Where to ski in Asia: best ski resorts

Hit the slopes at the best ski resorts in China, Korea and Japan

Desperate for a quick fix of the white stuff? We round up the best ski resorts in the whole of Asia to make sure you avoid a winter of discontent.

In China

Nanshan Ski Resort, Beijing
Why go Snowboarders are often snubbed at Asian snow resorts, which still mostly cater to the ski set. Just half an hour from Beijing, though, Nanshan is the home of China’s largest snowboarding park. Its six jumps, half-pipe and range of rails will challenge even the most hardcore boarders and are set to put the pros to the test when the park hosts the Red Bull Open next month.

Runs are short and the snow is often machine-made, so this park is best suited to those who like tricks, beginner skiers or ski-bunnies who just need a quick, cheap fix of the white stuff. If you’re bringing the kids along, they’ll love perks such as a snowmobile route, 1,318-metre toboggan run and sledding. And there are plenty of good dining options on-site including the newly expanded Alps Café, which serves decent coffee and cake.

Where to stay Nanshan is easy to reach and small enough to cover in a day trip if you’re an advanced skier. But if you want to make a weekend of it, within walking distance of the ski area is the Shirton Inn, an Alps-style log cabin that has 24 rooms, each with its own fireplace, starting from 580RMB. Alternatively, if you’re going with a group, the Norwegian Villa has two separate ski chalets, each with six double bedrooms, a living room, fireplace, kitchen and multiple bathrooms, costing 3,880RMB. To book, call 8428 6688.

Season December to late February

Getting there Take bus 980 from Dongzhimen Public Transport Hub and alight at West Bridge (Xidaqiao), then take a taxi to Nanshan Ski Resort (around 20RMB). Or book a place on the shuttle buses, which depart daily at 8.30am from Sanyuanqiao and Wudaokou subway stations (35RMB; call 8909 1909 at least one day in advance).

Yabuli International Ski Resort, Heilongjiang
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. Sun Mountain features black diamond runs, rivalled only by those in Beidahu (see below), as well as China’s longest alpine slide, on which you can ride a bobsled from the summit to the bottom.

To reach Yabuli you’ll likely pass through Harbin, so it’s a good excuse to check out the city’s Ice Festival, slated to begin on January 5. Visitors can start seeing the frozen sculptures after Christmas.

Where to stay Club Med (www.clubmed.com) opened its first all-inclusive Chinese resort at the end of 2010. Its Yabuli complex is home to a L’Occitane spa with an indoor pool, hot tub, steamroom and sauna, as well as massage suites and reflexology rooms. Rooms start from around 1,000RMB, but can go up to 3,000RMB.

Alternatively, if flight tickets and ski passes have cleaned out your wallet, Minglang Villa (0451 5345 5027) is a friendly, family-run hostel with standard amenities and double rooms starting from 140RMB.

Season Mid-November to late March

Getting there China Southern (www.csair.com) has return flights from Beijing to Harbin from 990RMB (including taxes). From there, the three-hour train ride (D61 or D63) to Yabuli costs 140RMB. Upon arrival, resort vans and taxis can be negotiated from 60-200RMB per journey. If your travel schedule is flexible, however, 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 36RMB.

Beidahu, Jilin
Why go Having played host to the 2007 Asian Winter Games, Beidahu boasts a variety of long trails to keep all types of advanced skiers happy: cross-country lovers, speed freaks who like their runs steep, and those who prefer it Alpine style, with runs snaking between the trees and areas where they can go off-piste to find virgin snow. There are long runs for beginners as well, including a 1,700m-long blue trail, and a snowboard park with a half-pipe, rails and kickers.

Add to this list the high-speed, four-person chairlifts and six-person gondolas – and, as of this year, a mountain-top dining bar with Western and Chinese food – and you have yourself a large resort that easily caters to groups of mixed abilities.

Where to stay The nicest accommodation option on-site is the new Qiaoshan Beidahu Resort Hotel, which has 166 rooms (from 1,288RMB), all with fireplaces, as well as a spa and gym. The destination’s original hotel, still confusingly called the Beidahu Asian Games Village, is nearer to the slopes, with the lift station located just outside its front door, and has rooms from 488RMB. To book either hotel or the shuttle bus (see below) call 400 606 7070.

Season Mid-November to the end of March

Getting there The 12-hour overnight train (T271) to Jilin costs 263RMB for a hard sleeper. From there, board the daily free shuttle bus that leaves shortly after the train arrives and takes an hour to get to the resort.

More info www.beidahuski.com (Chinese only)

Genting, Hebei, China
Why go Opened earlier this year near Zhangjiakou – which, thanks to its proximity to the capital, has become something of a skiing hotspot for Beijingers looking for easy weekends away – Genting will eventually become a mega-resort featuring 80 trails.

Of those, 35 will be open this season, but with the owners determined to make Genting a world-class resort (they will reportedly be spending 10 billion USD) you can expect facilities better than those available at most Chinese resorts (think high-speed, heated lifts and good-quality rental gear), as well as higher prices to match.

Where to stay Genting Secret Garden Resort’s ski-in ski-out hotel has 265 guest rooms and suites; all feature kitchenettes and 40-inch LCD TVs, and some have hot tubs on their balconies so you can bathe ‘alfresco’. Prices start at 3,666RMB, with standard rooms sleeping up to six people.

Season Mid-November to the end of March

Getting there Genting is a little tricky to get to without a car. Dozens of trains leave daily from Beijing to Zhangjiakou South station. They take from three-and-a-half to six hours and cost from 14RMB for a hard seat, depending on which train you choose. From Zhangjiakou South, take bus 10 to the long-distance bus station and from there the 90-minute bus ride to Chongli costs 15RMB. Upon arrival, taxis to the resort can be negotiated for 60RMB.

More info For details check out www.secretgardenresorts.com

Rest of Asia

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 and intermediate skiers. The resort has plenty to offer and comes without the crowds found at other nearby ski destinations, mostly because it’s farther away from Sapporo 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 high-speed 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 on-site onsen(hot spring) baths and a 25-metre indoor pool. Rooms start from 1,287RMB. At the base of the resort, Mountain Hotel is another affordable (by Japanese hotel standards) ski-in ski-out option with laundry facilities and ski/snowboard lockers. Rooms start at 1,206RMB. Both can be booked online.

Season Mid-November to late May

Getting there Air China (www.airchina.com) flies to Sapporo from 6,650RMB return (including taxes). From there, Kiroro is a two-hour bus ride on the Hokkaido Resort Liner (200RMB). Alternatively, the Hokkaido Chuo bus from Otaru train station takes just under an hour and costs 70RMB. The most expensive option, but the easiest, is to take a 40-minute taxi ride from Otaru to Kiroro for around 450RMB.

Appi Kogen Resort, Tohoku, Japan
Why go With excellently groomed slopes, Appi Kogen is perfect for smooth cruising down the mountain. As expected, the local 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).

The resort is also extremely kid-friendly, with child-specific ski and snow-play areas, child care and 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 onsenbaths, squash and table tennis courts, an all-you-can-eat crab and steak buffet restaurant and a games room with pool tables. You can also rent Salomon ski and snowboard equipment from the hotel. A free shuttle runs every half hour from Appi Kogen train station. Twin rooms start from 1,424RMB, and the hotel offers early bird packages including accommodation, breakfast and lift passes.

Season December to April

Getting there Delta Airlines (www.delta.com) flies to Tokyo from 2,843RMB return (including taxes). From there, the Tohoku Shinkansen (Hayabusa) bullet train to Morioka takes two-and-a-half hours and costs 1,154RMB (express) or 660RMB (non-express). From Morioka Station there is a bus that travels directly to Appi Kogen that takes just under an hour and costs 88RMB.

More info www.appi.co.jp
High 1 Resort, Gangwon, South Korea
Why go As its name implies, High 1 is the uppermost located of all Korean ski resorts, at an impressive altitude of 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 lengthier run (most other resorts only offer a variety of 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 888RMB. From there, the only way is (farther) up: the resort itself has three types of condominium available, ranging from standard rooms to family suites starting from 930RMB. 

Elsewhere, the five-star Kangwon Land Hotel features rooms starting from 1,640RMB. 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 Asiana Airlines (www.flyasiana.com) flies to Seoul from 2,360RMB return (including taxes). From Seoul’s Incheon airport, take a three-hour cross-country bus bound for Taebaek Intercity Bus Terminal (182RMB), get off at Sin Gohan and then it’s only a 15-minute taxi ride to the High 1 Resort, which should cost around 50RMB.

More info www.high1.com

Alpensia Resort, Pyeongchang, South Korea
Why go Scheduled to be the main resort for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Alpensia is the most popular ski destination in South Korea. With six ski-jump slopes, cross-country routes and bobsled facilities, you could spend a week here and not get to try out everything the resort has to offer. The South Korean government has a lot to prove with these grounds – it bid for the Winter Games three consecutive times before it eventually succeeded. In addition to the slopes, the resort features Ocean 700, a huge indoor water park that can accommodate 3,200 people and remains open all winter. 

Where to stay Accommodation options at Alpensia vary from high-end to mid-range. The InterContinental Resort and the Holiday Inn are your best bets. The former (www.ichotelsgroup.com) is the first five-star resort hotel in Korea, with 238 luxurious suites starting from 959RMB. Rooms at the Holiday Inn (www.holidayinn.com) start from 527RMB. 

Season November to early April

Getting there See ‘High 1 Resort: Getting there’ for flights to Seoul. To get from Seoul to Pyeongchang, take the two-and-a-half-hour express bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal at Gangbyeon Station (78RMB) to Hoenggye Intercity Bus Terminal. A taxi ride from the bus terminal in Pyeongchang to Alpensia Resort costs around 40RMB and takes around 15 minutes.

  • 4 out of 5 stars