SLOPES & SPRINGS: JAPAN’S DUAL DELIGHT OF SKIING AND SOAKING
Japan, a land of contrasts, seamlessly blends the ancient with the modern. Among its many treasures are the snow-capped mountains and the soothing onsens (hot springs). For those with a fondness for skiing or snowboarding, Japan offers a unique experience – the opportunity to hit the slopes, and then relax in a traditional onsen! But with so many resorts to choose from, which ones offer the best of both worlds?
The Magic of Onsens:
An onsen, for those unfamiliar, is a Japanese hot spring. But it’s not just about the warm water, it’s a cultural experience deeply rooted in Japan’s history. Traditionally, onsens are located outdoors, although a number of Inns have indoor onsen facilities. The water is geothermally heated beneath the ground and contains minerals that are believed to have healing properties. These baths offer not just physical relaxation but also a chance to reflect and rejuvenate the mind.
In Japan, onsens are more than just a place to bathe. They are a social experience, a place of relaxation, and for many, a spiritual ritual. The act of bathing in an onsen is not about cleansing the body but the soul.
Nestled in the Japanese Alps, Hakuba is a favourite among international skiers and snowboarders. This resort boasts several ski areas, 9 of which are currently on your all-mountain lift pass, and each with its unique charm. Once you’ve had your fill of the slopes, head to Happo Onsen or Tsugaike Kogen Onsen. These onsens, surrounded by alpine beauty, offer a tranquil retreat from the adrenaline rush of the slopes.
Nozawa Onsen, Nagano
As the name suggests, Nozawa Onsen is both a ski resort and a hot spring town. The resort offers varied terrains suitable for all skill levels, however, a relatively small field, so a guide could go a long way here if you’re looking for something more. After skiing, explore the town’s thirteen public onsens known as soto-yu (outside/public bathhouses that can be used by anyone). Each has its own distinct character, but all provide a soothing experience. Nozawa’s rich history and traditional architecture add to its charm; a unique experience recommended to all!
Niseko, located on the northern island of Hokkaido, is often hailed as Japan’s premier ski destination. With its powdery snow and vast terrains, it’s a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. But what sets Niseko apart is its array of onsens. After a day on the slopes, immerse yourself in the mineral-rich waters of an onsen like Hirafutei Onsen, Hilton Niseko Village Onsen, or Niseko Grand Hotel Onsen. The combination of snow and steam is truly invigorating. For something special, book into one of the premier apartment options that have their own private onsen – they won’t disappoint!
Zao Onsen, Yamagata
Zao Onsen is renowned for its ‘snow monsters’ – trees covered in thick snow and ice, creating eerie silhouettes on the mountainside. The skiing experience here is unlike any other, and of course, there’s the onsen experience to compliment your already awesome ski holiday destination. The sulfurous waters of Zao Onse are believed to have extensive healing properties, and after a soak, you may well be a believer! At day’s end, Zao’s onsens provide the perfect remedy for tired muscles, alongside creating a stunning backdrop to reminisce about your day.
Tips for Enjoying Onsens:
Etiquette is Key: Before entering an onsen, wash and rinse your body thoroughly. This is not just for hygiene but is a deeply ingrained cultural practice. Learn more about about Japanese onsen etiquette in a blog post we wrote here.
Stay Hydrated: The hot water can be dehydrating, so drink plenty of water before and after your soak.
Tattoos: Many onsens in Japan do NOT allow people with tattoos due to cultural reasons. It’s always good to check in advance.
Japan offers a unique blend of world-class skiing and the rejuvenating experience of traditional onsens. Whether you’re an avid skier or someone looking to experience Japanese culture at its best, these resorts promise an unforgettable experience. So, as you plan your next ski holiday, consider Japan – where the slopes meet the springs in perfect harmony.