With the 2015/16 season gearing up to be a hit with Aussie thrill-seekers, here are the top ways to explore Japan’s slopes and some helpful safety hints.
Japan is a favoured ski destination amongst Aussie thrill-seekers, and 2015 /16 is set to be no different. With the core season lasting from mid-December through to March/April, the country’s famed slopes are well on the radar for many Australian powder-hounds.
Figures show there has been a 108 per cent 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.
Sydneysiders appear to be the most ardent ski lovers, with 27 per cent 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.
Safety Tips for Travellers to Japan courtesy of World2Cover
- Arrange reliable overseas travel insurance with a provider who has a strong understanding of the Japanese culture and medical system, and can assist with language support. English is not widely spoken and some clinics accept cash payment only.
- Call 119 in an emergency.
- Read up to get some basic knowledge of the medical system there are no GPs in Japan, so any medical examinations will need to take place in a hospital or clinic.
- Wear clothes that are easy to take on and off. In winter, there is often a big temperature difference between outside and inside.
- Watch out for key traffic differences. In some areas, especially residential zones, roads are so narrow pedestrians, cyclists and motorbikes all use the same lane.
- Pay attention to any warnings announced by Japan Meteorological Agency, an organisation that provides early warnings for earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons.
- If you have any pre-existing conditions ensure you carry a medical report and list of any prescriptions you take this will help prevent any potential delays with medication if you have to visit a hospital or clinic.
- Japanese hay fever season falls within the core skiing season (Feb Apr). If you suffer from allergies, ensure you carry the correct medications or disposable masks.
- Research the contact details and locations of the Australian Embassy/Consulates before you leave, just in case.