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Resort

Arai

Toyama Airport or Tokyo Haneda Airport
bullet train, shared taxi or private transfers
1,101 metres

Japan's newest & snowiest ski destination is a spectacular freeride mountain, with a sensational luxury hotel at its base.

Consistently Japan's snowiest resort - an average of over 15 metres of pure powder every season – the ski mountain is left largely ungroomed. That's 1,000 metres of vertical across 160 km2 of avalanche-controlled backcountry-style terrain with open bowls, natural gullies and plenty of well-spaced trees. This is a resort with a clear-minded proposition: it's aimed squarely at the off-piste powder-chasing crowd, who appreciate luxury accommodation and state-of-the-art facilities. And, my goodness, it delivers in snow-filled spades.

Arai is hugely impressive from the get-go, even before you click into your skis: five-star accommodation, elegant restaurants, sleek lounge bars, artisan bakeries, luxuriant onsens, two indoor swimming pools and a day spa. There has been a ski hotel here since 1993, though it was closed in 2006 and laid abandoned for ten years before the Lotte group bought the resort and threw money at restoring Arai beyond its original glory...and then some.

But, do be aware that this is a single-hotel resort. There is no nearby village, no dining options beyond what the hotel offers, no sneaky little local bars waiting to be discovered. The restaurants are remarkable - truly exceptional - but be aware that this is five-star all the way. Discerning guests like to dine well, not cheaply.

Arai

Resort Card

Beginners:
Intermediate:
Advanced:
Snowboarders:
Après Ski:
Families:

Our Opinion

"Once Arai properly re-opened in 2017 and as soon as I heard I immediately headed out, because tales of how epic this mountain was were mythical in the Japan ski community. And, to cut a long story short, these were simply some of the best ever ski days in Japan. Utterly epic. Our only anxieties lay off the mountain because we’d heard how much money had been thrown at the project when re-building this luxury hotel, and we were anxious about seeing the Lotte Arai Resort fearing it may be too flashy, ostentatious or gauche. We were so wrong. There have been some service issues in their first season of operation, as you may expect, but hopefully these are now ironed out..."

Nick Coates Founder
Arai

Skiing & Snowboarding in Arai

The mountain is accessed by only five lifts; a gondola, and then four hooded, fast quad chair lifts. There are two, possibly three, marked trails from top to bottom, essentially pleasant, long cat tracks which are hugely enjoyable. But this is missing the whole point. Instead, simply consider Arai an off-piste ski resort and if you are not comfortable in the deep stuff, then Arai is not for you. Powder junkies fill your boots, because this is the stuff your skiing dreams are made of.

Head to the top station, hike up the additional short distance to the summit and drop in wherever the hell you want. Next time, head straight back up, move along a bit, drop in again and its freshies for the entire 1,000 metres to the base.

But you don't necessarily have to be at the expert level. Far from it, as the way the mountain is laid out it also makes it a perfect place to develop your skills because the terrain is forgiving and you are never that far from a groomed cat track.

Expert & Off Piste

This is why you've come to Arai! Nothing too steep - as is often the case in Japan - but you won't ever run out of wide open slopes up top, or mid-section powder fields with only a small amount of vegetation to add interest, or perfectly gladed areas, or even some tighter tree runs lower down. Whist the lifts get you to most points on the mountain, we would recommend a hike up from the top lift to get access to the best of the Okenashi zone. The ski map divides the mountain into numerous named zones, all super-conveniently lift accessed. And after a good dump - a very common occurrence in Arai - the patrollers work hard to get these areas open as quick as they can.

However, despite the patrollers' professionalism and expertise, the mountain has an unfortunate history of avalanches. To mitigate the risk there are only a couple of permanently closed areas that funnel into avalanche gullies within the resort boundaries and it’s a hard and fast rule that you don't ever duck the ropes in Arai.

On-piste there are four black runs and they're reasonably challenging, pretty steep and quite wonderful. 

Intermediate

Unless you are willing to venture off-piste and 'give it a go', then there is not too much to keep you entertained in Arai. Having said that, the few intermediate pisted runs are good fun, some open, others on cat tracks, and the top-to-bottom ride holds variety, intrigue and certainly gets those thighs burning.

But, this is an off-piste resort, and therefore it is all about the deep un-groomed powder snow. And there is no resort better - forgiving terrain, open, patrolled and avalanche-controlled. There is no resort in which to better learn the techniques, develop your skills and first experience that 'floating on snow' sensation. We can arrange a private lesson with an English-speaking instructor on day one, enough to get you going and show you lay of the land (find your "happy place")....and off you go!

Novice

There are some very gentle green runs at the bottom of the mountain, which are absolutely ideal for total beginners. We imagine its a great place to take you make your first tentative turns. But progression from this is difficult, as the rest of the mountain becomes a little more tricky.

the Lotte Arai Resort

There is only one hotel at the base...but what a hotel!

 

Much money has been spent, which could potentially mean nothing if the interior designers lacked taste and the architects lacked pragmatism. Luckily, neither was true - the five-star resort Lotte Arai Resort Hotel is pure class. This (admittedly, rather large) hotel offers a range of deluxe western-style rooms and suites across two main buildings, a range of amazing dining options, lounge bars, two indoor swimming pools (and a reflexology walking pool), a gymnasium, and extensive day spa facilities.

 

The first season they opened (2017) there were some issues when it came to service, but these have now largely been ironed out as the team have bedded in. Indeed, to stay here is a joy.

Hotels & Ryokans

A luxury ski hotel, without compare in Japan (outside of Niseko). Stylish rooms and facilities abou...

Deluxe
Arai

Ski Guiding & Activities

Like anywhere else, your experience on the ski mountain at Arai is hugely enhanced once you have been shown around by a local, and because this is a freeride destination, this is especially true; the powder stashes, the secret lines and the quieter glades are all now within reach. Let us organise a guide on day one, and you'll still be thanking us on days two, three and four...

 

When based in Arai, some pretty amazing alternative resorts are within easy reach and a public bus service can easily get you to them in no time. A day in Myoko Kogen, one could argue, is an absolute 'must'.

 

Is an amazing freeride mountain all to yourself by day, and relaxing onsens and spas by night not enough? Well, Arai offers more! The hotel has an amazing zipline experience - really beyond the ordinary and worth doing for the devil-may-care crowd - and then the tubing is, we can vouch, not a kid's only activity. Tremendous fun!

On the mountain

Hire an experienced, qualified, locally-knowledgeable private ski or snowboard guide.

Head out with your guide, conditions dependent, to Japan's secret powder resort.

Spend the day in Akakura Onsen, a nearby ski resort with powder traps and tree runs.

Holidays featuring Arai

These suggested itineraries will give you a starting point for what your ski holiday to Japan could entail. Sometimes we combine ski resorts and our clients often embrace the opportunity to explore and experience Japan beyond the ski slopes.

 

We hope these itineraries will inspire, excite and inform you as we begin the planning process. They’re not set departures or tours, as every holiday we plan is completely tailor-made for you - treat them as inspiration only.

Honshu Powder Extravaganza - Itinerary
Itinerary

Honshu Powder Extravaganza

The deepest, untracked powder snow on the most challenging and diverse terrain? We got this.

two weeks
Hakuba Valley - Myoko Kogen (or Arai) - Tokyo
Find out more
Simply Ski - Itinerary
Itinerary

Simply Ski

No particular desire to see Japan, other than the powder snow? Simply want to ski the best on both ...

2 weeks
Arai - Niseko
Find out more

Arai Ski Concierge

The ski and snowboard services, amenities and facilities at Arai are very well-developed and of an exceptionally high quality - no expense has been spared. They took it back to basics, imagined the 'perfect' ski resort (from a skier's and snowboarder's perspective) and simply did it right.

In the impressive base station (the 'Village Station'), where you'll find the ubiquitous ski gear shops, rental station and ski pass kiosk, there is also a great food-court style restaurant. Expect to pay only 10% more than you would in other Japanese ski resorts (still cheap by European standards), but the quality is 50% better. There is also a bakery / coffee shop / café and at the top of the gondola there is another restaurant (the 'Sky Zen'), offering wonderful views on a good day. In addition to the on-mountain eateries, you can ski-in to either of the hotel buildings where most of the restaurants are open for lunch or a mid-morning snack.

Lift Passes

We can pre-purchase single day or multi-day lift passes for the Arai mountain - though the multi-day passes need to be on consecutive days, so if you fancy a day in Myoko Kogen (and why wouldn't you?), then we'd need to work around this.

They also have 'First Class' lift tickets, which cost an extra ¥2,000 per day above the regular price. This buys you express access on to the lifts, which is not really a problem at present as they build the resort's reputation. However, in the future, when the hotel is full and day-trippers flock in, these will prove invaluable.

The lift passes also include night skiing, which operates until mid-March.

Equipment Hire

As you would expect...the best in Japan. Bang up-to-date gear, well maintained and delivered with knowledgeable and efficient service. They have a better-than-decent range of fat skis and powder boards that you're likely to need if you want to head into the sumptuous deep stuff. Waxing and equipment repairs are also available. These guys know what they are doing!

Lessons

If you want lessons in English, then this has been sub-contracted out to an international ski school from nearby Myoko-Kogen, who have an excellent reputation and years of experience operating in Japan. We would need to pre-book to assure availability, but that's not a problem. Private lessons are available - including the 'find your feet in the powder' options - and they also have kids' group lessons for ages 3 to 14 for skiing and ages 7 to 14 for snowboarding.

Transfers to and from Arai

The bullet train gets yo as far as Joetsumyoko Station, which is a two-hour direct service from Tokyo Station. The hotel will pick you up from and drop you off back at the station, only a 20-minute ride from the hotel.

Hangving said that, most 

What our customers say

4.5 star rating

Our customers rate us 'Excellent'

I can’t rate Different Snow highly enough...

Different Snow put together a well thought out and carefully researched tailored three week trip. Their recommendations for hotels, sightseeing, entertainment and dining were spot on.

David  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

Highly recommend

We had no idea what to expect in Japan (or how we would get around), we couldn't have done it without the expertise and guide documents from Different Snow. Everything on the holiday ran very smoothly and we felt like we could call at any time if we had any questions.

Grace  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

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