount of snow each year, which thanks to its inland location is dry and light. Many people will tell you it’s blessed with Japan’s best powder and added to that, Rusutsu is Hokkaido’s largest standalone resort with around 236 hectares of terrain – accessible via 37 ski runs serviced by 4 gondolas and 14 chairlifts with plenty of great side and backcountry on offer, which opens-up a huge extent of terrain outside the resort boundary.
7 / HAKUBA HAPPO-ONE SNOW RESORT / 220 hectares
Sitting around 60 minutes to the west of Nagano City, Hakuba Happo-One Snow Resort is the largest and most popular of the ten resorts making-up ‘Hakuba Valley’ in Nagano. The resort has only 14 official courses serviced by an excessive 22 lifts, but it totals 220 hectares of terrain and situated between 760 to 1831 metres, offers more than 1000 metres of vertical and spectacular mountain scenery. Happo-One is somewhat unique in that its upper runs are above the treeline with access to some of Japan’s best backcountry. Also boasting a lively village, high-end accommodation including private chalets and a suite of services catering to English-speakers, Happo-One is the most popular resort in Hakuba for lots of reasons.
8 / NAEBA SKI RESORT / 196 hectares
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Yuzawa boasts multiple ski resorts and plenty of accommodation including ho…
Located within easy reach of Echigo-Yuzawa Station in Niigata, Naeba Ski Resort offers 196 hectares of terrain that caters to all levels. By itself, Naeba has 22 courses serviced by 9 chairlifts and 3 gondolas but frustratingly restricts side and backcountry however, when considered in conjunction with Kagura Ski Resort – which is connected to Naeba by the long ‘Dragondola’ – you have one of Niigata and Nagano’s best ski areas that continues to fly a little under the radar for international visitors.
9 / FURANO SKI RESORT / 194 hectares
Best Places to Stay in Furano
Less-developed than resorts such as Niseko and Rusutsu, Furano offers visit…
Located at the heart of Hokkaido – further inland than Niseko and Rusutsu – and being at low altitude, Furano Ski Resort doesn’t receive as much snow however still boasts a very healthy season average of 9 metres. Being located away for the coast, the snow is typically dry powder allowing for fantastic skiing and snowboarding. Furano offers 194 hectares of terrain including lovely long runs and excellent side and backcountry. Less-developed than resorts such as Niseko and Rusutsu, Furano retains a local character without the high-end developments of Niseko and at which the focus is what happens on the slopes and in the trees.
10 / ZAO ONSEN SKI RESORT / 186 hectares
Best Places to Stay in Zao Onsen
Known for its striking snow-wrapped trees – the legendary ‘snow monsters’ o…
Best known for its snow-wrapped trees – the frosty ‘Snow Monsters’ of Zao! Zao Onsen Ski Resort is located in Yamagata Prefecture, around 4-hours from Tokyo. A medium to large-sized resort, Zao attracts mostly Japanese, Chinese and Korean skiers and snowboarders and to date, hasn’t found big popularity with Westerners. The resort offers around 186 hectares of terrain and decent 880 metres of vertical, serviced by over 30 lifts. Best-suited to intermediate skiers and snowboarders, beginners will enjoy the resort’s long green runs while the village offers lots of good accommodation options including, as the name suggests, plenty of ‘onsen’ (natural hot springs) to soak in at the end of a day on the mountain.
BEST SKI RESORTS IN NAGANO
Our home region of Nagano lies at the heart of Japan and boasts the greatest number of ski resorts of any area of Japan including Shiga Kogen – Japan’s largest and highest resort – along with Nozawa Onsen, the resorts of Hakuba Valley and many others. Our ‘Best Nagano Ski Resorts’ page includes all the stats and facts including comparisons of the most popular resorts to help you choose which works best for you.
BEST SKI RESORTS IN NIIGATA
Bordering Nagano Prefecture, Niigata also boasts some of Japan’s best resorts including Myoko Kogen and the resorts in and around Yuzawa including Joetsu Kokusai and Naeba. Our ‘Best Yuzawa Ski Resorts’ page has everything you need to know to help you plan and book your Niigata winter getaway.
BEST SKI RESORTS IN TOHOKU
The Tohoku region of Japan includes multiple prefectures including Iwate and Yamagata, home to Appi Kogen Ski Resort and Zao Onsen Ski Resort. Our ‘Best Tohoku Ski Resorts’ page includes information about both resorts along with Alts Bandai in Fukushima.
BEST SKI RESORTS IN HOKKAIDO
Blessed with Japan’s longest season and fantastic powder, the resorts of Hokkaido have a big reputation – and they don’t disappoint! Our ‘Best Hokkaido Ski Resorts’ page includes information about Niseko, Rusutsu, Furano and other resorts – Japan’s northern winter playground.
JAPAN SKI RESORTS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Did you know that the ten resorts listed above are just some of the hundreds spread throughout Japan? Needless to say, when you choose Japan for your winter getaway you are spoiled for choice! Our ‘Japan Ski Resorts’ page has everything you need to know to start planning your ski and snowboard adventure including: LATEST NEWS & DEALS, THE BEST RESORTS IN NAGANO & JAPAN, FAQs and of course OUR SKI PACKAGES, ACCOMMODATION, TRANSPORT & TOURS.