It is a common question that a lot of skiers and boarders ask themselves before booking their next snow holiday. Obviously, it is a personal choice but there are many factors that you should consider before making that decision.
It is no secret, Australians love Japan. It is rich in history, with extraordinary culture, divine cuisine and some of the world’s best powder snow. A ski & snowboard trip to Japan is so much more than just that. It is a chance to immerse yourself in the calmness and romance of ancient times, temples, shrines, geishas, onsens and breathtaking scenery. At the very same time, you'll find advanced technology, a booming economy with stylish, confident and quirky cities. The deep, deep powder snow found in Japan, is just a bonus! In the 2017 International Traveller Magazine's Readers' Choice Awards, voters rated Japan as their #1 skiing destination.
Australians too, love skiing and boarding in North America. Colorado, USA sees more Australians than any other international market. In Whistler, Canada it is said to have more Australians than Canadians. Australia Day is the busiest day of the year! The resorts are big and facilities are spot on.
As for the mountains and snow, most North American resorts are huge with very long runs, the longest at Revelstoke, Canada is over 13kms. Possibly too long, imagine the burn. Japans slopes are as less aggressive and shorter, surprisingly difficult at the same time negotiating the depth of the powder snow. While they both receive an abundance of snow, 8-16 metres (some Japanese resorts have recorded much higher than that), it all comes down to the quality of snow that differentiates the areas. The snow that falls on Japan is so light and dry, like nothing that you have seen before. The only negative about that is you have no chance of making a snowball. North American snow has a higher moisture content, some as wet as the snow we receive in Australia. You have to ask yourself, what is more important, big mountain skiing or an abundance or light and dry powder snow? The technology in the North American resorts does exceed that of Japan with some resorts offering high-speed quad chairs with heated seats and gondolas with free WiFi. Japan is focusing on catching up, but is not quite there yet.
For those who will be planning to ski off-piste, you may find it a bit difficult in Japan. A lot of resorts do not allow it so you would be doing it at your own risk. Most resorts in North America are open to this.
If you are wanting to escape Australia and Australians avoid North America and Niseko and Hakuba in Japan, head straight to one of the smaller Japanese resorts like Nozawa Onsen, it is an experience like no other. There are many smaller resorts in Japan that we can highly recommend for a true Japanese experience.
If you are short of time, don’t try and head over to North America. By the time you factor in travel and jet lag, it will be time to head back home. Japan is just above us, a 10 hour flight from Sydney to Tokyo with a two hour time difference from Australian EST, so no jet lag. If you are traveling with kids, the amount of travel time should be factored in, the battery on an iPad will only last so long!
Another thing to consider with the big North American resorts is the high altitude. Altitude sickness can be terrible, drink lots of water, take some aspirin with you and tissues for bleeding noses. The Japanese resorts are not as high, so altitude sickness is not as much as a concern.
With Japan, you can expect a quirky kind of holiday. Enjoy its karaoke, beer from vending machines, bathing naked with complete strangers in its mineral enriched onsens, shared bathroom facilities, food that you don’t even know what you’re eating, a language barrier and some of the world’s best light and dry powder snow. Resorts like Niseko will give you a full western style holiday, just as you would in North America, but be game, enrich yourself and immerse yourself in a traditional Japanese experience, stay in an ancient family owned Ryokan guest house with futons on the tatami mat flooring and yukata pajamas. Japan has genuine culture. Be prepared to show respect and curiosity. Loud and disrespectful behaviour that you may be able to get away with in North America, you certainly won’t be able to in Japan.
With North America expect big! Big mountains, big runs, big personalities, big meals, big stores and chains. Expect a standard snow holiday.
While we are the Japan ski and snowboard holiday specialists and know these amazing resorts inside out, we have also lived and skied and boarded our way around the world and are happy to help you with your snow holiday to whatever resort you wish to travel to.