Japan Ski Resorts Set Sights on Foreign Tourists

The Yomiuri Shimbun

With the number of skiers and snowboarders in Japan going downhill, ski resort operators have set their sights on foreign tourists by offering special courses for advanced riders, as well as activities for families who are visiting the resort for the first time.

Courtesy of Hakuba Happo-one Snow Resort
The snow park area at Hakuba Happo-one Snow Resort

In January, Hakuba Happo-one Snow Resort in Nagano Prefecture opened a “snow park,” which is an area that has ramps and bumps not normally found on a regular slope.

“We decided to listen to the requests of foreign tourists who want to snowboard,” said an employee in charge of sales.

This winter, the Tokyo-based startup Skiday Inc. started a service posting photos of ski resorts taken every 15 minutes. About 70 ski resorts post their photos, allowing users to check the most up-to-date snow conditions through high-resolution images, as well as see the temperature.

“Foreign tourists are particular about snow quality, including powder snow,” said Skiday President Tatsuya Tayagaki.

Some resorts are trying to attract visitors from countries where it does not snow, such as Southeast Asian countries.

Niigata Prefecture’s Naeba Ski Resort, operated by Seibu Prince Hotels Worldwide Inc., offers snow tubing, a recreational activity in which a person rides an inner tube down a slope.

According to Tokyo-based firm WAmazing, Inc., a booking agency for hotels and ski lifts for foreign tourists, the number of transactions significantly increased since autumn after COVID-related border control measures were eased. At one point, the company saw the number of transactions per week continue to increase by 50% compared to the previous week.

According to the Japan Tourism Agency, the number of foreign tourists who went skiing and snowboarding had been increasing every year until the pandemic. In 2018, it was estimated to have reached about 960,000, more than double the number compared to 2014. The amount foreign tourists spent on travel to ski and snowboard was about ¥225,000, about ¥70,000 more than the average tourist.

In contrast, the number of Japanese skiers and snowboarders has been declining.

According to a Japan Productivity Center report, the number of skiers and snowboarders in Japan in 2021 was about 2.8 million, one-sixth of its peak 30 years ago during Japan’s economic bubble.

To increase the number of visitors to Japan, the government has set up a system to provide subsidies to ski resorts to purchase snow-making and translation equipment.