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From Tahoe to Hokkaido: Why Japan is the Next Step for Local Backcountry Skiers

two backcountry skiers in Japan tour uphill on a vast white slope with the mountains spread behind them
A skier creates a cloud of powder down a steep slope with a Japanese volcano in the background beneath a blue sky.
a skier jumps off a small cliff while skiing in Japan

For skiers seasoned on the slopes of Lake Tahoe and beyond in the United States, Japan presents an alluring challenge and a fresh powder paradise, making it an ideal destination for those looking to elevate their skiing from local to international levels. Here’s why American backcountry skiers should consider Japan for their next big adventure:

Unmatched Snow Quality

Japan’s snow is famously fluffy and abundant. Unlike the typically heavier snow often found in Tahoe’s maritime snowpack, Japanese powder, known as “Japow,” is light and airy, akin to skiing through a cloud. This exceptional snow quality is primarily due to cold Siberian winds that collect moisture from the Sea of Japan, resulting in snowfall that is frequent and intensely powdery. For backcountry skiers, this means the thrill of skiing is magnified, as every turn kicks up clouds of snow, creating a dream-like state that’s hard to find elsewhere. Read more about why the skiing in Japan is so good. 

Varied and Challenging Terrain

The Japanese Alps, stretching through the heart of Honshu Island, offer a dramatic shift from the familiar terrains of Tahoe. These mountains feature steep, volcanic slopes that provide a variety of backcountry opportunities, from tight tree runs to vast alpine vistas. The terrain in Japan challenges skiers to adapt to new environments, pushing their limits and enhancing their skills in ways that familiar slopes no longer can. Check out this overview of what to expect when skiing Japan with Alpenglow. 

Cultural Experience

Skiing in Japan is as much about culture as it is about sport, and the history runs deep. The experience extends beyond the slopes to include soaking in onsens (natural hot springs), enjoying traditional Japanese meals like sushi and ramen, and exploring ancient temples and bustling cities. This cultural immersion offers a profound sense of place and adds a rich, experiential layer to the skiing adventure, something that’s uniquely different from the apres-ski culture of Tahoe.

Accessibility and Safety

Japan’s ski resorts are renowned for their hospitality and high standards of safety, making them welcoming for those unfamiliar with the terrain. English is widely spoken in the tourist sectors, and the transportation system is incredibly efficient, ensuring that getting to and from the mountains is as smooth as the runs down them. Add in our guides’ extensive experience guiding in Hokkaido, and you can rest assured that your experience will be restricted to the best of the best in terms of skiing, food, culture, and hospitality.

For backcountry skiers and riders, Japan offers not just new slopes to explore but a whole new perspective on skiing as a lifestyle and an adventure. It’s a chance to blend the familiar thrill of skiing with the excitement of international travel and cultural exploration, creating memories that extend far beyond the trails.

Excited to learn more? Check out this Expedition Overview and click HERE to schedule a meeting with our team and learn more about skiing Japan.


Guided Ski Expeditions Around the World