Myoko Ski Resorts

Myoko ski resorts. Photo from: Niigata Prefectural Tourist Association

When envisioning a ski or snowboarding adventure in Japan, Niseko in Hokkaido often takes the spotlight with its renowned powder snow, modern amenities and luxurious accommodations. For winter enthusiasts seeking unique and affordable experiences within proximity to Tokyo, Japan also offers other destinations that captivate with their distinct wonders. Here are five alternative ski areas promising a fusion of exhilarating slopes, cultural richness, and accessibility, creating the perfect recipe for an unforgettable winter getaway.

Hakuba Valley

Hakuba Valley in Nagano, site of the 1998 Winter Olympics. Photo from: Nagano Tourism Organization

Hakuba Valley, Nagano Prefecture

Nestled in the Japanese Alps near Nagano Prefecture, Hakuba forms an enchanting valley with multiple ski resorts like Hakuba Happo-One and ABLE Hakuba Goryu, showcasing breathtaking alpine scenery and attracting international tourists in search of diverse skiing experiences. Despite peak-time crowds, Hakuba stands out for its family-friendly atmosphere, English-speaking staff, and lively nightlife. With extensive piste terrain catering to all skill levels, backcountry skiing opportunities, and a guarantee of ample powder days, Hakuba is a top choice for those yearning for the famed Japow experience.

Myoko Suginohara

Myoko Suginohara ski resort. Photo from: Niigata Prefectural Tourist Association

Myoko Kogen, Niigata Prefecture

Myoko Kogen is blessed with 13 to 15 metres of snow on average each season, beckoning powder enthusiasts with ample powder and a genuine Japanese cultural experience. Maintaining its historical roots since the 1930s, Myoko boasts unspoiled onsens (hot springs) and a rich history. Ski resorts like Myoko Suginohara and Akakura Onsen provide tree skiing, off-piste options, and backcountry opportunities while as a whole, Myoko’s affordability, availability of English-speaking lessons, and diverse terrain make it an ideal destination for those seeking a balance of winter sports and cultural immersion.

Madarao Ski Resort

Madarao ski resort as seen from above. Photo from: Niigata Prefectural Tourist Association

Madarao Kogen, Nagano/Niigata Prefecture

Renowned for annual snowfalls ranging from 10 to 13 metres, Madarao Kogen offers excellent tree skiing, steep bowls, and a welcoming environment for off-piste skiing. The ski resort is also connected with Tangram Ski Circus, and the combination provides diverse terrain, making it an ideal base for exploration. The charming town of Iiyama nearby provides a taste of authentic Japanese culture, while the region's accessibility from Tokyo and surrounding airports enhances its appeal. Despite its dated lift infrastructure, Madarao's unique charm and significant snow dumps make it a must-visit for those seeking an authentic Japanese skiing experience. 

Nozawa Onsen

The off-piste runs at Nozawa Onsen are said to be legendary. Photo from: Niigata Prefectural Tourist Association

Nozawa Onsen, Nagano Prefecture

While Nozawa Onsen modestly shares the spotlight with the village's traditional charm, it distinguishes itself through diverse terrain, family-friendly vibes, and dedicated English-speaking services. With roots dating back to 1912, Nozawa holds a significant place in Japanese skiing history. Cobblestone streets, abundant onsens, and rich Japanese architecture amplify the village's charm. Despite a lack of slopeside accommodation, the resort compensates with varied lodging choices and an array of onsen experiences. Boasting 19 lifts, over 10 metres of annual snowfall, and enticing off-piste opportunities, this destination is cherished by foreign travellers and seamlessly melds traditional Japanese allure with contemporary comforts, creating a distinctive haven for those craving a cultural and skiing fusion.


Yuzawa in Niigata, the closest ski area to Tokyo. Photo from: Wikipedia Commons CC BY 2.0 

Yuzawa, Niigata Prefecture

Perhaps the ski region in closest proximity to Tokyo at a mere 75 to 80 minutes from Tokyo on the bullet train, Yuzawa is often known as yukiguni or "snow country", making it a coveted destination for winter enthusiasts with its high concentration of ski resorts, diverse slopes, and stunning mountain views – offering an authentic Japanese experience. While weekends draw crowds, mid-week visits reveal Yuzawa as a value-for-money gem with minimal congestion, hosting a variety of ski resorts ranging from smaller areas to interconnected mega-resorts like Naeba and Kagura, ensuring a delightful winter escape.