So you're going to go skiing or snowboarding in Japan? Congratulations! You're going to have an amazing time. However, before and during your journey to the snow there are a number of things you can do to make your trip an even better one, and even cheaper! Here are 5 tips on what to do before hitting the slopes.
The most important thing to remember. I know, mornings are hard, but unfortunately they are also the time at which the mountains are in the best condition. Fresh snowfall overnight, a lack of crowds, and the highest chance of sunshine means you want to be at the lifts the moment they open: usually 8:30. It is a sad fact of winter sports that by the afternoon the sun is setting and the wind coming in, making for a tougher ride.
That isn't to say the afternoons are bad, but if the afternoon conditions are good the morning will be even better!
Get Your Ticket Before Arriving
If you didn't purchase a package deal including your lift passes, now is the time. Go to any convenience store anywhere in Japan, and buy your ticket. You can buy them from the ATM-like machines in the corner, like this.
Corpse Reviver on Wikimedia Commons
However, these machines are all in Japanese, so you will need a member of your group who knows at least basic kanji and the name of the resort you are going to - though if worst comes to worst, don't be afraid to ask the convenience store clerk to help you!
There is one thing to consider before you purchase a ticket, however...
Check If There Are Discounts for Foreign Passport Holders
Baigal Byamba on Wikimedia Commons
In an effort to encourage international tourism, some areas and prefectures give discounts for visitors who show their foreign passport. For example, the Aizu and Bandai area of Fukushima gives a ¥1000 discount or FREE for visitors aged 19-24
. A quick Google search of your resort, in English, should reveal any discount plans being advertised.
Rent a Car as a Group
Thinking of taking the Bullet train, the Shinkansen? Think again. If you have already experienced the train, and don't have a JR Rail pass, a car is by far the cheaper way to go if you are a group. Check out sites like Japan Rent-a-Car
and Google. With Sat-Navs as standard, there's no need to fear becoming lost, and you have the chance to...
Fill Up on Supplies BEFORE You Get to the Ski Area
The price of food at ski resorts is far higher than the towns around them. Stop off before getting to your resort and buy food and drink from a local supermarket. Even if you do plan on eating in restaurants in the evenings, having snacks and cans with you can save a significant amount, with the added bonus that you can eat them anytime.
Bonus: Hit Up a Recycle Shop for Gear
Gilgongo on Flickr
Every town in Japan has numerous recycle shops, thrift-shop style buildings that sell everything from manga to clothes to sporting goods. Especially in areas known for snow and winter sports, these shops have cut-price snow jackets, skis and boards, and everything else you need, all for an incredibly cheap price. It isn't unheard of to buy all you need, wear and board, for less than ¥10,000. Considering the average rental price is ¥4000, if you plan on skiing/boarding more than twice, this is something you should seriously investigate. Besides, the shops themselves are fascinating, and well worth a visit even without buying anything!