Planning your Japan trip

Getting you and your riding friends all lined up with time off work, time away from families, and funds for a Japan trip is like trying to win a Nobel Prize for peace and physics at the same time. If you’re going to go to all that trouble, you’re going to want to get the absolute most out of your trip.

To that end, we’ve written up our take on the best places to ski, board and stay in Hokkaido. Obviously, that won’t be the same for everyone - there’s no one size fits all winter trip. Backcountry veterans who crave quiet and wilderness might not like Niseko. Party people who want to party hard and ride lifts might not like Sounkyo.

We’ve tried to offer an honest look at what the main options in Hokkaido offer. You’ll probably see from our writing that we’re more at the “first tracks by any means necessary” end at the spectrum, but hopefully there’s advice here that’s useful to anyone looking at a trip to Japan.


The details:

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Where to ski - Backcountry

Hokkaido has ludicrous backcountry skiing. If you transplanted any of the main areas where we hike to North America or Europe it would instantly become a major destination crawling with people. But since that hasn’t happened, touring in the Hokkaido backcountry usually means your friends, on a mountain, in ridiculous snow, riding great lines, with no competition for tracks.

If that sounds hard to believe, we understand. It’s hard to believe when you’re doing it. Winter in Hokkaido doesn’t always seem real. But it is. You should check it out.

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Where to ski - Resorts

Resort skiing is best when the resort is quiet, the snow is deep, and the terrain is rad. Lining those three things up at the same time can be tricky in Hokkaido, and the increasing numbers of international visitors is changing the scene rapidly. Our resort write ups give you enough information to figure out where to go, what weather to look out for, and give you an idea of where to look for the goods.


Where to stay

One of the best things about a winter trip to Hokkaido is all the stuff that happens off the snow. The food, the people, the onsens, the crazy experiences. The biggest factor in all of these parts of your trip is where you stay. Japan is full of extremes. Resort hotels that take kitsch to new heights. Mom-and-Pop inns where you feel like part of the family. Quiet onsens, Bustling cities. Sleepy rural towns, Busy streets. Empty forests.

In our experience, this is most common place where people’s expectations and realities don’t match up. Here’s our best advice on where to stay.


Other stuff

Do I need to rent a car? What’s the best place to hire skis? What’s the best place to take a family?

Here are our answers to common questions, advice we often end up giving people, and other tips to get the most out of your trip.