The best ski resorts, hotels and ski schools of 2023

As the 22-23 winter season unfolded, ski resorts across Asia breathed a collective sigh of relief, with international tourists returning to the slopes in numbers.

Following almost three crippling years of border closures, quarantine restrictions and travel hesitancy, this past season saw a much-needed return to normal as Asia transitioned into the post-COVID era.

In October 2022, Japan opened its border to independent travellers for the first time since April 2020. The timing was a thing of beauty for the languishing ski industry and for the hordes of Japow-deprived skiers locked out of the country.

The weather gods were initially slow to the task, but this was short lived. By late-December, big snowfalls had begun to hammer ski resorts nation-wide, and by January, Japan was in the midst of a “once in a decade cold snap”.

South Korean resorts, likewise, enjoyed a season at full capacity after quarantine restrictions were done away with mid-2022, while China finally laxed its border restrictions in March 2023 after abandoning a rigid ‘zero-COVID’ policy.

The 22-23 ski season, now over, has been a resounding success, and the big winner is the ski industry as a whole. However, as part of the annual Ski Asia Awards, individual honours have been laid out below as determined by votes from our readers.

2023 Ski Asia Awards

Japan’s Best Ski Resort (Overall)

Winner: Lotte Arai Resort

Now a 3-time winner in this category, Lotte Arai’s success is proof that some of Japan’s best skiing can be found beyond Niseko, Hakuba and the handful of other big-name resorts that typically dominate these lists.

The Niigata-based resort, which at one point spent 11 years in a state of abandonment, is located just north of the popular Myoko ski area and only 22 km from Honshu’s west coast. Its unique geography is responsible for some 18 m of snow per season, and, since its refurbishment, the resort has sought to establish itself as one of Japan’s premier powder destinations.

In addition to its 14 runs, 8 of which are unpisted, Lotte has marked off several ‘free riding zones’, which account for more than 80% of its total makeup. These avalanche-controlled zones, many of which can be accessed via the resort’s Zendana Lift, are a genuine drawcard for this mid-sized resort.

Highly Commended: Niseko United

In close second, Niseko United hardly needs introduction. Comprising 4 individual ski areas, 61 runs and 38 lifts, this mega-resort enjoys a well-deserved reputation Japan’s snow sports capital, rivalled only by Hakuba.

Niseko United

Niseko United. Image:

Niseko is world-renowned for its light, dry powder, which it receives in bucketloads throughout the ski season. The resort’s proximity to the sea of Japan combined with its consistently low temperatures are to thank for this.

Another of Niseko’s popular features is its unique gate system, which allows skiers easy access to its extensive backcountry—weather conditions permitting. However, the resort’s popularity, particularly with the younger crowd, can be attributed to more than just the skiing on offer. With hundreds of restaurants, izakayas, bars and clubs spread across several towns, Niseko’s legendary nightlife is as expansive and adrenaline-fueled as its ski scene.

Japan’s Best Family Ski Resort

Winner: Niseko United

With an even spread of beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain, Niseko’s expansive slopes cater to the full spectrum of abilities and tastes, which is no doubt a big part of its family appeal.

Niseko United

Niseko United. Image:

Its credentials as a family resort are further bolstered by its selection of top-tier ski schools, including the long-established Niseko International Snowsports School (NISS), operating out of both Hirafu and Hanazono.

If visiting in mid-February, the annual ‘Yukitopia Festival’, which celebrates winter life in Niseko, also features plenty of activities for the kids including snowmobile rides, a snow sculpture competition and a unique ‘pond skim’ event.

Highly Commended: Rusutsu Resort

In contrast with Niseko and its sprawling villages, Rusutsu is popular with families who want the destination resort experience.

Its main resort complex, located at the foot of West Mountain, has everything you could possibly need to sustain a family ski holiday: a streamlined ski rental setup, slopeside accommodation, international restaurants, a shopping town, public onsen facilities, an arcade, and a now iconic indoor merry-go-round—the biggest of its kind in the world.

Rusutsu Resort

Rusutsu Resort. Image:

The main draw is, of course, the skiing, and all family members, irrespective of skill level, are sure to enjoy what’s on offer. However, Rusutsu is definitely not your typical “family resort” as this label would seriously underplay its credentials as one of Japan’s premier powder destinations.

Japan’s Best Ski Resort for Powder

Winner: Lotte Arai Resort

Lotte Arai claims top honours once again, this time for its powder credentials. The resort, which features several designated ‘free riding zones’, has developed a loyal following since it reopened in 2017, largely thanks to the quality of its off-piste terrain.

Lotte Arai runs several powder and freeride programs through Myoko Snowsports, including a popular ‘Intro to Powder and Off-Piste course’.

Highly Commended: Hakuba Valley

The world-renowned Hakuba Valley is one of Japan’s largest single-ticket ski areas, comprising 10 individual ski resorts and 960 hectares of terrain. The skiing on offer is extensive, to say the least, and each resort has its own distinctive character and features.

Hakuba powder (Tsugaike)

Tsugaike Kogen Ski Resort, Hakuba

Offical snowfall stats put Hakuba in the range of 11-13 m per season, but its northernmost resorts are thought to receive significantly more than this. The interlinked Cortina and Norikura ski areas are particularly popular on a powder day, but options for backcountry skiing exist throughout the valley, the best of which have been singled out in Ski Asia’s ‘Guide to Hakuba Backcountry Skiing‘.

Japan’s Best Snowsports School

Winner: Myoko Snowsports

Myoko Snowsports is an English-language ski school operating in the Myoko area of Niigata Prefecture, one of Japan’s more popular winter sports hubs. The school, whose flagship branch services the Akakura Kanko/Onsen resorts, is now also the official snowsports school for Lotte Arai Resort, a 40 minute drive from Akakura.

Myoko Snowsports

Myoko Snowports. Image:

Myoko Snowsports is no stranger to the Ski Asia Awards, having won each year since the awards were introduced in 2019. The school’s near perfect Google rating suggests that its customers are on the same page as our readers.

Highly Commended: NISS (Niseko International Snowsports School)

Operating out of both Hirafu and Hanazono, Niseko International Snowsports School (NISS) will next year celebrate an impressive 20 years in service. This long-standing ski school offers a comprehensive range of ski and snowboard lessons for both adults and children of all levels.


Niseko International Snowsports School (NISS). Image:

NISS is as international as Niseko itself, and, with instructors from a wide range of countries, private lessons can be taught in any number of languages. However, group lessons are primarily taught in English.

Japan’s Best Backcountry Guiding Operation

Winner: Rising Sun Guides

Rising Sun is a Niseko-based guiding operation owned by Andrew Spragg, who in 2021 kindly lent us his expert opinion on ‘Hokkaido’s best backcountry spots‘. Andrew leads an experienced team of certified local and international guides, who specialise in trips to some of Hokkaido’s more remote locations.

In addition to its popular backcountry and lift-assisted tours, Rising Sun conducts several avalanche awareness courses, all of which follow the Avalanche Canada curriculum.

Highly Commended: Hanazono Powder Guides

Hanazono Powder Guides (HPG) is another Niseko operation with more than 10 years of industry experience. HPG is the resort’s official backcountry guiding service, and, as a result, its customers enjoys some exclusive perks including early lift access.

Hanazono Powder Guides

Hanazono Powder Guides. Image:

The tours on offer focus on Niseko’s gate-accessed backcountry and the surrounding ranges including Iwaonupuri, Nitonuprui and Chisenupuri. Of course, these are fully customisable and HPG’s guides can suggest a suitable plan of action based on experience and skill level.

Japan’s Best Ski Hotel

Winner: Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono

Niseko has more than its fair share of award-winning luxury accommodation, so it’s no surprise, then, that our next winner is the Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono.

A relative newcomer to the Niseko landscape, this particular Park Hyatt opened in 2020 and is just a stone’s throw from Hanazono’s Symphony Gondola. The rooms on offer range from 65 sqm suites to 3-bed penthouse residences, many of which look onto Mount Yotei and the Annupuri ranges.

Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono

Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono. Image: Facebook

The hotel features 10 lounges, bars and restaurants, including two led by Michelin-starred chefs—the French-themed Molière Montagne and Sushi Mitsukawa, which specialises in Kanazawa-influenced sushi and sashimi.

Highly Commended: Vale Rusutsu

Named the World’s Best New Ski Hotel at the 2021 World Ski Awards, The Vale Rusutsu is another new arrival, this one situated at the base of Rusutsu’s West Mountain. The condominium-style hotel is managed by NISADE, whose track record includes The Vale Niseko, a multi-award-winning property in Niseko’s Upper Hirafu Village.

Vale Rusutsu

Vale Rusutsu

The Vale Rusutsu, much like its cousin, caters to the luxury ski market. Its top-tier penthouse suites are fitted with large open-air jacuzzis overlooking the resort’s ski slopes and golf course. The hotel is also directly connected to Rusutsu’s Kotobuki no Yu hot spring, which features both indoor and outdoor baths.

Japan’s Best Ski Lodge/Chalet

Winner: Forest Inn Sangoro (Zao Onsen)

A first-time winner at the Ski Asia Awards, the 12-guest room Forest Inn Sangoro is a gorgeous wooden lodge with rustic interiors, friendly staff, and a cosy fireplace to lounge around at the end of a day on the slopes.

Forest Inn Sangoro

Forest Inn Sangoro. Image:

Perhaps most importantly, Sangoro is located in the heart of Zao Onsen ski resort, with genuine ski-in ski-out access to the slopes. Facilities include a restaurant, café, bar, pool table and waxing room. It’s a real skier’s setup.

Highly Commended: Morino Lodge Myoko

Not to be confused with Morino Lodge Hakuba, which finished runner up in this category last year, Morino Lodge’s Myoko branch services the Akakura Onsen/Kanko ski resorts and is just a short walk from Akakura’s bustling main street, which links the two villages.

Morino Lodge Myoko

Morino Lodge Myoko. Image:

The 24-bedroom lodge is popular for its warm atmosphere, spacious lounge/bar area and beautiful indoor and outdoor onsens. It’s also within walking distance of both the Yodel triple lift at Akakura Onsen and the Champion 1 lift at Akakura Kanko.

South Korea’s Best Ski Resort

Winner: YongPyong Resort

Yongpyong is South Korea’s biggest, oldest and most popular ski resort, its name now synonymous with skiing in Korea. The best of several options in the mountainous Gangwon-do province, Yongpyong played a starring role at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, hosting several events including the slalom and giant slalom skiing.

YongPyong Dragon Valley

YongPyong Resort, Korea

Yongpyong’s size and elevation are its main point of difference. At 1438 m in height, it towers over its neighbours Alpensia (970 m), Phoenix Park (1080m) and Jeongseon (1370 m). Its slopes, which span 29 km, are also the most expansive of any Korean resort.

As is common in South Korea, Yongpyong is a destination resort, with all of its facilities and services housed at the resort-operated Dragon and Tower Plazas. This should particularly suit families who value convenience above all.

Highly Commended: Bears Town Ski Resort

Bears Town is one of several ski resorts in Gyeonggi-do, a province that wraps around Seoul, South Korea’s densely populated capital. This Pocheon-based resort, a 7-time World Ski Awards nominee, is an easy day trip from Seoul, just 90 minutes via bus from Gangbyeon Station.

 Bears Town Ski Resort

Bears Town Ski Resort. Image:

Location is a large part of the resort’s appeal, its size (relative to its location) another. Boasting 11 slopes, 6 lifts and 15 km of terrain, Bears Town is the largest ski hill in the Gyeonggi region, making it an excellent choice for beginners, intermediates and day-trippers.

South Korea’s Best Ski Hotel

Winner: Intercontinental Alpensia

Voted ‘Highly Commended’ at last year’s Ski Asia Awards, the 5-star Intercontinental Alpensia has this year achieved top honours, beating out High1’s Grand Hotel Convention Tower.

InterContinental Alpensia Pyeongchang Resort

InterContinental Alpensia Pyeongchang Resort

The IHG-managed property, which ranks as one of our ‘Top 8 Luxury Hotels in Asia‘, is a prominent landmark at the base of Gangwon-do’s Alpensia Ski Resort, and its award-winning facilities include a Korean-Mediterranean restaurant, fitness centre and sauna. Of course, the biggest drawcard is its proximity to one of Korea’s best ski resorts, which in 2018 was the main venue for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Highly Commended: High1 Grand Hotel Convention Tower

High1 Grand Hotel’s Convention Tower is one of three interconnected hotels at the base of High1 Resort, all of which enjoy stunning views of the ski area and surrounding ranges. The 4.5 star Convention Tower has a diverse range of accommodation options including Korean-style ondol (heated floor) rooms and colourfully decorated family rooms.

The hotel’s Royal Suite Room is particularly extravagant, boasting a top-of-the-line sound system, theatre room and grand piano, no less.

China’s Best Ski Resort

Winner: Sun Mountain Yabuli

Sun Mountain Yabuli is one of two main resorts that make up the Yabuli ski area in China’s Heilongjiang province, a part of the country known to receive more natural snowfall than anywhere else.

Club Med Yabuli

Sun Mountain Yabuli, China. Image:

The resort, one of China’s biggest, also benefits from some of the steepest terrain in the country, making it a popular choice for advanced skiers and snowboarders.

Of course, the climate in China’s north-east is somewhat severe, with temperatures regularly dropping to -30°C. However, skiers with deep pockets can take refuge at Club Med Yabuli, an all-inclusive hotel featuring restaurants, bars, high-end facilities, international staff and a snow sports school (see below).

Highly Commended: Changbaishan

Rivalling Yabuli as China’s winter sports capital, Changbaishan is another large-scale resort, this one in Jilin province, directly south of Heilongjiang. Like Yabuli, Changbaishan relies comfortably on natural snow for its base, a luxury that sets it apart from the bulk of ski resorts in China.


Changbaishan. Image:

Plenty of money has gone into developing Changbaishan as one of the country’s premier ski destinations. As a result, it benefits from some of the best infrastructure of any resort including 2 high-speed gondolas, 3 six-person chairlifts and 10 magic carpets servicing 43 runs. The hotels on offer include a Park Hyatt and a Crowne Plaza among many other luxury options.

China’s Best Ski Hotel

Winner: Club Med Yabuli

Club Med Yabuli was CM’s first foray into China, and, on the back of its success, the company has since opened branches in both Changbaishan and Beidahu. The Yabuli branch, based at Sun Mountain resort, offers an all-inclusive package to skiers wanting the very best in accommodation, dining, facilities and services.

Club Med Yabuli

Club Med Yabuli. Image:

As with any Club Med, the list of activities on offer is extensive. Yabuli guests have access to an 18 m swimming pool, Turkish and Canadian-style baths, saunas, gyms, a spa and a 10 m climbing wall. Of course, group ski lessons for kids, teens and adults are also included as part of the base package, with private lessons on offer for an additional cost.

Highly Commended: Hyatt Regency Changbaishan

The Hyatt Regency Chaingbaishan is one of several premium hotels in Changbaishan, a region that has seen significant development over the past decade. This particular 5-star offering boasts all the luxuries you’d expect from the Hyatt Regency brand including a stylish indoor pool, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, a traditional Chinese spa and several upscale restaurants including the exclusive Regency Club, reserved for ‘club level’ guests.

Hyatt Regency Changbaishan

Hyatt Regency Changbaishan


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