Maximise your time on the slopes with these easy-to-reach Japanese ski resorts.

With Winter fast approaching, it’s time to start planning your snow getaways. Hong Kong residents can consider themselves quite lucky, with relatively easy access to some of Japan’s top ski resorts and moderate travel times. Here are our top Japan picks for Hong Kongers, excluding the usual Niseko and Hakuba tours that we know many of you are already familiar with.

Hokkaido

The ski resorts surrounding Japan’s northern capital – Sapporo, produce arguably the best powder in the world. Both Cathay and Hong Kong airlines offer direct flights, making travel a breeze. Expect to depart Hong Kong in the morning and arrive at your destination in the evening. Note that you should always book your bus transfers well in advance when travelling to Hokkaido.

Kiroro, Hokkaido

Situated 2 hours from Chitose International airport, Kiroro offers world class powder in an easily accessible location. Think of Kiroro as Niseko without the crowds. Kiroro is suitable for beginners through to advanced, with a superb backcountry experience. Be warned: you may want to consider bringing a snorkel.

Kiroro ski resort powder

Venturing off the marked trails and into the trees is where the fun really start at Kiroro ski resort.

How to get there: Fly into Chitose International Airport, followed by a 2hr bus transfer. Alternatively, you can catch a train from Chitose to Sapporo to Otaru, followed by a short bus transfer.

Estimated travel time: 8.5hrs travel time from flight departure (plus 1 hr lost as Hong Kong is 1hr behind Japan).

Sample outbound travel itinerary: Catch the Hong Kong Airlines flight departing Hong Kong at 9:15am, arriving CTS airport at 3:30pm. Catch a bus transfer around 5pm to arrive at your hotel by 7pm.

Sapporo Teine, Hokkaido

Also located in Hokkaido, Sapporo Teine is by far the closest ski area to Chitose International airport, located just a 60 minute drive from Chitose International airport and about 50 minutes from Sapporo station. This resort doesn’t have any on-mountain accommodation so it is best suited for a day trip from Sapporo or a close-by JR station. Sapporo Teine’s terrain caters well for beginners as well as advanced riders.

How to get there: Upon arriving at Chitose International airport, we recommend choosing a hotel either near the JR Teine station or in one of the many hotels in Sapporo. The following day, you can take a bus/taxi to the mountain.

Estimated travel time: 7.5 hours travel time to Sapporo (plus 1 hr lost due to different time zones and daily bus transfers to the ski area).

Sample outbound travel itinerary: Catch the Hong Kong Airlines 690 on Fridays departing at 12:10pm arriving at CTS airport at 6:25pm. Make your way to your accommodation and prepare to catch the bus to Sapporo Teine the following day.

Honshu

Honshu, the main island of Japan, has many ski resorts that are easily accessible from Tokyo’s two international airports via Japan’s high-speed rail network – the Shinkansen. There are also more direct flights offered from Hong Kong to Tokyo, which provide you with greater flexibility in planning your flights.

Madarao, Nagano

Madarao is a lesser known resort that attracts fewer crowds compared to the nearby Nozawa Onsen and Hakuba. Less time spent lining up for lifts means more time enjoying the snow! The powder here is just as good, with some calling it ‘Mad Pow’. Madarao’s closest station is Iiyama station which is about 1 hour and 40 minutes from Tokyo station on the Hokuriku Shinkansen.

Madarao Ski Resort powder skier

Madarao employs a fairly liberal attitude to off-piste skiing, atypical of many Japanese-style resorts.

How to get there: Take one of the many flights available to Narita International airport or Haneda International airport. Make your way to Tokyo station to catch the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Iiyama. Upon arriving at Iiyama, organise a hotel transfer or taxi to your accommodation. You will be bound to the Shinkansen timetable as the last train departs at 8:18pm from Tokyo to Iiyama. This means you may need to stay overnight in transit at Tokyo if your flight arrives at night or take an alternate route such as by airport bus.

Estimated travel time: 9 hours travel time from flight departure (plus 1 hour lost to time differences).

Sample outbound itinerary: Depart Hong Kong at 11am, arrive Narita at 4:30pm. Catch the Keisei Skyliner to Ueno Station (approx. 45 minute travel time). Once at Nagano station, stay overnight at a hotel near the station and continue the journey early next morning on the shinkansen to Iiyama station. Once at Iiyama station, take a hotel transfer or taxi to your accommodation.

Yuzawa, Niigata

With many ski resorts on its doorstep and a travel time of only 80 minutes from Tokyo, Yuzawa is one of the most convenient ski regions to get to from Hong Kong.

The most easily accessible of these is Gala Yuzawa, as it has its very own JR station. However, due to such ease, many citizens of Tokyo also go here for their quick fix.

We recommend staying near the station of Echigo-Yuzawa where you have options to access other ski areas such as Ishiuchi Maruyama. A handy tip is that Gala Yuzawa, Yuzawa Kogen and Ishiuchi Maruyama are interconnected and a multi-mountain pass is available. The trip from Tokyo to Echigo-Yuzawa station takes about 75–80 minutes on the Joestsu Shinkansen.

Yuzawa, Niigata

With many ski resorts on its doorstep and a travel time of only 80 minutes from Tokyo, Yuzawa is one of the most convenient ski regions to get to from Hong Kong.

How to get there: From Tokyo Station, catch the Joetsu Shinkansen to Echigo-Yuzawa station. The Shinkansen to Echigo-Yuzawa runs until quite late. The last Shinkansen departs Tokyo station at 10:28pm. Once at Echigo-Yuzawa, take a hotel transfer, bus or taxi to your accommodation.

Estimated travel time: 8 hours travel time from flight departure (plus 1 hr lost to time differences).

Sample outbound itinerary: Depart Hong Kong at 1pm, arrive at Narita at 6:30pm. Catch the Keisei Skyliner to Ueno Station (approx. 45 minute travel time). Change to the Joetsu Shinkansen bound for Echigo-Yuzawa and then take a hotel transfer, taxi or bus to your accommodation.

Any questions? Let us know in the comments below.