Japan is one of the preferred ski destinations among Aussie thrill-seekers and 2015 /16 is set to be no different with the country’s famed slopes well on the radar for many Australian powder-hounds.
Figures show there has been a 108% increase in flight searches from Australia to Japan for November, with September and November being the most popular time to book, and December the most popular time to visit. The core season lasts from mid-December through to March/April.
Sydneysiders appear to be the most ardent ski lovers, with 27% of all December flight searches leaving from Sydney International Airport.
For those looking to book a ski getaway, Cheapflights.com.au has pulled together a guide to the top five destinations to get your snow fix.
Early Ski Season: Niseko
Already a firm favourite with Australian skiers, Niseko is the most popular international ski destination in Japan and has several areas to explore. Placed in the direct path of the cold Siberian weather fronts, Niseko with its globally renowned powder snow is normally open by late November (a month earlier than the traditional ski Japan season). Niseko is said to also have the largest lit area Japan, making it ideal for night skiing.
New Year’s Eve: Hakuba
Hakuba Valley is at the heart of the spectacular Japanese Alps, just a three hour trip from downtown Tokyo. A highly popular destination, Hakuba 47 resort is combined with Goryu and boasts the best terrain with the only superpipe in the area. Offering a diverse mountain and slopes for every skill level, you can receive a large dose of Japanese culture during your stay, and easily find a good venue or party in Hakuba town for New Year’s Eve.
A Quick Trip: Yuzawa
Japanese ski slopes can be difficult to reach, so if you’re tight on time, visit Yuzawa in the Niigata Prefecture, just 70-90 minutes from Tokyo. Catch the Joetsu Shinkansen (bullet train) to minimise travel time and maximise time on the slopes. There are a 13 ski resorts in Yuzawa, all within easy reach of the main station. To really ramp up your slope time, stay at Gala Yuzawa, the only resort in Japan with its own shinkansen bullet train station.
With The Family: Saharo
Based in the Hokkaido region, Saharo resort is very child-friendly with 17 trails including relaxing gentle slopes for little skiers and even a snow escalator to make sure practice is fun. Their Club Med package offers the ultimate family experience. It’s not cheap but it does offers a variety of great programs for kids aged two and up, plus the opportunity for some parent-only ski time. Japan is also only two hours behind Australia’s east coast summer time, meaning no jet lag or tired tantrums.
Late Ski Season: Gassan
Located in Yamagata on Japan’s main island, Honshu, the region of Gassan gets up to 8m of snow during the winter, meaning it is inaccessible until April. Once open, the lifts continue to run until late July where skiers and snowboarders can enjoy almost 1000m of vertical terrain which is ideal for more advanced visitors. The later season also means fewer people, so you can enjoy a clearer run down the slopes.