Imagine standing at the highest point of a ski resort almost anywhere in the world, and you will picture being surrounded by spectacular alpine scenery. Nowhere is this truer than Japan, but Japan has far more to offer besides the beauty of snowy mountain peaks.
If you have seen pictures of skiing in Japan before, you will probably already have a visual of Mount Youtei. Often known as ‘Hokkaido’s Fuji’ because it shares a similar iconic shape with its larger and more famous brother on Honshu, Mount Yotei is an inactive volcano having last erupted around 1050 BC. Skiers at the internationally renowned ski resort, Niseko, will be very familiar with the spectacular sight of Mount Youtei. While consistently heavy snowfall can leave it buried behind a mass of snow clouds, Youtei never fails to take your breath away when it makes an appearance, filling the sky from mosts points of the Niseko Annupuri mountain.
And then there are the snow monsters. This has no connection with the spirits that Shinto worshipers believe dwell in the mountains, but is a natural phenomenon caused by the weather. In some ski resorts, most notably Zao Onsen, a combination of cold temperatures, the right kind of winds, evergreen trees and 2-3 metre snow depth causes snow to adhere to the trees and form bizarre shapes that are known as ‘Juhyo’, or ‘Snow Monsters’. These are spectacular to see in Zao, but the particularly freezing conditions do mean you might not want to hang around for long!
Big Mountains and Monkeys
For lovers of the big mountain scenery, the Japanese Alps on the mainland of Honshu is the place to ski. Hakuba in particular is renowned for its towering mountain peaks which closely resemble the scenery you would find in Europe. But together with the distinctive Japanese silver birch trees, views of traditional villages dotted with shrines and temples, and the occasional encounters with snow monkeys on piste, Hakuba will not let you forget that you are in Japan!
A further surprise you might encounter in most Japanese ski resorts, particularly on a clear day, is the ocean. While most ski resorts in the world are located at high elevations inland, in Japan there are areas where 11 meters of snow falls each season at sea level! This, together with the shape and size of the Japanese land mass means most ski resorts are relatively close to the ocean. Kiroro for example, on the island of Hokkaido, is just 15km from the coast, but still receives some of best and most consistent snowfall of any ski resort in the world.
If you feel tempted to take your next ski holiday in this magical land, why not get in touch with local specialists Japan Ski Experience who will offer all the help you need to book your next trip!