European ski chalets are so yesterday. We’re booking a Japanese ski ryokan this winter.
Taking the ski lift to the top of any action sports lover’s travel bucket list, Japanese ski resorts have been popping up many and plenty in recent years, as the East Asian island sees an influx of avid skiers and visitors falling for its perfect powder snow slopes. And indeed, it should not come as much of a surprise. Some regions in Japan get up to four times more annual snowfall than their Western counterparts, and in combination with a post-ski hot spring onsen, world-class cuisine and an array of refined accommodations to choose from, it’s not difficult to see why they’re coming into hot demand. Also, sake and sushi as an apres-ski treat? Groundbreaking.
Sure to get you in the mood to shoop, shoop, shoop (skiing sounds, these are skiing sounds) in no time, we’ve put together a list of some of the most luxurious Japanese ski resorts of the minute. From dreamy mountainside views to ski-to-door experiences, there’s something for everyone here – be you a hardcore professional skier or just a hardcore professional Japanese whisky sipper. Need any more convincing? Three words: Japanese snow monkeys. Read on.
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Located a mere one hour and 45 minutes by Bullet Train from Tokyo, Lotte Arai Resort lies in the Niigata Prefecture at Myoko City. Inspired by charming European villas and country cottages, the rooms and suites of the resort all boast dreamy mountain views stretching outward from Mount Myoko. The property is home to 14 ski courses and 8 areas of ungroomed snow, as well as Asia’s longest zip tour measuring a whopping 1,501 metres. After skiing, guests can unwind at the Nozawa Onsen natural hot spring bath, which sits within the crisp mountain air at 1,750 metres altitude. Containing plenty of metasilicic acid, it is known for its skin moisturising properties, making for a truly pampering experience in the most picture-perfect surroundings.
Lotte Arai Resort, 1966 Ryozenji, Myoko City, Niigata Prefecture, +81 255 75 1100
With 10-13 metres of annual snowfall and a host of sweet snow monkeys to see, it’s no surprise why Japan’s Olympic ski destination of Hakuba is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Fusing Japanese Zen principles with western luxury comfort, the One Happo Chalet at One Chalets has been dubbed ‘a James Bond fantasy made real.’ And indeed, boasting a view of the Olympic mountain from its panorama windows, the private 500 square-metre two-storey residence provides much to swoon about. From a deluxe glass wine room to a transparent fireplace, deep granite onsen overlooking the slopes and an exclusive 4×4 vehicle, One Happo makes for a great winter escape even for those who do not wish to hit the slopes. And for those that do? Due to its fairly narrow temperature range, the snow is preserved for longer, meaning that avid skiers can actually enjoy the mountain long into spring and early May.
For those seeking a genuine rural Japanese experience, visit KAI Alps in Northern Nagano. Part of a group of luxury boutique ryokans (Japanese inns), the hotel boasts a beautiful showcase of regional craftsmanship in classical surroundings. With views of the pristine ski slopes of nearby Hakuba, guests can enjoy both indoor and outdoor hot spring baths here, delicately decorated with seasonal apples for added health benefits. In the evenings, KAI Alps invites diners to indulge in the region’s noted culinary creativity, or sit around an iriori (a traditional sunken hearth), to enjoy grilled snacks, regional sake, and traditional Japanese games. For those who seek a bit of snow beyond the slopes, definitely be sure to snap an Insta inside the traditional kamakura snow domes just outside.
KAI Alps, 2884-26 Taira, Omachi, Nagano, +81 50 3786 1144
Designed to be a contemporary ski-in-ski-out resort, Aya Niseko lies at the base of one of Niseko Grand Hirafu’s most popular ski runs, the Ace Family run. Noted for its close proximity to the slopes, the resort hones the most convenient location for those who take their skiing very seriously. From studios to penthouses, the property comprises of 79 luxury apartments, each boasting floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Mount Yotei and the National Park Forest. As a few off-snow indulgences, Aya Niseko also invites guests to enjoy the natural onsen hot springs, yoga classes, and an art gallery. Dinner plans? Definitely visit the nearby Hirafu Village, a town well-known for its famous eateries.
Aya Niseko, 195-1 Aza Yamada, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, +81 136 23 1280
Set to open in 2019, Yu Kiroro will be joining The Kiroro, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel and the Sheraton Kiroro Hokkaido Resort as the pinnacle of Alpine luxury in Hokkaido’s Kiroro Ski Resort. Aiming to bring a ski-to-door experience, the property was conceptualised to combine an immersive snow experience with a winter’s sanctuary retreat. Located within a stunning valley location, the building combines traditional Japanese building techniques with fine craftsmanship, from one-bedroom apartments to a 267-square-metre penthouse. In the evenings, guests will be able to enjoy views of the night skiers with a hot cuppa by the roaring fire pits or from inside an outdoor onsen. Divine.
Yu Kiroro, 128-1 Aza-Tokiwa, Akaigawa-mura, Yoichi-gun, Hokkaido, +81 135 48 5095