The new year has brought about several new experiences for skiers in Japan.

Japan’s ski season is well underway, and, for the most part, things have picked up where they left off at the end of last season. There are a couple of changes to take note of, however, including new resorts, restaurants and business developments. To help navigate these changes, we’ve put together a “bucket list” for the 2024 ski season.

Visit Nekoma Mountain (formerly Nekoma & Alts Bandai)

Hoshino Resorts Nekoma Mountain is a “new” ski resort based in Aizu, a province whose talls peaks and immaculate powder are still a fairly well kept secret.

The resort’s South and North ski areas, which previously belonged to Alts Bandai and Nekoma Snow Park, were recently merged into a single operation after the introduction of an 810 m pair lift linking the two areas.

Kids' ski lessons at NEKOMA Mountain

Image: Hoshino Resorts

This “mega resort” now ranks as one of the largest in the Tohoku region, offering a combined 33 trails (39 km in length) and 13 lifts, totalling 189 hectares of skiable terrain. There are also several world-class terrain parks on offer including a 20 m kicker, which previously hosted the FIS Alts Bandai Big Air competition.

Go luxe in Niseko: Niseko-Yo / Louis Vuitton pop-up in Hanazono

Niseko has no shortage of options for the luxury traveller. Japan’s ever-evolving winter sports capital is now home to an abundance of designer chalets, lavish brand-name hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants.

Its latest luxury developments include Niseko-Yo, a collection of international restaurants and shops at Niseko Village, plus a Louis Vuitton pop-up store and branded gondolas at Niseko Hanazono.

The pop-up store, based at the Park Hyatt Hanazono, is housed in a conspicuously branded yurt and features a curated range of women’s and men’s travel luggage, leather goods and accessories. Its closing date is set for 25 February.

Get deep in Geto Kogen

Heading into the 2023/24 ski season, there were concerns that the presence of El Niño, a global weather phenomenon, would bring about subpar ski conditions throughout Japan. Now a few weeks into winter, these predictions have begun to materialise, with resorts including Niseko and Nozawa Onsen suffering slow starts to the season.

Not all resorts have fared badly, however. Geto Kogen, located in a heavy snowfall region of Iwate Prefecture, recorded more than 4 m of cumulative snowfall by 8 December, a figure that has since crept up to 7.06 m (as of 4 January). The resort, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary, is well worth a look in 2024, having more or less resisted the effects of El Niño until now. Japan’s self-proclaimed “king of snow” averages 15 m of snowfall per year, so expect plenty more powder days.

Image: Geto Kogen Resort

Head to the Sapporo Snow Festival and enjoy the return of the Tsudome site

The Sapporo Snow Festival is one of Hokkaido’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing 2 million visitors during a 7-day period each year. The festival is most famous for its International Snow Sculpture Contest, which sees 200+ sculptures on display in Sapporo’s Odori Park.

After a 4-year, COVID-induced hiatus, the festival’s popular Tsudome site is back. This family-oriented zone will feature slides, snow rafts and other children’s attractions from 4-11 February.

Sapporo Snow Festival

APPI Kogen’s new black pass

This season, Appi Kogen debuted its ultra exclusive “Black Pass”, a limited issue (weekend/holiday) lift ticket with some truly impressive perks. For ¥33,000 (USD $230) per day, customers can enjoy VIP privileges including Nishimori Cat access, a food court priority lane, and an hour’s head start on the gondola.

Priority access to the large lift/Appi Gondola and use of the Summit Gallery Café are also included. However, the pass is only available during the regular season until 31 March.

Image: Appi Kogen

Ski Myoko before the Whistler crowds arrive

Singapore investment group PCG recently announced a 10 year, 210 billion yen plan to transform Myoko Kogen into a Whistler-style mega resort, with the aim to introduce global hotel brands, a luxury shopping district and fine dining restaurants. The company has already raised 35 billion yen (AUD$367 million) in its bid to change the landscape of one of Japan’s oldest ski destinations.

For those that wish to enjoy Myoko Kogen in its current form, best get there quickly. PCG has already begun its first phase of development.

Image: Patience Capital Group


Japan backcountry skiingOrganise your guided backcountry skiing tour in Japan

There are lots of options in Hokkaido and Honshu that can be tailored to the kind of skiing you like and when you plan to come. Answer a few questions and we’ll get back to you with some recommendations.

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