Your buddy may have just returned with epic tales of his boarding experience in Japan, another mate has just told you about some seriously big mountain skiing in Canada and another friend is trying to convince you to make the most of your Epic Australia pass over in the States. So how do you work out which country has the best skiing for your 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 skiing in 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! And when we say deep, we really mean deep. Some resorts in Japan have recorded over 20 metres of snow a year. The current season we are having, 2017-18 looks to be an epic one. By mid December, barely into winter, Niseko has already received 5 metres of snow! Completely insane! In the 2017 International Traveller Magazine's Readers' Choice Awards, voters rated Japan as their #1 skiing destination. Japan boasts a huge variety of ski resorts to choose from with the most popular and well known being Niseko, Hakuba, Furano, Rusutsu, Nozawa Onsen and Shiga Kogen.
Photo credit: Kiroro resort, Hokkaido, Japan
Photo credit: Aspen Snowmass, Colorado, USA
Australians too, love skiing and boarding in Canada and USA. 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. There are no language barrier so you know if you pop the kids into ski school for the day, there won’t be a communication barrier. That goes for all lessons, if an instructor says “we’re about to jump off this cliff”, you’re pretty sure to understand that in Canada and USA. If you have that same conversation in Japan, it may not be until you are at the bottom of the cliff until you actually understand what was said, hopefully still in one piece.
As for the mountains and snow, most North American ski resorts are huge with very long runs, the longest at Revelstoke, Canada is over 13kms. Possibly too long, imagine the burn. Japans ski 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 averages (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. It is known as ‘japow’. 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. Don’t be surprised when you see single seat chairlifts in Japan.
Photo credit: Whistler/Mike Crane
Photo credit: Snorkel kind of day in Niseko, Japan
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 ski holidays, 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.
Photo credit: Snow monkeys in onsens, Nagano, Japan
Photo credit: Vail Village, Colorado, USA
With skiing in North America expect big! Big mountains, big runs, big personalities, big meals, big stores, big expectations. A snow holiday to Canada and USA is easy and effortless and should be in your comfort zone. It is definitely bigger and better than skiing in Australia but is more familiar.
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 Canada and USA and are happy to help you with your snow holiday to whatever resort you wish to travel to.
Contact us today for a quote on your next snow holiday to Japan, Canada or USA.