When is the snow season in Japan?
The Japanese snow season officially starts in November and runs through to May. During the winter season, north westerly winds carry cold dry air from the Arctic and Siberian Peninsula, over the Sea of Japan, where the air picks up moisture before hitting Japan's North West coast line. When these systems hit the peaks of the Japanese resorts, they churn, dumping the abundant and consistently dry powder snow that Japan is famous for.
When is the best time to go to Japan for skiing and snowboarding?
International tourists start arriving from December and continue all the way through to May. When the best time to go depends on what kind of skiing and snowboarding you and your group wants to do.
Generally the season starts in early December, but it is not unusual to begin skiing sometimes in November at some of the resorts. Early season Japan often and can receive rather large amounts of snow. Ski resorts generally will commence operations once there is enough snow available to ski on. Generally speaking December is usually when snows commence in Japan.
Heavier snowfalls in Japan are well known in January and February and do often continue well into March also. Ski specific areas such as Nagano, Nigata, Yamagata, Amori and Hokkaido do see and often experience very heavy snowfalls and is not uncommon for it to snow up to 1 metre in any given day. Japan is well known for abundant powder snow and it is common for it to snow in January and February and one may see 3 or 5 day periods of nonstop snow before the weather breaks and the sun can be seen again. Nagano and Nigata resorts are more widely known for getting a good mix of heavy powder snowfalls in between of bright bluebird days.
What is the best time to travel for snow quality and low rates?
It is impossible to know months ahead of time if the snow is going to be amazing on the particular dates you have selected. For the lowest rates, early season (December – prior to Christmas) or late season (March through till May) will offer the greatest deals. These can be great times to visit a ski resort as the slopes are quiet, but keep in mind that big powder days can be hit and miss. For Japan, late November and early December followed by March and April offers the best accommodation rates and lowest airfares.
To make sure you get your preferred travel dates and accommodation all worked out and securely booked, especially during peak travel periods, such as Christmas / New Year, Chinese New Year and Japanese National Holiday periods please contact us here at Ski Japan Holidays and we shall work out the best possible Japan snow vacation for you.
Do I need to pre-book Ski School?
We strongly recommend that you book lessons in advance at all times and even more so at peak times during the season to ensure you and your group get what you need.
Should I purchase lift tickets in advance?
We recommend buying lift tickets in advance for those who wish to take the hassle out of their holiday and have everything pre-arranged and waiting for them on their arrival. Discounts and early bird specials are often applicable for those who pre-book these in advance.
Will I get altitude sickness?
Altitude sickness is a reaction to the lower amounts of oxygen available at high altitudes (due to the lower air pressure), symptoms may occur from about 2,500m. The mountains are lower in Japan than Europe or North America, typically topping out below 2,500m, therefore altitude sickness is not a problem people experience when on snow holidays in Japan.
Which resort should I go to?
Japan has in excess of a whopping 500 + ski resorts and there are unlimited skiing opportunities in this country. Let us here at Ski Japan Holidays assist you in making the best choice for you and your group. Typically the larger resorts such as Niseko, Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen, Rusutsu, Furano, Myoko and Shiga Kogen etc., may be the best place to start at, as these are well used to receiving overseas travellers and therefore perhaps better cater to western needs and tastes than perhaps many of the other off the beaten track resorts.
Do I need to hire a car?
We recommend that you ask your Ski Japan Holidays consultant as there are a number of factors to consider at many of the resorts e.g. number of travellers in your party and proximity of the resort to the airport, the in resort access to the slopes and local transport options etc.. For the most part you will not need a car in the larger resorts such as Niseko, Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen, Rusutsu, Furano, Myoko and Shiga Kogen etc., as they all offer good in resort transport services.
Equipment Rental in Japan?
Several of the larger and more popular ski resorts in Japan, which are well known for in terms of catering to international travellers do have an excellent selection of rental equipment and clothing on offer. Of these rental shops in several of the more popular resorts of the likes of Niseko and Hakuba chain rental stores also exist whereby you can rent from one resort and return in the other resorts and vice a versa. Sizing too is not a concern for those who are outside of the general range of measurements who are travelling to the likes of Hakuba and Niseko. When travelling to other ski resorts in Japan we do stress that you should confirm with our consultants as to whether or not the right gear can be arranged for you. Many of the lesser known resorts do have good rental equipment options, but they may or may not accept international credit cards and sizing to may be an issue, so please let us know and we will find out for you.
Baby Sitting and Child Care Arrangements?
Child care and sitters can be arranged depending on the resort and advance bookings are a must. The staff at Ski Japan Holidays will need to be contacted to make the best arrangements for you.
I am thinking about driving in Japan, what do I need to know?
Driving is done on the left side of the road. Foreign tourists can drive in Japan, as long as they have an International Driving Permit in addition to the driving license of their own country. This must be obtained before arriving in Japan. Road Signage is generally in Japanese and English throughout most areas of Japan. Japan has a national zero per cent blood-alcohol level standard for driving. It is also an offence for a passenger to allow someone under the influence of alcohol to drive. During the winter months extensive snow clearing operations keep the roads reasonably clear, but due to the sheer amount of snow falling the driving conditions are always changing and can be very challenging at times. 4WD vehicles are widely available and all rental cars in snowy areas will come with winter snow tyres, designed for travelling on snow and ice. These are essential for grip. Snow chains are an inexpensive alternative and can be applied to regular tyres to provide that extra grip required, but not recommended.
How cold will it be in Japan?
First off you are travelling to a country well known for heavy snowfall and minus temperature so you will need to bring the correct clothing, particularly necessary for in resort living. Essential items included in your kit should be warm waterproof boots, thermal underwear, warm insulated snow proof jacket and warm hat. Outside of this you should be able to get by with just jeans and good warm socks. It does get cold and common sense is required for everyone. Nagano and Niigata Resorts are known to have a temperature variance of -10 through to + 5 degrees from December through till mid-March. Resorts further north of the likes of ones in Hokkaido, Yamagata and Aomori it is not unusual to be anywhere from -20 up to 2 or 3 degrees during the same periods. Winter in Japan is known for heavy snowfalls and extremely low temperatures. While most trips to the mountains are without major incident, it is important to understand that conditions can change suddenly. Each year, a number of people are injured or killed during the winter months in snow related incidents – including motor vehicle accidents, avalanches, and ice falls from roofs, prolonged exposure to extreme cold and ski collisions.
Can I ski off-piste?
This depends on the resort, some allow off-piste skiing, whilst others strictly prohibit this, please check with your reservation consultant for details on each resort. Skiing or snowboarding off-piste, either inside or outside a ski resort's boundaries can be very dangerous. Be sure to only visit areas that are designated as safe by local authorities.
Avalanches are common and heavy snow storms can create deep powder snow drifts. You should make yourself aware of the winter weather risks – and consult local information sources such as tourism centres and your hotel and ski resort where appropriate for the best in resort advice based on the activity you are undertaking. It is your responsibility to ensure that your comprehensive travel insurance policy covers all your activities. Some general insurance policies may not cover snow sports, make sure you read the fine print and question it before buying it if you are unsure.