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Best Slopes in Japan

 

Mt Fuji in Japan covered in snowPhoto: Mt Fuji

 

Guest post by Trekbible

Japan boasts some of the most spectacular powder in the world, making it an exceptional snowboarding destination. With hundreds of slopes from an abundance of resorts and backcountry to choose from, it can be hard figuring out which ones to make mandatory on a trip out east. So, we’ve narrowed down the myriad of monstrous slopes to our favorite, and what we think is the best snowboarding slopes in Japan.

First up, is the Zao Ski Resort in the Yamaguta Prefecture. Home to wide runs and not as well known by tourists, this is the perfect place if you want more space to cruise with friends or test our new skills. What makes Zao Ski Resort unique is the prevalence of snow monsters. There’s no need to worry; they’re not alive. Instead, the perfect mix of fresh powder, wind, and the foliage create snow creatures of all shapes and sizes, making it an incredibly scenic snowboarding escape.

These snow monsters be found best on the Kurohime Slope, which peaks at 26 degrees and is 1.7 kilometers long. If you’re looking for a steeper, more challenging slope, check out the Omori Slope measuring in at 32 degrees. The final favorite slope to recommend is the Ohira Course. Connecting Paradise and Shobonuma, the Ohira rotates between solid slopes and steep pitches, giving solid variety for you ambitious shredders.

In addition to the snow monsters, snowboarders will enjoy the warmth that Zao Onsen Ski Resort has to offer. Home to hot springs that have been used and protected for over 1900 years, Zao is the perfect destination to both shred hard and rest well while on a multi-day excursion. Along with the hot springs, Zao specialzes in unique hospitality. With a variety of places to stay, you can choose from traditional ryoken - a historical japanese in - all the way to delectable Bed & Breakfasts, or your budget-friendly hostel and motel choices.

Next is Shiga Kougen. With such an esteemed history, this is obviously a fantastic place to snowboard. The most loved part of Shiga Kougen, also known as Shiga Highlands, is the quality of the snow. There is a reason this 1.6 square mile mountain resort has hosted famous shredders from around the glove. With fifty one different slopes to choose from, Shiga is loved for its variety and accessibility. One key pass will get you wherever you need to go.

Another reason our powder-lovers appreciate Shiga Kougen is their upstanding environmental dedication. In 1981, it was designated as a Biosphere Conservation Area. Finding the balance of enjoyment for everyone who wants to shred the powder while still conserving the natural beauty of the mountains is something Shiga Kougen excels at.

Nozawa Onsen is the next all-star destination for snowboarders. Finding itself on top of Mount Kenashi, there is 100% natural, fresh powder all the way through mid-May. Sixty percent of the resort is intermediate to advanced terrain, which includes the acclaimed Challenge Wall which tops out at 39 degrees. Nozawa has more than just slopes, though. With a large half pipe and snow park, boarders can test their tricks on the plethora of kickers, boxes, rails, and waves.

 

Winter climbing in Japan

 

As you move higher up the mountain, the snow can reach depths of 5 meters. Start out at the Yamabiko area, topping out around 1650 meters. From the top, you will have views of the Japan Sea. Then, as you start taking down the powder, you’ll enjoy the choose your own adventure as you rotate through one of five different routes down for both intermediate and advanced shredders. For a test of endurance, check out the SKyline Course. Extending over 4500 meters, you’ll follow a ridge all the way to the base of the mountain. Having already mentioned the Wall Challenge, the slope I will mention is the Schneider Area. This expert slope averages 32 degrees with a tight and exciting landscape. There are numerous other slopes worth taking advantage of while spending some days at Nozawa Onsen.

For those looking for more adventurous runs within easy travel distance of Tokyo, Hakuba Happo One has thirteen specifically steep and challenging pistes for more advanced snowboarders. Seventy percent of the resort is dedicated to advanced and intermediate ski and boarders, with the longest route being 8000 meters. In addition, this resort tends to be incredibly snowboard friendly, with over forty percent of the patrons bringing their boards.

Hakuba Happo One also has great food ready to quench your appetite. With well prepared, fresh meats and burgers, you’ll enjoy a variety of hearty choices to choose from. Whether its a steak, burger, or some traditional ramen that sounds good after a day in the powder, it will all be awaiting you. Don’t forget to try some fresh apple pie in the morning with coffee or their lovely ohyokkuri hot pot.

Hands down our favorite shredding mountain is Niseko United. With four resorts nestled on this mountain, there is ample opportunity for vacation, work, and play here. Widely acclaimed as the best snow in Japan, it Niseko United will be worth the trek. Being one of the largest destinations, you will have ample food, nightlife, and places to stay while you’re here. Whether you want to try the local favorites at Niseko Ramen Kazahana or experience delectable fresh seafood at Izakaya Senchou, your taste buds will be dazzled after your long day on the slopes. If you will be searching for some live music and beers to refresh yourself, head over to the Half Note Cafe & Bar. Niseko is filled with phenomenal food to compliment its spectacular slopes.

As you plan your Japanese snowboarding treks and excursions, keep these resorts and slopes in mind. You can experience the best powder, food, culture, and natural beauty that Japan has to offer by heading to these resorts. Whether you want to dabble a bit in the backcountry or see how you can take on the Wall Challenge at Nozawa Onsen, you won’t be disappointed by any of these slopes. Happy shredding!

Lauren is a trekbible writer and story maker from Pine Valley, California. She and her husband work in the recreation department at a camp. In their free time, they enjoy mountain biking, building out their Sprinter van, and adventuring with their new puppy, Shadow.

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