A Winter's Tale: My Family Adventure in the Snowy Peaks of Japan
The winter air nipped at our noses as we stepped out of the plane and onto Japanese soil. I remember pressing my gloved hand into my four-year-old son, Aiden's, equally mittened one, excitement bubbling up within me. Tokyo, with its dazzling neon and bustling crowds, was a far cry from our peaceful, snow-capped destination - Hakuba. But our journey was just beginning.
Shrugging off our jetlag, we boarded a Shinkansen, the famed Japanese bullet train, our breaths hitching in unison as the urban landscape slowly gave way to a picturesque, snow-clad countryside. Hakuba, nestled in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture, awaited us with promises of velvety ski slopes and thermal hot springs.
Our first day was a whirlwind of fluffy white snow, laughter, and a few harmless tumbles. Aiden, wide-eyed with wonder, found a new friend in his jovial English-speaking ski instructor, while my husband and I, already decent skiers, dared each other onto the steeper slopes. The resort was teeming with families like ours, their laughter echoing against the snowy peaks.
Despite my adventurous spirit, nothing had prepared me for the sensation of gliding down those exquisitely groomed slopes. Each swoosh of my skis on the powder-like snow was like a brush stroke on a blank canvas - thrilling, unpredictable, and oh-so satisfying.
As night fell, we'd exchange our ski boots for yukatas, traditional Japanese robes, and submerge ourselves in the steamy embrace of the onsen. The hot springs, dotted around the resort, were a surreal contrast to the cold outside. As the thermal waters soaked away our tiredness, we’d swap stories of our day's adventures, Aiden's animated tales of snowball fights and friendly races often taking center stage.
The food was another adventure altogether. Our taste buds embarked on a journey of their own, from warming bowls of ramen to the freshest sushi we had ever tasted. The cosy izakaya we found ourselves returning to, time and again, was a cacophony of clinking glasses and laughter, a perfect backdrop to our delicious explorations.
Hakuba was not just a place; it was an experience. Each day was a novel waiting to be written - skiing down slopes that sparkled like diamonds under the winter sun, learning to craft delicate origami with local artisans, tasting snow-cooled sake in the glow of paper lanterns.
For adrenaline junkies, Hakuba offered challenges beyond family-friendly slopes. My husband braved Happo-One's advanced terrains, while I found joy in the quieter, intermediate slopes. For beginners and little ones, there were plenty of gentler options, while the English-speaking ski school and the engaging child care facilities were godsent for parents like us.
If your idea of a family ski holiday leans more towards Disneyland-style resorts with indoor parks, then Rusutsu Resort might be a better fit for you. Yet for us, it was Hakuba, with its promise of a genuine immersion in the Japanese winter lifestyle, that had called us to its snowy embrace.
And so, with hearts full of unforgettable memories, we bid goodbye to Hakuba. As the bullet train whirred us back to Tokyo, I looked at Aiden, his small hand clutching a paper crane - a keepsake from an adventure of a lifetime.
Travel writing is often about destinations. But the best journeys, I believe, are the ones that transform us. And our family ski trip to Hakuba, with its heady mix of adventure, culture, and tradition
Rusutsu Resort, Hokkaido (9/10)
Rusutsu Resort in Hokkaido is a remarkable choice for families. It offers an abundance of green and blue runs that are perfect for beginners and intermediates. The ski school is renowned for its English-speaking instructors, making ski lessons easy to follow for international visitors.
Off the slopes, the resort features indoor wave pools, a carousel, and a games arcade, ensuring entertainment for the kids after a day of skiing. Despite all its perks, it's slightly less accessible than other Hokkaido resorts, which might be a consideration for some families.
Naeba Ski Resort, Niigata (8.5/10)
Naeba Ski Resort, part of the larger Mt. Naeba snow resort area, is a fantastic choice for families. Its wide, gentle slopes are great for beginners, and the well-organized English-speaking ski school makes learning fun and easy for children.
The Naeba Prince Hotel, located right at the base, offers ski-in/ski-out convenience and houses a variety of dining options and indoor recreational facilities. Despite its allure, Naeba's snow conditions can be a bit inconsistent compared to Hokkaido resorts.
Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel, Nagano (8/10)
Situated within the Shiga Kogen ski area, the Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel provides easy access to a wide range of slopes suitable for all skill levels. The resort is less crowded compared to others, providing a more relaxed environment for families.
The hotel offers kid-friendly amenities like child care and rental services for children's ski equipment. However, English is less widely spoken here, which might be a challenge for some international families.
Embracing Winter Fun in Japan
Each of these family-friendly ski resorts in Japan brings its unique offerings to ensure a splendid winter vacation. From gentle slopes and exceptional ski schools to kid-friendly amenities, these resorts are designed to make every family's ski holiday in Japan a truly magical experience. Regardless of where you choose to base your family, Japan's welcoming hospitality and enchanting winter landscapes are sure to create lasting memories.
Find ski hotels & lodging in Nagano
Plan the perfect ski vacation from $83 with Expedia
Here's a brief explanation for each of the scores:
Please note that this is a comparative scorecard and might vary depending on the specific needs and preferences of a family. It is always recommended to research and consider these factors when planning a ski trip.
💼 We cherish our independence! ✈️ Our travel recommendations are carefully researched, bias-free, and powered by human expertise by April and Ricky of LRB (we have personally researched and travelled to many of these destinations and researched others thoroughly through first-hand accounts). 🌍✨
We try to keep everything up to date, but please always do your own research and contact us if you know any issues for us to help others as best we can as a small but professionally focused team! 🧐📚⚠️
Oct 01, 23 11:36 PM
Oct 01, 23 11:24 PM
Oct 01, 23 10:54 PM
Oct 01, 23 10:25 PM