With the snow and winter culture within the rest of Asia growing, two countries are emerging as the counterparts of Europe’s Swiss and French Alps. So especially for tropical countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines, say goodbye to the sun and hello to the snow. Here’s a comparative analysis of some of the best places we’ve visited for skiing and snowboarding.
1. Naeba, Japan
Naeba Ski Resort
Where to stay: Naeba Prince
How to get there
Faster than a speeding bullet from the Tokyo Narita Airport! More info here.
It’s not so bad considering the convenience you get—it’s the closest to the airport. Just make sure to reserve early.
This is probably one of the most accessible ski resorts for people traveling from outside Japan, made possible by their Shinkansen (Japanese for bullet train) going straight from Tokyo from the airport.
They have a lot of instructors for both skiing and snowboarding but they go fast due to the influx of people. They get a lot of English-speaking part-timers who stay for the ski season for non-Japanese speaking guests.
There’s a list of things to do and various choices of restaurants to eat at. Eat at your own expense though, explore.
Insider tip: Make your way to Yuzawa train station to get access to their information centre, souvenir boutiques and of course, your trusty food stalls.
Since Naeba Prince is the most accessible spot from the airport, it also probably has the most volume of people at one time. They have a public Japanese onsen hot bath but due to the volume of people—expect to see more people with you in the tubs. Yes, it can get overcrowded during certain months but Naeba has some areas up on top with good snow and a little less people. Don’t expect to have space for your daredevil exhibitions. You can easily get lost in this snow mecca.
The powder is not the best and can be rock-hard sometimes. Probably also depending on what month you go, but there are days wheresome parts are closed due to lack of snowfall.
2. Aomori, Japan
Aomori Spring Ski Resort
Where to stay: Rockwood Hotel & Spa
Very affordable for its quality. Two thumbs up!
The property is very well kept and organized. Their service is very premium, but not snobby. They pick you up from the airport and straight to the hotel regardless of your time of arrival.
Every modern traveler’s dream: free Wi-Fi all over the hotel.
Their Japanese onsen hot bath complements their ski facilities perfectly. The good thing is since the ski resort isn’t so busy with people you still have your privacy.
They may not have a lot of instructors but since the resort also feels very private, it’s not hard to book them. They have some English-speaking staff and some foreign part-timers who stay for the ski season for non-Japanese speaking guests. They also offer guided tour services and photo/video documentation for your trip. Say goodbye to selfies and asking strangers to take your photos.
Offers buffet three times a day and is fully stocked with some of the best Japanese selections. Loved the Snowcrabs for dinner. Food was superb. There’s also a really good ramen bar facing the slopes.
Not overcrowded at all (compared to the rest) so rest assured you have tons of space to play and fall. It has two lifts and a gondola that runs until early evening as night falls faster in this area.
They have a couple of ski shops complete with everything you need. Well, almost.
The powder is immaculate. Feels like you’re skiing or snowboarding in heaven. Now did that get your attention?
It’s a bit harder to get to compared to the easiest—being another plane ride—once you’re inside Japan, but the journey is definitely worth the destination.
Sidenote: We almost got rerouted due to a blizzard warning… yep that’s how much snow they get.
Aside from the fact that night falls early in this part of the world, there’s also nothing to do at night but then that gives you more time to snowboard during the day right? To be fair, they’ve got a theater room that you can use for when you run out of things to do.
Insider tip: Rockwood also offers unique cycling tours in this picturesque prefecture during its non-winter season.
3. Gangwon do, South Korea
Yongpyong Ski Resort, South Korea
Vivaldi Park Ski Resort
Where to stay: Daemyung Hotel
You can take a three-hour bus ride from Incheon airport. Not that fast but better than taking another flight.
There’s a lot to do and various choices of restaurants to eat at. Eat at your own expense as you explore around.
Winter in South Korea can sometimes be unforgiving, thus, a thriving ski industry. Just go around Gangwon Do and you’ll see that there’s so much ski shops everywhere that it’s like a mall.
Overcrowded during certain months and is like Disneyland for ski and snowboarding and we’re not talking about the rides.
Depends on when you’re going , but a lot of the early winter months they don’t get snow and they make their own—which isn’t the most ideal as fake snow turn hard fast and is dangerous when you fall on it.
There’s not a lot of staff that speaks English but things are changing with more Koreans learning the universal language.
If you’re looking for the perfect spot for a relaxing weekend just honing your craft and enjoying snowboarding or skiing without much distraction and frills, Rockwood Hotel & Spa in Aomori, Japan is our choice—hands down. There’s simply no comparison to its powder. It’s like going to a pristine white-sand beach with crystal clear waters. It’s a bit of a trip, yes, but then again the hardest things to get are normally the best ones. Enjoy it while it’s still one of Japan’s best-kept secrets.
If you’re looking to do more than just snowboard or ski (e.g. shop, party and do other activities) your next best option would be:
Naeba: especially if you’re considering accessibility. The bullet trains take you there in 70 to 90 minutes.
Gangwon Do: if you can spare an extra hour or two of traveling via bus and if you’re a big fan of kimchi and Korean drama, as you will also see some of the known sets they shot at.
A big factor in your decision also is proximity to where you’re coming from and which cuisine you prefer: Korean or Japanese. The nest times to go would be between December to February with the latter months having more snow for Naeba and Gangwon Do.
If you have your own Caveman tips for ski trips, we’d like to hear from you! Sound off in the comments below. We hear Hokkaido’s not bad as well—watch out for a future review.
The list will keep evolving so stay tuned for our updates.