Season runs from late December to late March.
Japan seems to be everyone’s favourite place to ski in Asia. Its major resorts, Niseko in Hokkaido and Hakuba, near Nagano in the Japanese Alps, have changed a lot in the past decade to appeal to international travellers. In Niseko you can now expect to find luxury hotels and condominiums, Western-style restaurants and international ski schools, many of which are staffed by Australians, Kiwis and Britons. Niseko is Japan’s leading ski resort and its main attraction is some of the world’s finest fresh “champagne powder”. The powder is unlike any other and there is an impressive selection of off-piste skiing.
There are more than 500 ski resorts in Japan, with Rusutsu and Furano, both in Hokkaido, also particularly notable. But for those who are a little more experienced and adventurous, they should give thought to places like Asahidake or Kurodake. They’re not ski resorts in the truest sense of the word – you won’t find snow schools or beginner runs – and skiers need to exercise some caution, with conditions that can be quite testing.
Japan is also an excellent place to try guided off-piste cat-skiing. Rather than hiking or using a chair lift or helicopter, skiers and boarders are transported up the mountain in a snowcat (a truck-sized tracked vehicle). While guides escort riders down epic powder runs, the cat makes it way to the bottom to pick them up and take them up to the next run.
Season runs from mid-December to the end of February.
A three-and-a-half hour shuttle bus from Incheon International Airport will get you to the doorstep of Yongpyong, Korea’s largest resort and one of the 2018 Olympic venues. That journey time will be slashed in half when a high-speed railway link opens in December. Pyeongchang and two other Olympic venues, Alpensia and Phoenix Snow Park, are worth visiting for their superior snow, despite being in the east of the country. If you want to stay close to Seoul, consider the Jisan Forest Resort.
Season runs from November until the end of March.
Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics and in doing so will become the first city to have staged both a summer and winter Olympic Games. It will use indoor ice arenas in Beijing as well as snow sports venues in neighbouring Yanqing district and near the city of Zhangjiakou. Plans to use artificial snow have been criticised, but that has overshadowed the fact that China has an exciting emerging ski scene.
Nanshan in Miyun district is a key resort near Beijing, as is the Shijinglong resort in Yanqing and the Yuyang and Huaibei resorts in Pinggu district. Beidahu, in Jilin City in Jilin province, was where the skiing events for the 2007 Asian Winter Games were held, while Yabuli in Heilongjiang province is China’s largest ski resort. Resorts in South Korea and China relying almost entirely on domestic visitors, you won’t find flourishing ski resort towns or bustling nightlife there, but they are developing their own scenes, and there’s no doubt the Olympics in Pyeongchang and Beijing will help drive local interest in winter sports.
Season runs from November to May.
If you’re after an unusual skiing experience where you can take to the slopes in sunshine and mild temperatures, head to Kazakhstan. Although it controversially lost out to Beijing in the race to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, Almaty in Kazakhstan is the best known and most developed ski area in Central Asia, and was one of two cities to host the 2011 Asian Winter Games.
The key location is Shymbulak Ski Resort in the Medeu Valley, which is only 25km away from the thoroughly modern city of Almaty, which serves as a base for most visitors. At Shymbulak there are three ski lifts, along with easy ski rental and ski schools. Aside from Shymbulak, mixed-ability ski resorts include Lesnaya Skazka, while Tau Turan and Ak Bulak are mostly for advanced skiers.
Seasons runs from December to March, with the most snow between mid-January and late February.
Skiing in India? It may surprise some, but India’s western Himalayas host a smattering of basic ski resorts, including Gulmarg in Kashmir state, Solang Valley near the town of Manali in Himachal Pradesh state, and Auli in Uttarakhand state. It is possible to go heli-skiing from Solang Valley, though the most developed ski resort by far is at Gulmarg.
Gulmarg is also home to the world’s highest ski lift (going up to 3,797 metres), which gives impressive views of the Himalayas. The resort is just 20km from the “Line of Control”, the de facto border between Indian-administered Kashmir and Pakistani-administered Kashmir.