Spring skiing & snowboarding in Japan

A Guide to Spring Skiing in Japan

First we asked you to believe there's snow in Japan. Now we're asking you to go a step further: to believe not only is there snow, but that it sticks around longer than it does in a lot of the rest of the world.

Don't believe us? Think of all those pictures you've seen of Mount Fuji covered in snow while the rest of the scene is green. That's because in Japan, you don't always need to go north for snow - sometimes you just need to go up. And in a nation that' s 72% mountain, there's a whole lot of "up" to go around.

Then there's the quantity factor: Japan gets a ton of precipitation year-round. How much? According to the World Bank, an average of more than 1,600 millimeters (63 inches) every year. That's more than Switzerland or Austria, roughly double France or the U.S., and three times as much as Canada. The only places that get more precipitation are huddled around the equator - except for Iceland. We're not sure about Iceland.

Since Japan gets that precipitation year-round, it means the nation is actually home to some of the snowiest spots in the world. The country even has a ski resort that's so snowbound it doesn't open until spring because there's just too much powder for humans to handle. Another area has a mountain pass that has to be cut out of up to 20 meters (66 feet) of snow every April, and even in an average year there's still 10 meters (33 feet) of white stuff piled up by mid-June.

Put simply: Japan. Knows. Snow. And it knows it for a long time. Gear up in the first week of May and you'll usually find some of the top ski resorts still doing business - with a handful even carrying on until June.

So why ski in spring? For one, spring brings in some of its best weather Japan gets all year. The rainy season doesn't set in until late June or July in the snow zones (and not at all in Hokkaido), meaning it's all about warm weather and clear skies. Forget sweeping flakes off your goggles - there’s visibility for miles.

Snowboard in your T-shirt. Remember to bring sunscreen and shades, because most days will be blinding. Instead of huddling indoors for your après-ski, enjoy sitting outside in the clean mountain air. If you time your trip right, you could even be treated to a town full of cherry blossoms while there’s still carving to be done on the slopes.

Then there's the price: nearly every resort open past April offers reduced-rate lift tickets for spring skiing. Accommodations also skew cheaper as the off-season approaches, and lift lines shrink by the day - until the very end, that is, when everyone tries to get in that one last run.

It's a lot to take in. And even in May, there's usually a lot of snow still left to be carved.

Update (April 2016):

During the 2015-2016 many regions of Japan have experienced much less snow than usual. This means that there is less snow to enjoy during late spring this year and some resorts have been closing sooner than originally planned. Hopefully things will be getting 'back to normal' for the 2016-2017 season.

Keep an eye on our exclusive and independent daily reporting from around the regions: Daily Reports