Ice deposits on pine trees are seen at Zao hot spring and ski resort in Yamagata, northeastern Japan.
Ice deposits on pine trees are seen at Zao hot spring and ski resort in Yamagata, northeastern Japan.

TRAVEL: Skiing in Japan is value for money

SKI season is definitely here, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the ski fields in Australia.

This week is all about skiing in Japan, one of the best places to ski. Normally I wouldn't be writing about skiing in Japan for another couple of months but the ski companies have jumped the gun and released a whole lot of early bird deals.

So this week's article is for all the ski enthusiasts out there who have conquered Australia's and New Zealand's snow fields and are looking for that next great challenge.

Imagine flying down the beautifully groomed runs that seem to go forever and at the end of the day when you can ski or snowboard no more you retire to your mountain chalet for a well earned rest.

If that sounds like you then now is the time of the year to take advantage of some great deals to Japan for their winter ski season, starting in December and going through to April 2015.

Companies like Travelplan Ski and Skimax have early bird deals that include accommodation, lift passes and some meals, however they finish on June 30.

Some friends of mine who have skied Japan say that the northern hemisphere snow is better than what we are use to down under.

They do get a lot colder conditions than we are use to here and their snow fields are generally higher up as well, maybe all this creates perfect conditions for great snow and skiing.

Skiing Niseko in Japan's north is a great place to visit with some of the best snow anywhere. To get to Niseko you make your way to Sapporo. A coach transfer from the airport to Niseko will take a couple of hours. I recommend a flight from either Tokyo on Jetstar Asia or flying via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific Airlines.

Niseko on Hokkaido has exploded in popularity of the past five years with Australian snowboarders and skiers.

With over 12m of snowfall annually and spectacular scenery, Niseko has it all for the international traveller. The summit of 1309m it has 43 lifts. The difficulty of the runs is the same as Hakuba.

However you have more choices as to where to eat. Niseko has around 92 bars and restaurants all offering a variety of food from Japanese, Asian to Western.

A winter early bird deal at Niseko is seven nights accommodation in a two bedroom apartment, return airport transfers and a six day lift ticket for only $1855 per adult and $1592 per child. Available between February 11-28, 2017.

The Hakuba/Nagano region is among the best ski fields in Japan having hosted the 1998 Winter Olympic Games.

There is plenty of accommodation available from basic traditional Japanese style right up to deluxe.

The summit is 1820m high. You have 31 lifts to choose from. Thirty per cent of the runs are aimed at advanced skiers, 40% for the intermediate and for my standard there are 30% beginners.

At night you have a choice of 75 bars and restaurants which could get dangerous if you have happen to like a bit of sake.

A Christmas special from December 24-29 includes five nights accommodation twin share in a three star lodge near snow, daily breakfast, three day lift pas and a Snow Monkeys tour, which will include lunch and a temple visit.

Skiing and snowboarding in Japan is becoming easier and more accessible each year. We have more airlines now that are flying to these ski destinations and with more competition comes cheaper airfares. Hakuba is a great example, Jetstar fly from the Gold Coast direct into Tokyo (Narita) and from there you can catch a bullet train to Nagano where you would be collected and transferred to Hakuba. Only a few hours by bullet train from Tokyo.

No matter what destination you choose you are going to have a ski and a cultural experience that will stay with you always, just ask someone who you might know that has been and I'm sure they will be more than happy to tell you about the wonderful time they had.

If you are after some more information call in and grab a brochure or talk to a staff member, they're only too happy to help.

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