Colorado may be the destination most revered by skiers, but worthy competition appears to be emerging from across the pacific. Japan, with its 620 powdery resorts, is fast gaining a reputation for having some of the world’s finest snow. Dry and powdery with a whopping 45 feet per year, the quality of skiing more than makes up for what the slopes lack – altitude.
The tallest peak, Mount Fuji, rises only 12,385 feet, no match to Europe’s or North America’s.With quality snow available to skiers as late as early May, and off-season attractions becoming increasingly available, investors worldwide are seeing Japan as the next opportunity for profit. Citigroup, Inc from the US paid over $51 million to revamp 12 resorts, while Japanese-based Hoshino Resorts committed $84 million to restore two additional ones.
The primary focus is to attract skiers from outside the country, as the native skiing population rapidly diminishes. Massive growth in skiers from abroad was demonstrated when the town of Niseko saw a rise from 2,600 skiers in 2001 to a startling 13,000 in 2005 from mainland Asia. The neighbouring town of Hirafu saw an increase from less than 200 to over 7,000 from Australia. Skiers from South Korea rocketed from 5,000 to 15,000 in just one year.
With the growing popularity and future possibilities arising across Japan’s glistening slopes, cultural differences are becoming only a minor inconvenience. English is plastered everywhere from bus schedules to restaurant menus to aid foreign skiers. Mountain huts provide a complete array of Japanese culture for skiers, with native food, music, and traditions. Hot spring baths are even provided to offer a luxurious lull to the slope’s excitement.
For the serious skier, the quality that Japan’s slopes offer serve as an enticing opportunity, coupled by the excitement of foreign travel. As numbers increase, and the resorts continue to improve, investors look at the land of the rising sun and see what may become this generation’s next big international ski attraction. Read more about this at SFGate.