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10 top ski resorts to visit this winter
Want to pile through chest-deep powder in Japan? Find massive air in China? Here's the guide to Asia's downhill thrills
Appi Kogen, Tohoku, Japan
Appi Kogen, or just Appi to regulars, has 282 hectares of ski area and 21 ski trails with an average run of two kilometers, Japan’s longest average. Many of them are empty even during high season, and carpeted with fresh dry powder. Seasoned skiers can whiz down the ungroomed steep slopes on Mount Nishi Mori while the kids can stay on the gentle 5.5-kilometer Yamabato run.
Appi also offers plenty of off-piste options, including an on-site dairy farm that produces ice cream and cheeses, snowmobile and sledding courses, and onsens. Tots won’t want to leave the Spongebob Kids Park, which has mini ski areas for first timers.
Getting there: From Tokyo, take JR East’s Shinkansen line to Morioka. Once at Morioka station, take train "Hanawa" headed for Appi Kogen station. There is a free shuttle bus from Appi Kogen station to the resort. For more details click here.
Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
Thanks to bouts of winter storms off Siberia, the Niseko resort area ranks among the snowiest resorts in the world. It’s also one of the few ski resorts in Japan with boisterous nightlife, which perhaps explains why it’s the most popular ski destination in Japan among Aussies.
Regulars rave about skiing into chest-deep dry powder without resistance. Niseko is also famous for off-piste and night skiing.
Niseko has four ski resorts, each with separate, but interlinked, ski areas. The terrain adds up to 2,191 acres and can be accessed with one ski pass.
Niseko Hirafu is the largest resort of the four and has a small town at its base, with two fun parks, snowmobiling courses, onsens, and massage facilities.
Getting there: There are JR trains operating to Niseko from Otaru, Sapporo, Hakodate and New Chitose Airport. Skiers can also drive there or take a bus from Sapporo and New Chitose Airport. Click here for details.
Rusutsu Ski Resort, Hokkaido, Japan
Rusutsu ski resort, a stone’s throw away from the Hokkaido capital of Sapporo, has some of Japan's thickest, driest powder. The 37 courses add up to 42 kilometers and stretches over three mountains. Its tree runs, set in a silver birch woodland, are one of its top attractions.
For those wanting a reprieve from the slopes, Rusutsu offers dog sledding, horseback riding, snow rafting and snow mobiling. The very young might want take a spin on the ice on their inflatable rubber “snow trains,” or stay indoors for the resort’s cookery and handicraft courses.
Getting there: Rusutsu Rsort is a 90-minute drive from Sapporo, New Chitose Airport, Tomakomai and Muroran. For detailed directions click here.
Alpensia Resort, Pyeongchang, South Korea
Seoul has been building ski venues to qualify as a host for the Winter Olympics for years but while they’re still trying, the public gets first dibs at spanking new world class venues like the Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang.
The Alpensia Resort was completed in 2009 and covers 4.9 square kilometers of terrain. Alpensia's sports park is designed to meet Olympic standards and has cross country and biathlon ranges, as well as two international-standard jump slopes.
The 160-meter tall ski jump tower offers great views of Daegwallyeong at the top and can be reached by monorail for 2,000 won. The resort is close to the Odaesan National Park and the Samyang Ranch.
Getting there: Driving to Alpensia from Incheon International Airport takes approximately three hours and 30 minutes, click here for detailed directions.
Getting there: www.alpensiaresort.co.kr/EnInfoAlpInfoIntro.gdc
Yongpyong, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Yongpyong Ski Resort is the oldest ski resort in South Korea and remains one of its most popular -- not only because of the superb skiing, but also because Winter Sonata, arguably the most beloved TV drama of the soap-obsessed country, was filmed there.
Yongpyong has 1,620 hecatares of ski terrain with 31 groomed slopes adding up to 25 kilometers. The 5.6-kilometer Rainbow Paradise is the resort’s longest run and can be accessed by a 3.7-kilometer gondola that takes visitors up from the base. There’s also a strong chance that skiers and snowboarders can find fresh powder at Yongpying.
Off the slopes, Yongpyong offers Winter Sonata tours for true soap opera junkies and a water park with hot springs.
Yongpyong is frequently chosen as the site for international tournaments, including the Asian Winter Olympics in 1999 and the Interski Congress in 2007.
Getting there: Yongpying is two and a half hours away from Seoul by car. For directions click here. Alternatively, there are resort shuttle buses operating from Seoul and Hwenggye, Gangnung daily. The shuttle bus schedule can be accessed here.
Jisan Forest Resort, Icheon, South Korea
Jisan Forest Resort is a mere 40 minute's drive from Seoul, meaning that city dwellers can possibly reach snow fields faster than they commute to work. Jisan’s terrain might be too tame for advanced skiers, but its 10 slopes should be enough to keep beginner and mid-level skiers happy. The resort’s longest run is 1.5 kilometers and is for intermediate level skiers.
Jisan Forest Resort also has two slopes that remain open after midnight from December 23 to February 12.
The resort is a stone's throw from the Hanteo Pony Farm, where tots can spend their day riding farm animals and planting crops. Those wanting to stay overnight can book condos at the resort.
Getting there: Jisan Forest Resort is a 40-minute drive away from Gangnam, south of Seoul. There are also buses operating from Incheon International Airport to the resort, the journey should take around an hour and a half. More details are available here.
In the 19th century Gulmarg was a hill station for British colonials to escape the summer heat. These days, it’s a world-class ski resort blanketed with fresh, light powder from the Himalayas, attracting ski bums tired of Alpine lift queues and fondues.
The resort's claim to fame is the Gulmarg Gondola, the highest ski lift in the world at a dizzying 3,979 meters. At the top station, skiers can take on challenging runs with Nanga Parbat, the world's ninth-highest peak, as a backdrop.
Gulmarg is intermittently plagued by insurgency, resulting in security lock downs that can stretch on for months, but it has not deterred the 400,000 intrepid skiers who took the Gondola last year.
Getting there: Gulmarg is 35 miles away from state capital Srinagar. Visitors can take a taxi into Gulmarg from Srinagar airport, the journey takes around two hours and costs Rs 1,200-1,500 (US$26-33).
Alshan Alpine Ski Resort, Mongolia, China
At the Alshan Alpine Ski resort, daily snowfall ensures that the slopes are constantly blanketed in thick powder.
Much of the resort is used by the Chinese national skiing team for training, but it also has milder slopes that are open to the public.
Non-professional alpine and cross country trails add up to 10 kilometers and cover 5.5 square kilometers. The resort straddles high mountains along the inner Mongolian border and is rimmed by primitive forests.
Getting there: From Beijing, catch a flight to Ulanhot. There are buses and trains bound for Alshan Alpine Resort from the Ulanhot airport.
Yabuli Ski Resort, Heilongjiang
Yabuli Ski Resort is China’s largest ski domain with ski slopes that add up to roughly 30 kilometers. And while it’s the main training venue for the Chinese national skiing teams, it also has plenty to offer adrenalin seekers.
Yabuli has 18 runs of different levels of difficulty. The 3-kilometer A1 is the longest intermediate ski trail in China and is nicknamed the "Trail to Happiness." Experienced skiers may want to have a go at the 2.7-kilometer A5, known as the "Road for Brave."
Kids will have a blast swishing down the 2.2-kilometer sled slide -- Asia’s longest -- complete with 48 twists and turns.
Yabuli is home to Club Med’s first resort in China. Club Med Yabuli opens to the public on November 27, 2010.
Getting there: Hop on a flight to Harbin from Beijing or to Mudanjiang. There are trains and resort shuttle buses to Yabuli from both cities. Another way to get there is to take an overnight train from Beijing to Yabuli. Click here for more details.
Nanshan Ski Village, Beijing
Nanshan Ski Village is a 30-minute drive away from Beijing and is a great option for those eager to leave the congestion of the capital behind. Nanshan covers 150,000 hectares of ground and has 21 trails. Most of them are beginner to intermediate level runs but the mogul field at the top has monstrous bumps for the intrepid skier.
The resort mostly relies on machine-made snow. Instructors are helpful and speak good English.
Getting there: From Beijing, get on the JingCheng Expressway, take Exit 16, Mi Yun and follow signs to Nanshan Ski Village. The drive shouldn't take more than 35 minutes. For detailed directions click here.