With the Japanese borders finally opening, it’s not too late to consider passes that may assist you in enjoying the finest Japow the predicted La Niña-affected 2022/23 season is set to provide. Some may wish to wait and judge conditions and leg soreness on a day-by-day basis. However, there might be some value found in the passes below, particularly for those not staying in the same place for the duration of the Japan ski holiday. Check out some of the multi-resort passes available to ski travellers this northern winter.

Epic Pass

The Epic Pass remains one of the planet’s largest multi-resort passes for the 2022/23 northern winter season. It covers a huge 69 resorts worldwide. Assuming you’re only making one venture north and that is to Japan, the resorts covered include Rusutsu and Hakuba Valley – two of Japan’s largest resort areas.

Epic Pass holders can get one 5-day lift pass at each resort with no blackout dates. With ten days of free riding, this is a decent saving for those who plan to visit both resort areas on a single visit to Japan.

Hakuba Valley

Hakuba Valley

What makes the above a consideration of note, however, is that Rusutsu and Hakuba are some distance apart, with Rusutsu being in Hokkaido and Hakuba on Japan’s main island, Honshu. As such, getting between the two will require either a flight or a long train journey. Spending five days in Hakuba before heading to Hokkaido with a stopover in between is probably a good option to ski two of Japan’s most famous ski areas on one trip.

Epic Pass – USD$879 (goes up 9th of October)
Epic Local Pass – USD$655

Epic Australia Pass

Much like the Epic Pass, the Epic Australia Pass offers unlimited and unrestricted access to a variety of resorts the world over. Where Japan is concerned, Rusutsu and Hakuba are covered. Again, the Epic Australia Pass is limited to these two (admittedly pretty great) ski areas. With over 500 ski resorts in Japan, it won’t suit those who want to venture to places like Nozawa Onsen, Myoko Kogen, Shiga Kogen, or beyond.

Epic Australia Pass – AUD$899 (goes up 19th of October)

Rusutsu, Japan

Rusutsu, Japan. Image: Epic Australia

IKON Pass

The biggest news when talking of the IKON Pass and Japan is that, in addition to Niseko United, Lotte Arai Ski Resort is now covered as of the 2022/23 season. Like much of the Myoko Kogen area, Lotte receives huge snowfall. During the 2021/22 season, more than 22 metres of Japow was reported. With most looking forward to another forecast La Niña season in 22/23, big things are expected again.

Lotte Arai ski resort

Lotte Arai has been added to the IKON pass line up for the 22/23 season. Image: lottehotel.com/arai-resort

A North American-based pass provider, the IKON pass offers a growing list of access to resorts around the world with over 50. In Japan, that includes just Niseko United and Lotte Arai. IKON Pass holders will have access to seven days at Niseko United and Lotte Arai Resort with no blackout dates, and IKON Base Pass holders will have access to five days, with some blackout dates. IKON Session 4-day Pass holders can get four free Niseko United All Mountain tickets but, like Base Pass holders, will want to check blackout dates. Lotte Arai is not available on the IKON Session Pass.

IKON Pass – USD$1,179
IKON Base Pass – USD$869
IKON Session Pass 4-Day – USD$449

Indy Pass

The Indy Pass is a cloud-based pass that offers holders two free lift tickets and a third discounted day at each of their partner resorts. In Japan, the focus is away from the big named resorts and lift queues (only relatively speaking where Japan is concerned, of course) and into what they call the “next frontier in the ‘Japow’ scene”. That is the Tohoku region of Honshu, Japan’s main island.

Tazawako Ski Area

Tazawako. Image: Akita Tourism Federation

Resorts included are Geto Kogen, Aomori Spring Ski Resort, Okunakayama Kogen, Shimokura and Tazawako. Passes include 2 all-day or 2 all-night tickets and a 25% discount on a third day. Blackout days only apply to Indy Base Pass holders and, in Japan, only at Aomori Spring Ski Resort.

Indy+ Pass – USD$429
Indy Base Pass – USD$329

Earth Hopper Pass

This Japanese pass covers not just skiing and snowboarding, but also biking, surfing, and camping around Japan. Perhaps the best value and most practical way to use it would be to opt for the Earth Hopper Standard pass, as opposed to the Earth Hopper Unlimited pass.

The Earth Hopper Standard pass entitles the holder to 16 days of skiing (or any of the other activities mentioned above) at many different resorts throughout Japan for a very enticing ¥38,800 (or ¥23,300 for children 7 and under). The catch is that you can only have a maximum of two days at each resort. So, it will be an option for those travelling around. If you account for an average day pass cost of ¥5,000, visiting 8 ski resorts over 16 days of skiing for less than ¥40,000 is a substantial saving.

Madarao powder

Madarao, Japan

The Earth Hopper Unlimited pass covers a whole season for ¥60,000 and again, also includes biking, surfing, and camping areas.

Ski resorts included are mostly in Hokkaido (including Niseko Annupuri) and Niigata (including Lotte Arai and Akakura Kanko) but also some in nearby Nagano (including Madarao) among others in Iwate, Yamagata, Gunma, Akita, Yamanashi, Hyogo and Ehime.

If you’re considering the Earth Hopper Pass as an option and don’t read Japanese, you may want to enlist some help. It could be worth the effort if you’re looking at not spending too long in the same place.

Earth Hopper Standard – ¥38,800
Earth Hopper Unlimited – ¥60,000

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