Learning to Ski in Japan

When people think about Japan they think of waist-deep powder and Niseko, but if you are a beginner there are a load of reasons why PalCall Tsumagoi Mountain Resort is worth considering as an alternative. (It’s less aggressive and more balanced why of phrasing it.)

  • At Niseko or the other big Ski Area: It’s freezing, at -25C everything piece of exposed skin hurts. If you are a beginner, you are not exactly pumping so you will quite literally freeze.
  • Niseko has long queues, and as a beginner, on the most trafficked runs, you are going to spend most of your time standing (freezing) waiting for a chairlift.
  • It’s crowded, so as a beginner learning to ski it’s dangerous to be on a crowded run with hundreds of people zooming past you.
  • It’s expensive. If you are a family the accommodation costs are astronomical you could easily be sending upwards of 1,000USD per night.
  • It’s a long way away, even if you fly into Sapporo it’s a 2-3 hour bus ride from Sapporo airport to Niseko.

Ironically if you tell people you are going skiing in Japan they immediately assume you will be going to Niseko, but there other options…closer to Tokyo. One such option is Palcall Tsumagoi Resort, it’s the largest resort in the Karuizawa area and only 2 hours from Tokyo by shinkansen and shuttle bus. Palcall Tsumagoi is a great option for beginners;

  1. It’s not crowded, the resort is mostly visited by Japanese who only go on the weekends so during the week it’s super quiet and you can ski at your own pace without crashing into people or have people crash into you
  2. It has a gondola, getting into a gondola is a lot easier for beginners than getting on and off a chair lift. Since the gondola goes from the bottom of the resort to the top you can access most of the resort without ever getting onto a chairlift. Gondola’s are also a lot more comfortable and safer for kids who tend to frozen fingers in chairlifts.
  3. Most of the resort is beginner and intermediate runs so there is very little risk you will take a wrong turn and end up at the top of a black diamond mogul run.
  4. Long runs, the longest run is 4.5 km that means you have a lot of run to practice your turns before you have to get back onto a lift or into the gondola.
  5. The resort hotel is at the base of the resort and connected to the gondola so you literally only have to leave the hotel to ski, everything else, restaurants, squash courts, ski hire, childcare, ski schools and entertainment are all in one building.
  6. The hotel has lots of room options ranging from twin rooms to family loft rooms with 4 beds or even traditional Japanese tatami rooms and it is very modestly priced compared to Niseko.
  7. They run a shuttle bus to the Karuizawa Outlet shopping mall so if you want to take a day off from skiing you can opt-in for some retail therapy.

All in all of you are not a powder hound. You don’t enjoy -25C conditions. You don’t want your kids to be run over by some crazy out of controller learner on a crowded slope. Then there are options in Japan that might be more suitable and significantly less expensive. Palcall is one of those options.

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