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Image credit: Rusutsu

Joys of Japan

With a time difference of just two hours from Sydney, there’s no risk of jet lag. No wonder Japan is becoming such a popular ski destination for Aussies, writes Hilary Doling.


With nearly 80 percent of the country covered by mountains it is no surprise that Japan has so many ski resorts but which one do you choose? Here are some popular family choices.


HOKKAIDO
The northern island of Hokkaido is a skiing mecca for Australians with many of Japan's best known resorts.



Niseko and Hanazono
Known for: champagne snow


Niseko is one of snowiest resorts in the world with an annual snowfall of over 16 metres. Aussies love the four main areas - Hanazono, Hirafu, Higashiyama and Annupuri - that make up this vast skiing area. They are attracted by the quality of the great powder snow and the fact that many of the instructors at The Niseko international Ski School (NISS) are English speaking, making lessons easy and enjoyable. Together the resorts have a total of 30 lifts and 61 runs to choose from ad you can ski them all on one lift pass. Hanazono is one of the most family -friendly and has a great adventure snow park for children with a Zipline, tubing and sledding, directly in front of Hanazono 308. The nearby city of Sapporo has a great range of restaurants and shopping. Visit in February and you'll catch the spectacular Ice Festival with giant snow and ice sculptures. Childcare is excellent and Niseko Snow Kids’ has a night Owls program from 6pm to 9p for those parents who want to head out to dinner a deux.


Furano and Hoshino
Known for: deep powder

When it snows here, it snows A LOT. The snow is also dry - making the powder justly famous. You'll find a whole span of accommodation from traditional ryokens to five star hotels at the base of the lifts and the Furano lift pass can also be used at nearby Kamui Ski Links and Hoshino Resort Tomamu. There are beginner trails from right at the top of the mountain, so families of all levels can go up in the superfast cable car together, spread out, then meet again at the bottom. . The childcare has English speaking staff and offers a variety of activities for kids. Furano Town is a buzzy place with a heap of family-friendly restaurants. Hoshino Resort Tomamu, offer some of the tallest alpine accommodation in the world. The hotel towers in the small base village stand out like giant icicles.


Rusutsu
Known for: tree skiing

One and a half hours southwest of Sapporo, Rusutsu has some of the best tree skiing in Japan. Spread across three peaks, West Mountain, East Mountain and Mt Isola. Experts head to the runs from Mt Isola to East Mountain where you can ski through the trees through the trees and are recommended for more confident skiers. Freedom Park is one of the best in terrain parks in Japan and suits ability levels. There are so many activities to choose from in Rusutsu, families will have a hard time fitting everything in. There is an indoor wave pool and Kids of 13 and up will also enjoy the 100 metre long tubing ride in the snow park next to Rusutsu Tower.

Image credit: Furano Tourism

HONSHU


Appi Kogen
Known for: luxury accommodation

Wealthy Japanese head for Appi Kogen, in the north of Honshu dubbed the ‘St Moritz’ of Japan. The area is known for its reliable (and deep) snow and its long, wide runs. Over half of its 21 runs are more than two kilometres long. There are plenty of runs for all levels and the famous Salomon Snowpark, is is one of the best in Japan and separated into beginner and intermediate terrains. For the little ones the Appi Family Park beginner’s area has ski runs are surrounded by netting and 73 metre-long long magic carpet.


Hakuba
Known for: steep runs

The Japanese Alps hosted the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, but it despite this it is still not really on the western tourist radar. Hakuba boasts the steepest runs of Japan’s 600 ski resorts. Many events of the Nagano Winter Olympics, including the downhill skiing, were held on the slopes in Hakuba. Experienced ski families will love the consistent powder snow on the challenging runs but there are p beginner’s options too and the instructors at ski school speak fluent English. Evergreen Outdoor Center can organise childcare and lessons and a variety of tours such as snoeshoeing. in Hakuba can organise a variety of tours , Nagano has been operating guided tours since 2000, and has been instrumental in developing outdoor recreation activities, ecology tours, and m The Happo-Wando area has a good variety of accommodation, including family-friendly apartments. Off-snow children can learn to make noodles or have an origami lesson.


Nozawa Onsen
Known for: traditional charm

Onsen are natural hot springs, so you know what to expect if you choose to stay in this pretty traditional ski village. Nosawa ski resort has 13. The village with its traditional buildings and narrow winding streets is as much of an attraction as the attraction is not just Nozawa ski slopes on the village edge. For a truly Japanese experience stay in a traditional ryoken Over a dozen public bath houses, or onsen, can be found in the narrow twisting streets You'll see people in bath robes padding along the street from their inn to the public hot springs and no one thinks it strange. . As guests of a ryokan (traditional inn), our hosts give us patterned cotton gowns and wooden thongs to wear into the village. The hot springs are open from 5am to 11pm every day and entry is free. A trip to Jigokudani Yaen-koen Park to see the snow monkeys is a must.

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