Japan has become a world-renowned skiing location over the past half-century. With its many mountains and long winter season bringing some of the heaviest annual snowfalls in the world, it attracts winter sports enthusiasts from across the world eager to slide their way through the waist deep powder-dry snow that falls across the country.
There are over 500 ski resorts in Japan, with over 30 in the Kansai region. These resorts are generally smaller and quieter than those found in Europe or the United States, which means you can usually enjoy maximum time skiing through untracked runs with minimal queuing, and then venture into town for a bit of après-ski once finished.
Here are the pick of the ski resorts to be found in Kansai…
Situated on Mount Rokko, which overlooks the city, the Rokko Snow Park is the only ski resort located in Kobe (located 15km north east of the city centre). It is part of a complex that also includes, among other things, an observatory, a botanical garden and a museum, which makes it a popular tourist hangout. There’s even a golf course on site.
The snow park itself opened in 1964 as the first artificial snow hill in Japan. It’s a family-friendly environment with children’s facilities, skiing classes, a cable car and gentle slopes for beginners as well as more vertical drops to cater for advanced groups. The highest peak is at over 3000 feet and offers panoramic views of nearby Osaka.
Rokko Snow Park is open from mid-November to the beginning of April. Late openings until 10:00 p.m. on Friday give visitors a chance to try floodlit skiing. The price is 2100-2600 yen for adults and 1050-1550 yen for children.
Located on the north eastern slopes of Mount Hachibuse, only a short bus ride from Osaka, the Hachi Kita Kogen resort is also the largest in the Kansai region. Rising to over 4000 feet, it features over 20 kilometres of slopes and over 2000 feet of vertical descent. The skiing terrain is primarily suitable for intermediate and advanced-level skiers, although there are facilities for beginners and a great snow park for kids.
Daily passes are 4500 yen for adults and 3500 yen for children.
Standing at a proud 4101 feet, Oku Ibuki pips Hachi Kita Kogen as the resort with the highest peak in the Kansai region. It’s located in Maibara, in Shiga Prefecture, and is a venue known for its good snow conditions. The steep descents to be found at Oku Ibuki make it a thrill-seekers paradise and its recently added New Challenge – a trail not for the faint-hearted with a gradient of 46 degrees – attracts enthusiasts from across Japan and overseas.
Daily passes are 4000 yen for adults and 3000 yen for children.
When the Mineyama Kogen White Peak resort in Kamikawa Town, Hyogo Prefecture, opened its gates for the first time in November 2017, it became the first new ski resort in Japan for 14 years. Situated on the eastern slopes of Gyoseizan, it’s one of Kansai’s smaller hills with three pistes ranging from 860 – 1200 metres long. Around 50,000 visitors are expected before the end of the winter season. Fans of night skiing should keep their eyes open for late night sessions being offered.