The Japan Ski Season & When to Visit

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Japan Ski Season Guide

THE JAPAN SKI SEASON 2022-2023 HAS BEGUN!

After a tense few months earlier this year, as we waited to see if border restrictions would be lifted in time for the Japan ski season 2022-23, Japan is now fully open, and we are already welcoming skiers and snowboarders for the first winter in 3 years! But when does the Japan ski season typically start, and when is the best time to visit? Keep reading to find out!

WHEN IS THE JAPAN SKI SEASON?

As Japan is located in the northern hemisphere, the Japan ski season takes place between November and April, with peak Japan ski season months around December to March. In Niseko snow often starts falling in October, as you can see from the snow on Youtei this Autumn whetting appetites for the start of the Japan ski season 2022-2023. You can track the progress of the Japan ski season 2022-23 by viewing our Niseko snow report, provided by our Niseko based team.

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Phases of the Japan Ski Season

Early Season

The first phase of the Japan snow season, when the resorts open, is a tempting time to visit with there being nothing quite like the magic of the first tracks of the winter. The Japan ski season 2022-2023 is planned to start in Niseko on December 3rd and in Hakuba it depends when the snow starts to fall, usually early December. Being among the first on the mountain has other 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. There will also be little depth to the snow base meaning skiing and boarding may be limited to the groomers with the attraction of deep backcountry powder to follow later in the Japan ski season.

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Christmas & New Year

Skiing over Christmas and New Year is for many the perfect way to spend the festive season. In most ski resorts worldwide, skiing over Christmas and New Year risks lack of snow, but at major Japanese resorts it would be extremely unlikely to find you couldn’t ski at this time of the Japan ski season. The base may still not be deep enough for much backcountry with tips of plants still peeking through, but typically resorts will have been open and accumulating a good amount of snow for a month or so. While Christmas in Japan may be very different from Western countries, it can be a magical place to send the holidays and New Year is one of Japan’s most celebrated holidays. With peak holiday dates being more expensive than other times of the Japan snow season especially at the most popular Niseko hotels, book early if you can and take advantage of the best deals on offer. From Summer, it may be hard to find anywhere that’s not fully booked.

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Peak Powder Season

From January through to early February is the time of the Japan snow season known for its unbelieveably consistent peak powder snow conditions. Snowfall tends to be immense and the accumulated snow base allows riders to maximise experiences off as well as on piste. If you haven’t experienced skiing in Japan 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 not greater likelihood in the world 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 due to higher prices. Over the Japan ski season 2023 Chinese New Year holiday dates run from around 20th to 30th January.

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Late February to Early March

This phase of the Japan ski season is usually still pretty much peak, with snowfall abundant and conditions usually reliable. We have classified it differently because some years, warmer weather starts to creep in and pristine powder conditions are not quite what they were. But it is still a great time to visit! Some Niseko accommodation and Hakuba accommodation offer better rates during this period, and as often as not, conditions can be just as incredible as they were a few weeks earlier, with yet more snow base opening yet more incredible off-piste terrain. A few bluebird days is often not a bad thing either!

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Spring

Spring does not start at precisely the same time every year anywhere, and the Japan ski season is no exception. Some years temperatures start to warm up in February, but usually this happens significantly from around mid-March. Fresh snow is still common providing every chance to ride deep powder, and this time of the year usually means plentiful bluebird days with picture perfect views of the spectacular mountain scenery, from the big mountain peaks of Hakuba to the lake Toya view from Rusutsu and of course, the unbelievable Mount Youtei, known as Hokkaido’s Fuji. 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 and enjoy some warm weather in Tokyo or Kyoto. Prices in ski resorts come down a lot in the spring, so if soaking up Japanese culture, onsens, cuisine and travel is for you, it may be the perfect time to plan your Japan ski holiday. The Japan ski season 2022-2023 is planned to last until May 7th at Niseko Hirafu, with Hakuba dates depending on conditions but tending to last into May.

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JAPAN SKI SEASON REGIONAL VARIATIONS

Most years the Japan ski season starts earlier in Hokkaido than it does on Japan’s mainland of Honshu due to colder weather the further north you go. In Hokkaido it is common for snowfall to begin in October with resorts opening 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 from Tokyo to Hakuba, if you are visiting during the off-peak then you may be more likely to experience good snow conditions. It is also true to say than during peak Japan ski season, Niseko weather conditions are amongst the most reliable in the world, making western Hokkaido the true powder mecca. We say Western Hokkaido, 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 Easterly resorts such as Furano may experience the same cold conditions, but with less snowfall.

Western Honshu also gets huge volumes of snow, and resorts like Hakuba have the advantage of much higher elevation compared with Hokkaido resorts. This means cooler temperatures with more reliable conditions the higher you go, and the joys of big mountain terrain a guaranteed throughout the Japan ski season. Hakuba Valley resorts typically open in December and higher slopes usually operate until May.

For further advice about when in the Japan ski season is best to visit, get in touch with our expert local team who will be happy to help.

Japan Ski Experience Team
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