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Japan Ski Season Dates & When to Visit


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Japan Ski Season Guide

JAPAN SKI SEASONS 2023-2024 AND 2024-2025

The Japan ski season 2023-24 was not only the first major post pandemic season, but was the biggest and best to date! In Niseko, deep powder was delivered nicely in time for the Christmas season. The second week of January saw the peak gates open to the stuff dreams are made of, and the biggest dump of snow in a single day since records began. As El Niño warmed the Pacific sea surface temperatures, late January and February saw less snowfall than average, but intermittent dumps, a good snow base and an abundance of bluebird days meant skiers and snowboarders continued to enjoy great conditions. Late February and March saw a return of winter in full force, and conditions were outstanding with dumps of fresh snow delivered day after day in Niseko, Furano, Rusutsu and Hakuba. Spring was kept firmly at bay in the latter days of the 2023-24 Japan ski season, with regular powder days lasting throughout March. 

Great weather was not the only notable thing about the 2023-24 Japan ski season. This winter also saw more visitors than any season to date. All major resorts increased their offerings in terms of accommodation and services with a focus on high end accommodation providing all the luxuries and amenities visitors need under one roof. The early start to bookings for the 2024-25 Japan ski season and the ensuing demand for holidays signals that this trend is set to continue. With Japan now firmly on the world map, not only for those in search of deep powder, but as a luxury ski destination for affluent visitors and adventure seekers, the stage is set for the Japan ski season 2024-25 to surpass all others. If a La Niña weather system emerges before next winter, this could be an indicator for higher than average snowfall! 

As trusted Japan ski specialists for the past 16 years with team members based locally in both mainland and Hokkaido ski areas, Japan Ski Experience is here to answer all your questions. Now that the 2024-25 early bird booking season is here, we are here to help you find the best deals, and bundle accommodation with guest services to create the perfect Japan ski package. Read on to find out when you can ski in Japan, the pros and cons of visiting over various stages of the Japan ski season, and our top tips on when is best to visit for you!


Located in the northern hemisphere, Japan ski season dates fall between November and May, with main dates being December to March. The northernmost ski areas are the first to open with the Niseko ski season usually starting in the last week of November or first week of December. Because the northernmost island of Japan receives abundant snowfall even at sea level, when winter arrives the ski season starts with a vengeance, with just a couple of dumps typically being all that is needed for whole ski areas to open. On the mainland, the start of the Hakuba ski season is often more gradual, with top lifts opening from around late November, and full opening perhaps not taking place until around the middle of December. For this reason, Hokkaido is often the best bet early season.


japan ski season northern hemisphere


We are often asked how long the ski season in Japan lasts. While in major ski areas, the season usually lasts in some form until May, the question of when it is worth visiting depends on what you are looking for from your Japan ski trip. For the likelihood of powder snow conditions, it is really best to stick to the peak season. If you are happy to trade powder for bluebird days, empty runs and warmer weather, then usually we would recommend visiting up until early to mid-April when you can also benefit from great deals on accommodation, together with lower lift pass prices. We will review each stage of the Japan ski season in more detail below, and hope to provide you with the information you need to decide when is the best time to visit for you.



Early Season

Dates: End of November to Mid December

The first phase of the Japan snow season, when the ski areas open, is a tempting time to visit with there being nothing quite like the magic of the first tracks of the winter.  Being among the first on the mountain has several draws including fewer crowds and typically lower prices for accommodation and lift passes. But the lower prices are not without reason as snow cover can be less reliable with start dates occasionally being pushed back, or limited lift operation (in 2022 Niseko Grand Hirafu opened 1 day later than planned on 4th December). There will also be little depth to the snow base meaning skiing and snowboarding may be limited to the groomers with the attraction of deep backcountry powder to follow later in the Japan ski season.

Best for: If you’re lucky enough to be nearby and can take advantage of the chance to ride fresh tracks on empty groomers!
Worst for: Booking in advance, only to find opening has been delayed or limited runs are available.



Christmas & New Year

Dates: End of December to Early January

Snowy Mountains at Christmas and New Year are for many the perfect place to spend the festive season. In most European and North American the holiday season risks lack of snow, but at major Japanese ski areas this is far less likely. The snow base may still not be deep enough for backcountry with an abundance of undergrowth still peeking through, but with the Japan ski season having begun around a month beforehand, most major ski areas will have accumulated a decent amount of snow. Christmas is celebrated in its own way, and Japan can be a magical place to spend the holidays. New Year is one of its most celebrated times of year throughout the country. With festive dates being more expensive than other times of the Japan snow season, book early and our experienced team will be able to advise you of the best deals on offer. But don’t wait long – from summer, it may be hard to find anywhere that’s not already fully booked!

Best for: Treasured time with family and friends doing what you love most!
Worst for: Prices are at their highest and deals can be hard to find.

Peak Powder Season

Dates: Early January to Mid February

Coined, ‘Japanuary’, this is the time of the Japan snow season known for its unbelievably consistent peak powder snow conditions. Snowfall tends to be immense and the accumulated snow base allows riders to maximise experiences off-piste as well as the groomers. If you haven’t experienced Japanese powder before you will be in awe of the relentless snowfall. The feeling of sitting back in the evening watching snow falling outside your window provides a feeling of exhilaration for the day on the mountain that lies ahead. While weather can’t be guaranteed anywhere, ever, there is probably no greater likelihood of experiencing truly awesome snow conditions than at this stage of the Japan ski season. If you are not restricted to travelling over Chinese New Year, try to avoid these dates as they are generally the busiest and most expensive.

Best for: Every likelihood of experiencing the best powder snow conditions anywhere in the world!
Worst for: Books up fast so get in early and secure a good deal!


Dates: Late February to Early March

This phase of the Japan ski season is still pretty much peak, with snowfall abundant and conditions are usually great. We have classified it differently because some years, warmer weather starts to creep in and pristine powder conditions are not quite what they were, whereas other years this stage of the season can be just as good as a few weeks beforehand.  Some Niseko accommodation and Hakuba accommodation offer better rates during this period, and, an even greater snow base will have accumulated. A few bluebird days is often not a bad thing either!

Best for: Every chance of great snow at a better price, with serious sub-zero conditions less likely.
Worst for: Some years spring arrives a bit earlier bringing an early end to pristine powder.

Japan Spring Skiing

Dates: Mid March to Early April

When spring skiing starts in Japan differs from one ski season to the next. Some years temperatures start to warm up at the end of February, but usually the change in season becomes noticeable in March. Incredible spring powder dumps are not infrequent, and this time of the year usually means plentiful bluebird days with picture perfect views, from the big mountain peaks of Hakuba to the lake Toya view from Rusutsu and of course, the unbelievable Mount Youtei. When conditions really warm up ‘spring skiing’ can be fun and fast, and on mainland Japan can often coincide with the opportunity to view cherry blossoms or enjoy some warmer weather in Tokyo or Kyoto. Prices in resort come down in the spring, so if soaking up Japanese culture, onsens, cuisine and travel is for you, it may be the perfect time to visit. The Japan ski season lasts into May in some resorts, but we probably wouldn’t recommend visiting after the second weekend in April. In Hakuba higher slopes tend to offer great spring skiing well into April with more going on in the surrounding area. Hakuba is also a year round town with lots of shops and restaurants staying open outside of the ski season. Whatever ski area you visit it is important to be aware that in spring ski shuttle buses, lift operation and village amenities start to wind down. Properties that were ski in ski out may no longer be. When you book our specialist team can advise you how to ensure you get the most out of your holiday during the off-peak months.

Best for: Spring skiing, bluebird days and combining Hakuba with snow monkeys and Matsumoto cherry blossoms.
Worst for: Powderhounds! You may still get fresh snow dumps, but better to keep expectations in check.


When is the best time of the Japan ski season to plan your trip will depend on what you are looking. Here are our top tips…



    If you want to stack the odds of bottomless powder with every turn in your favour, head to Niseko or Rusutsu between early January and mid February.



    Piste lovers might want to head to Hakuba where heavenly groomers and great snow cover can be expected into April, well beyond peak Japan ski season dates.

  • niseko powder snow season


    If you can book last minute, take advantage of early December or spring snow dumps that create amazing conditions with empty runs and low prices.


Located on Japan’s northernmost island just East of Siberia, Niseko is renowned for being cold. While in summer months, the fresher air is a welcome change from the heat and humidity of mainland Japan, in winter the whole island freezes and snowfall is plentiful even at sea level. Persistent cold temperatures throughout the peak Japan ski season also mean that Hokkaido ski areas such as Niseko and Rusutsu don’t typically suffer from freeze thaw. This not only leads to relatively stable snow conditions, but also means the snow stays light and dry. Many people find Hokkaido more comfortable than milder, wetter climates.


Typically the Japan ski season starts earlier in Hokkaido than it does on Japan’s mainland of Honshu due to its northern location. It is common for snowfall to begin in October with ski areas being fully open by late November and staying open until May. Although some people may be put off by the longer journey from Tokyo to Niseko which requires an internal flight, compared with the overland journey to Hakuba, if you are visiting early in the season you may be more likely to experience good snow conditions. It is also true to say that during peak Japan ski season Niseko weather conditions are amongst the most reliable in the world with the most western part of the island being the true powder mecca. We say the Western part, because it is the winds from Siberia that cross the Sea of Japan which dump the huge quantities of light powder snow, and they do so in much higher quantity when they hit the land in the West than they do once they’ve ventured further East. Therefore more central destinations such as Furano may experience the same cold conditions and renowned Hokkaido snow quality, but with a lower quantity of snowfall.


cherry blossom viewing during japan spring season


Japan’s mainland of Honshu unsurprisingly experiences more varied weather conditions. Even in the winter much of Honshu, including Tokyo, is bright and sunny with a moderate climate and absence of snow. In the mountains however, especially towards the Western side of the island where Hakuba is located, weather is characterised by abundant snowfall and temperatures cold enough to create excellent conditions for wintersports. With higher elevation of mainland ski areas such as Hakuba creating a bigger difference in temperature from the top of the mountain to the bottom, the Japan ski season can take longer to transition, meaning the season starts and ends more gradually. It can take longer for ski areas to fully open, but can can also last longer into spring, with Hakuba Valley offering wonderful spring skiing until around mid-April, when you can combine wintersports with wonders such as snow monkey visits and cherry blossoms viewing! With spring also offering great value for money, we recommend treating yourself to a luxury ski in ski out experience and enjoying blue skis and ski views from your balcony.


For more advice on when in the Japan ski season is best to visit for you, get in touch with our dedicated team! And of course, spring is the time of year when Niseko early bird and Hakuba early bird offers first become available, which is the best chance to book great Japan ski deals for the following winter! If you’re not yet sure which destination to visit, we’ve provided provided a head to head comparison of Japan’s best resorts for you!




(Limited Time Only)


Booking early is especially important for big groups and those looking to travel over peak dates as availability disappears fast.