Japan's Hokkaido Ski Resorts: Deep Snow, Nude Hot Springs

The Ski.com website is offering trips from the U.S. to ski resorts on the Japanese island of Hokkaido this winter for the first time.

Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, is famous for deep powder on mountains covered with birch trees. Thirty to 50 feet of snow a year is not unusual.

Off the slopes, cultural experiences include participating in a traditional tea ceremony and soaking in an onsen, which is a bath fed by natural hot springs. Onsens are typically separated by gender and visitors bathe in the nude.

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Visitors usually fly from Tokyo into Hokkaido's Chitose airport, then drive to one of the island's many resorts. Skiers often spend time at more than one resort in the same visit. Ski.com is offering trips to four of the resorts: Niseko, Furano, Rusutsu and Kiroro, located a half-hour to three hours from the airport.

Hokkaido's largest city, Sapporo, is known for beer and ramen.

"Skiing in Japan is much different than skiing in North America and Europe," said Ski.com spokesman Dan Sherman, who skied in Hokkaido last winter. "While Niseko has been a popular destination for Australians for several years, the other three resorts are less Westernized, for those looking for the Japanese experience."

Sherman said that "in addition to the amazing food, friendly people and overall fantastic cultural experience ... most skiers are considering going to japan because they want to ski amazing powder snow - something for which most die-hard skiers will find is worth traveling halfway around the world."

Ski.com's options include a $2,499 guided trip to Hokkaido covering two nights in Rusutsu, two days of guided skiing in Rusutsu, five nights in Niseko at The Green Leaf Niseko Village, four days of guided skiing in and around Niseko, breakfast daily and ground transport (airfare not included).

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