With beguiling landscapes of white snow scintillating under the sun and opportunities for friendly snowball fights and exhilarating sleigh rides, winter destinations serve up an exciting menu of sightseeing and fun activities for families to bond together during the year-end school holidays.

Fortunately, one need not travel far to seek out some fun in the snow. Japan abounds with ski resorts across the country that you can easily check into. Quotient gives you the rundown of five ski resorts in Japan perfect for a family winter getaway.

Feel the magic and romance as you take a night stroll through Ningle Terrace that is illuminated in winter. Photo by Eric / CC BY 2.0

Feel the magic and romance as you take a night stroll through Ningle Terrace, which is illuminated in winter. Photo by Eric / CC BY 2.0

Furano, Hokkaido
Famous for its colourful lavender fields in summer, Furano transforms into a white winter wonderland from late November to early May. Advanced skiers can take on the steep slopes and off-piste powder areas, where professional skiers and snowboarders once competed on in past world cups held in the Furano ski area. Those new to the sport can try out skiing at the gentler slopes for beginners. And what’s a winter holiday without some crazy fun in the snow? Family and friends can have a ball of a time ploughing through the snow in banana boats and dog sleds at Family Snowland. At nightfall, you can follow the illuminated boardwalk to Ningle Terrace, a small village of log cabins set in a forest supposedly inhabited by gnomes. Though you are unlikely to encounter any of the impish residents, the scent of magic in the air is unmistakable.

Wide and gentle slopes are perfect for little ones to have their first go at skiing. Photo by Jeremy Eades / CC BY-SA 2.0

Wide and gentle slopes are perfect for little ones to have their first go at skiing. Photo by Jeremy Eades / CC BY-SA 2.0

Rusutsu, Hokkaido
With an average annual snowfall of over 13 metres and dry powder snow perfect for off-piste and tree skiing, Rusutsu is considered one of the best ski resorts in Hokkaido. But being located just a mountain away from Niseko, Rusutsu often gets overshadowed by its more famous neighbour. The upside to this is shorter queues to any of the 37 ski runs spread across three mountains at the sprawling resort. Little ones can learn skiing from Crayon Shin-chan at the ski school and babysitters are on hand to take care of them in the playroom while parents are off tackling the more challenging slopes. You can also have fun with alternative winter activities such as horse riding, rafting, snowmobile rides and sledding. When you’re not skiing down the mountain, you can head indoors and try your hand at making handicrafts or ice-cream using fresh Hokkaido milk.

A rustic onsen village sits at the foot of the ski slopes at Nozawa Onsen. Photo by Hideyuki KAMON / CC BY-SA 2.0

A rustic onsen village sits at the foot of the ski slopes at Nozawa Onsen. Photo by Hideyuki KAMON / CC BY-SA 2.0

Nozawa Onsen, Nagano
Skiing is possible at Nozawa Onsen as late as May thanks to heavy average snowfall of about 14 metres, the highest in Nagano prefecture. Set on the slopes of Mount Kenashi, the ski resort caters to skiers of all levels, from wide gentle slopes for beginners to a steep 39-degree incline and half pipe for expert skiers and snowboarders. Celebrate New Year’s Eve here and you will get to toast to the New Year with Japanese sake that is distributed for free on the slopes; fireworks are also set off during the midnight countdown. Being one of Japan’s oldest ski resorts with more than 90 years of history, Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort comes with a rustic village at the foot of the mountains where you can soak in footbaths and public onsens. You can also buy eggs to cook your own onsen tamago, which typically have egg white that is softer than the yolk when boiled.

The Karuizawa ski resort overlooks Mount Asama.

Enjoy the view of Mount Asama as you ski down the slopes at Karuizawa.

Karuizawa, Nagano
Karuizawa marries the best of both worlds — an upscale ski resort for wintry escapades and one of Japan’s biggest outlet malls at its doorstep. After a fun-filled day sledding and tubing in the Kids’ Park or skiing on the slopes, where half of the terrain is suitable for beginners, you can escape indoors to the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza to stock up on winter gear, grab a bite or add a Gucci or Coach to your closet. The main shopping street, Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza, is also worth checking out for its chic cafes, souvenir stores and shops selling local speciality jam. Situated along Japan’s Romantic Road, Karuizawa will charm visitors with attractions such as the Shiraito Waterfall nestled in a forest, a unique Stone Church popular for weddings, and beautiful views of Gunma prefecture and Mount Asama from Usui Pass.

Hiking among the unique Zao snow monsters makes for a surreal experience. Photo by 8ware / CC BY-ND 2.0

Hiking among the unique Zao snow monsters makes for a surreal experience. Photo by 8ware / CC BY-ND 2.0

Zao Onsen, Yamagata
Zao Onsen Ski Resort stands out for its unusual “snow monsters” that dot the upper slopes of Mount Zao. Every winter, strong Siberian winds carve misshapen sculptures out of the snow- and ice-covered trees, creating a rare and spectacular wintry landscape. Skiing or snowshoeing among the snow monsters can make for a surreal experience especially when the trees are illuminated at night. Zao Onsen Ski Resort also boasts the essential requisites of a family-friendly ski resort with ski slopes suitable for skiers of all levels and a Snow Park for kids. After a day of fun out in the snow, you can relax in the public hot springs and foot baths at the traditional onsen village at the foot of the mountain. Founded almost two millenniums ago, the hot spring waters of Zao Onsen are among the most acidic in Japan and is renowned for its skin rejuvenating properties. A dip in these “Springs of Beauty” are a definite must!

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