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Ski Japan. Guide to insurance + powder + when to go

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Skiing in Japan seems to be on everyone’s lips at the moment. Yes, Japan’s said to have the best powder in the world, but taking to the slopes isn’t cheap.

Here, we explore the best times to go and explain why that snow is so special. Then, in a follow up post we’ll give you some expert tips on how to holiday there without breaking the bank

Snow, glorious snow!

The one thing that will ruin a ski trip is a no-show in the snow department. Statistically, Japan is the best bet in the world for a winter powder day. It is typical to get 10-15cm dump of fresh snow, three to four days a week, in peak season. But why is the snow so good? 

A bit of science

According to meteorologist Joel Gratz, the vast landmasses of Asia and Japan’s nearby ocean are responsible: 

“The general west-to-east flow of weather pushes cold air from Russia and China over the Sea of Japan and then into the mountains along the west coast of Japan. The combination of cold air, moisture from the Sea of Japan, and the lift created when the wind hits Japan’s mountains is what creates heavy snow.” opensnow.com

So Japan’s snow is light and dry because it blasts across Siberia, picks up moisture over the sea and dumps itself conveniently on the slopes! 

The fact that the water in the Sea of Japan doesn’t freeze also means there is always moisture in the atmosphere, which then falls as glorious snow.

When to go? 

The ski season generally runs from mid December to early April, although it is dependent on snow conditions at each resort.

Hokkaido is considered one of the best places to go. The season there starts early, especially at resorts like Kiroro and Niseko. 

  • Christmas to New Year

    This is the most popular time for the Japanese to go skiing so try to avoid this period, it can get very busy.

  • Till the end of January

    Australian school holidays run till the end of January and the slopes at resorts like Niseko, Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen, and Rusutsu can be busy with Australian families. It can also be pretty cold.

  • Don’t forget the fire festival period at Nozawa Onsen (15th January). If you are planning to go book very early.
  • Chinese New Year

This is the most popular time for skiers from Singapore and China.

  • February – the best!

    In early February the weather is pretty similar to that of January and it’s a great time for powder.

    Late February is generally excellent for snow and the crowds are beginning to go too. Apart from CNY February is a great time to go.

    Don’t forget in early February there’s the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido.

  • March

    Pick a high resort in the north and/or a northerly aspect. Powder days are still common but warmer temperatures can affect the snow quality.

  • April

    It’s coming to the end of the season, costs are lower, crowds are less and the sun is out so you take a risk on the snow conditions.

Travel insurance – am I covered for skiing?

We all know friends and colleagues who come back from the slopes sporting an injury - although sport safety experts argue skiing is no more dangerous than a game of football! Here’s what you need to know.

  • Research shows that the two major factors that cause injuries are speed and faulty equipment
  • Knee ligament tears and strains, broken limbs and cuts and bruises are the most common snow injuries.
  • Travel insurance is an absolute must. As part of your standard travel insurance with Budget Direct Insurance, leisure skiing and snowboarding on marked slopes with or without an instructor is covered by your policy.
  • Off-piste skiing is not covered by your travel insurance. Always check your policy.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, remember it’s vital to have good Travel cover. 
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