Asia's best ski resorts

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Yes, there’s actually snow elsewhere around the region right now. Blessing Waung rounds up the best ski and snowboarding resorts in China, Japan and South Korea to help you avoid a winter of discontent on the slopes

First published on 14 Jan 2013. Updated on 11 May 2013.

Alpensia Resort, Pyeongchang, South Korea


Why go
Touted as the main resort for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Alpensia is the hottest ski destination in South Korea. With six ski jump slopes, cross-country routes and bobsled facilities, you could spend a week here and not finish everything the resort has to offer. The South Korean government has a lot to prove with these grounds – they bid for the Winter Games three times before they succeeded. In addition to the slopes, the resort features Ocean 700, a huge indoor water park that accommodates 3,200 people and remains open all winter.

Where to stay
Lodging options at Alpensia range from high-end to mid-range, with the Intercontinental Resort and the Holiday Inn being your best bets. The former is the first five-star resort hotel in Korea, with 238 luxe suites starting from $200/night. Rooms at the Holiday Inn start from $100/night.

Season
November to early April.

Getting there
Air Asia flies to Seoul from $600 return with one stopover; Singapore Airlines flies direct from $1,000 return. To get from Seoul to Pyeongchang, take the 2.5 hour express bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal at Gangbyeon Station ($16) to Hoenggye Intercity Bus Terminal. A taxi ride from the bus terminal in Pyeongchang to Alpensia Resort costs around $10 and takes about 15 minutes.

More info
www.alpensiaresort.co.kr.


Appi Kogen Resort, Tohoku, Japan


Why go
With excellently groomed slopes, Appi Kogen is perfect for unadulterated, smooth cruising down the mountain. As expected, skiers are impeccably polite; no raucous crowds jostling to get in line for the ski lifts here. In fact, there are barely any queues at all due to the sheer size of the resort (more than 45 kilometres of runs). It is also extremely kid-friendly, with a child-specific ski area, child care, snow play areas, and kids’ activities including a petting zoo.

Where to stay
The 174-room Hotel Appi Grand is the most convenient, with direct access to the slopes, an indoor pool, the requisite onsen (hot springs), an all-you-can-eat crab and steak buffet restaurant, squash and table tennis courts, as well as a games room with pool tables. You can also rent Salomon ski and snowboard equipment from the hotel. To get there, use the free shuttle that runs every half hour from the Appi Kogen train station. Twin rooms start from $300/night, and the hotel offers early bird packages including accommodation, breakfast and lift passes.

Season
December to April.

Getting there
Scoot flies to Tokyo from $500 return. From there, the Tohoku Shinkansen (Hayabusa) bullet train to Morioka takes 2.5 hours and costs $230 (express) or $130 (non-express). From Morioka Station, there is a bus that travels directly to Appi Kogen in just under an hour and costs $18.

More info
www.appi.co.jp.


High 1 Resort, Gangwon, South Korea


Why go
As its name implies, High 1 has the highest altitude of all of the Korean ski resorts, coming in at an impressive 1,345 metres. Because of this, it’s also one of the best spots in Asia to find natural, fluffy powder snow. All of High 1’s trails start at the summit, so skiers of all abilities enjoy a longer run (most other resorts only offer longer runs for advanced skiers). The resort is also notable for the quality of its facilities for the disabled.

Where to stay High 1 Hotel offers upscale lodgings with standard rooms starting from $180/night. From there, the only way is (further) up: the resort itself has three types of condominiums available, ranging from standard rooms to family suites starting from $200/night. Elsewhere, the five-star Kangwon Land Hotel features rooms starting from $325/night. It’s also home to the Kangwon Land Casino, which is Korea’s largest casino and the only one in the country where Korean nationals are allowed to gamble. All can be booked through the High 1 website.

Season Late November to April.

Getting there Air Asia flies to Seoul from $600 return with one stopover; Singapore Airlines flies direct from $1,000 return. From the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, take a three-hour intercity bus ($22) bound for Taebaek, alighting at the Sin Gohan stop, and then a 15-minute taxi to the High 1 Resort, which should cost around $10. If going directly from Incheon airport, take a three-hour cross-country bus bound for Taebaek Intercity Bus Terminal ($36), also getting off at Sin Gohan and taking a short taxi ride to the resort.

More info www.high1.com.


Kiroro Resort, Hokkaido, Japan


Why go
Hokkaido is the obvious spot to ski in Japan, but Kiroro is a diamond in the rough, especially for beginner to intermediate skiers. The resort has plenty to offer and comes without the crowds at other nearby ski resorts, mostly because it’s further away from the city. Kiroro also has a high annual snowfall (usually 13 metres or more), meaning it opens earliest out of all the Japanese ski resorts and doesn’t close until the end of May. There’s also an established kids’ club and a superb highspeed lift system.

Where to stay Hotel Piano, thus named because the entire resort was formerly owned by piano purveyors Yamaha, has both Western- and Japanese-style rooms, with an on-site onsen and 25-metre indoor pool. Rooms start at $260/night. At the base of the ski resort, Mountain Hotel is another affordable, ski-in-ski-out option with laundry facilities and ski/ snowboard lockers. Rooms start at $240/ night. Both can be booked online through the Kiroro website.

Season Mid-November to late May.

Getting there Thai Airways flies to Sapporo from $650 return with one stopover. From there, Kiroro is a two-hour bus ride on the Hokkaido Resort Liner ($40). Alternatively, the Hokkaido Chuo Bus leaving from the Otaru train station takes just under an hour and costs $14. The most expensive option, but the easiest, is to take a 40-minute taxi ride from Otaru to Kiroro for around $100.

More info www.kiroro.co.jp/english.


Nanshan Ski Resort, Beijing, China


Why go
Snowboarders are often snubbed at Asian snow resorts, which still mostly cater to the ski set. Half an hour from Beijing, though, Nanshan is the home of China’s largest snowboarding park, boasting six jumps, a half-pipe and a range of rails to challenge even the most hardcore boarders. Runs are short, so this park is best suited to people more eager to practice jumps rather than gliding down long slopes. If you’re bringing the kids along, they’ll love perks such as a snowmobile route, 1,318-metre toboggan run, cable hang-gliding and sledding. For beginners, the drag-lift option with tow ropes leading up the slopes is easier to learn from than the normal chairlifts.

Where to stay Within walking distance of the ski area is Shirton Inn, an Alps-style log cabin that has 24 rooms, each with its own fireplace, starting from $116/night. Alternatively, if you’re going with a group, the Norwegian Villa has six separate ski chalets, each with six double bedrooms, a living room, fireplace, kitchen and multiple bathrooms, costing a cool $780/night. See the Nanshan website for details.

Season December to late February. Getting there Jetstar flies to Beijing for $460 return. From there, bus 980 leaves from Dongzhimen long-distance bus station and runs to the Dongmi Special Railway Station. Stop at West Bridge (Xidaqiao) and take a taxi to Nanshan Ski Resort (around $3).

More info www.nanshanski.com.


Yabuli International Ski Resort, Heilongjiang, China


Why go China’s original ski town and home to its first international snow resort, Yabuli is still regarded as the poshest, if not the best within China – plus it’s near the city that hosts the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, which begins every year on 5 January. The resort’s Sun Mountain features black diamond runs – rivalled only by those in Beidahu (near Changchun in Jilin province, five hours’ drive from Shanghai) – as well as China’s longest alpine slide, on which you can ride a bobsled from the summit to the bottom. As you might expect from a province that hosts an ice festival, it’s pretty cold outside.

Where to stay Club Med opened its first all-inclusive Chinese resort at the end of 2010. Their Yabuli complex is home to a L’Occitane spa with an indoor pool, Jacuzzi, steamroom, sauna and a dozen massage suites and reflexology rooms. Rooms start from around $200/night, but can go up to $600. Alternatively, if flight tickets and ski passes have cleaned out your wallet, Minglang Villa is a friendly family-run hostel with standard amenities and double rooms starting from $30/night.

Season Mid-November to late March.

Getting there Air China flies to Harbin from $650 return with one stopover. From there, the three-hour train ride (D61 or D63) to Yabuli costs $23. Upon arrival, resort vans and cabs can be negotiated from $12-$40/journey. If your travel schedule is flexible, there is also a once-a-day ski train (K7011) that departs from Harbin Station at 7.44am to the resort area. Hard seats are $7.

More info www.yabuliski.com.

By Blessing Waung
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