Inspiration Explore The World’s Best Ski Resorts From Japan to New Zealand  

The World’s Best Ski Resorts From Japan to New Zealand  

An image of Niseko, Japan, to illustrate an article on the crème de la crème of global winter destinations - Luxury Escapes

From the legendary Canadian Rockies to the prime powder of Japan, we take the guesswork out of choosing your next winter escape.  

Whether your ideal ski escape revolves around the diversity of post-slope activities (après ski) or solely on abundant snowfall, there’s a resort to match.  

This curated guide on the crème de la crème of global winter destinations highlights the distinctive features that make each snowy paradise unique – allowing you to prioritise mulled wine over deep shutes or glacial views over crowds.  

Read on to discover more. 

Best ski resorts in Japan

Japanese snow is so light, so exceptionally dry and so deep that it has its own moniker: JaPow (Japan powder). Ski and snowboarding enthusiasts the world over travel to the East Asian nation between December and April to experience consistent, often waist-deep JaPow and wide, open runs. Slopes are often surrounded with thick birch and pine trees, whose shelter allows the snow to stick for longer and protects against wind. Post slopes? Ramen, onsens, karaoke and vending machines abound on almost all mountains – it’s still Japan after all.  
Hokkaido stands out as one of the premier ski resort destinations in Japan, thanks to its northern location and proximity to Siberia that yields with consistent, high-quality snowfall throughout the winter season, typically from late November to early May. This abundance of light, dry powder makes for excellent skiing and snowboarding conditions. The region is served by several major airports, including New Chitose Airport near Sapporo, Hokkaido's capital city; reach popular ski resort areas via shuttle buses, trains or rental car.

Niseko another of the most well-known of all Japanese ski spots: suitable for beginner and advanced skiers alike, largely English-friendly and home to outstanding accommodations like The Vale Niseko and Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. Nozawa Onsen, a former hot spring town near Nagano, offers a compelling mix of Japanese charm, Australian cafe culture and European influence. Rusutsu, in the nation’s north, is less crowded than the more frequented Niseko and perfect for tree skiing, while lively Hakuba and Inawashiro are ideal for those not looking to stray far from Tokyo. 

Best ski resorts in Australia

Yes, Australia has snow! A dozen or so ski resorts are spread throughout the country’s southeast, mostly within a couple of hours' drive of the two most populous cities, Melbourne and Sydney. The mountains mostly attract locals (international visitors are relatively low) who pass emus and kangaroos on their way to the slopes, often slowing to allow wombats and echidnas to cross among snow-capped eucalyptus gum trees. In a nutshell: family-friendly facilities are abundant, the beauty is staggering and the laidback pace seductive. 

At the top of the list is Thredbo in New South Wales, which last year was crowned, for the seventh consecutive time, Australia’s Best Ski Resort at the 2023 World Ski Awards. Thredbo is home to the largest vertical drop in Australia, runs twice as long as nearby Perisher (still the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere) and high-end restaurants frequented by Sydney’s elites. Mount Buller, three hours from Melbourne, is Victoria’s most popular snow resort and ideal for both beginner and intermediate skiers.  

Australia's larger population and limited mountains, plus the shorter winter season, means skiing and snowboarding are on the more expensive side. Splash out on chairlift passes and on-mountain dining and enjoy great deals on accommodation, with Nanook Thredbo Squatters Run and Thredbo 1380 ideal stays.

Best ski resorts in America

The United States’ top ski resorts are renowned for up to 300 days of sunshine a year and glading, a type of alpine skiing where skiers and snowboarders make runs through forested terrain. The main resorts with huge après ski facilities are on the western coast, across the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and Utah, and the Sierra Nevada range in California. Northeastern states like Vermont, New Hampshire and New York are likewise big ski destinations, albeit offering smaller mountains and fewer wide-open fields.  

It’s hard to go past Vail and Breckenridge in Colorado and Alta in Utah for mammoth mountains.  

Ice-skating rinks, dogsledding, snow biking and horse-drawn sleigh rides are plentiful, and it’s where the United States excels. Dining, meanwhile, ranges from Wild West-style saloons in Wyoming’s Jackson Hole to exceptional gourmet fare in glitzy Aspen, Colorado. If celebrity-studded Aspen sounds like a dream, consider staying at the award-winning Viceroy Snowmass or The St. Regis Aspen Resort

Best ski resorts in New Zealand 

The distinctive allure of New Zealand’s skiing lies in its untouched natural beauty: snow-capped peaks cascade into pristine beaches, phenomenal fjords and rugged rainforest. Adventurous skiers and snowboarders carve through landscapes shaped by ancient lava flows, navigating mountains that retain their status as active volcanoes. What truly sets the country apart, however, is the presence of club fields, a distinct Kiwi practice that involves skiing ungroomed backcountry owned by private ski clubs. Advanced adventurers reach the top of steep mountains by harnessed rope tows (no T-bars or chairlifts) or on foot and stay in very basic accommodations. The benefit? No crowds and treeless alpine bowls.  
From the resort town of Queenstown, on New Zealand’s South Island, ski bunnies can easily reach four fantastic ski fields: Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Cardrona Alpine Resort and Treble Cone. Ski-in ski-out accommodation is almost nonexistent, with most opting to stay among the town’s trendy bars and restaurants at the likes of Kamana Lakehouse, Millennium Hotel Queenstown or Hidden Lodge Queenstown.

Turoa and Whakapapa are the North Island’s two major commercial ski resorts. Sweeping terrain abounds in Turoa, while Whakapapa is renowned for narrow and steep slopes, making it better suited for intermediate and advanced skiers. Although not physically linked, the ski fields are run by the same company, so your ski pass covers both. 

Best ski resorts in Canada

Just like its neighbour to the south, Canada’s biggest and best ski resorts lie on the west coast, with British Columbia home to the snow-saturated Whistler Blackcomb, Panorama, Fernie, Sun Peaks and Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Glacial views, jagged mountains and thousands upon thousands of skiable acres await those who take to the slopes – as does classic warm Canadian hospitality. 
Outside major cities, the country is, for the most part, a land of tranquility: a vast expanse of forests and lakes, of egalitarian spirit and charming cabins. It's this very serenity that lends a particularly laidback "oomph" to the Canadian skiing experience.

If you’re in Whistler, stay at The Westin Resort & Spa (where the world’s best winter athletes parked up during the 2010 Winter Olympics), ideally located smack bang next to the gondola in the centre of town. For quiet luxury and slopeside hot tubs in Sun Peaks, opt for the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel & Conference Centre.  

Best ski resorts in Europe 

The perks of skiing in Europe aren’t hard to log: extensive infrastructure, easily accessible mountains, interconnected resorts, diverse terrain and après ski that is guaranteed to be one for the books. Switzerland, France and Austria are the continent’s heavyweights, home to the likes of flashy Verbier (also known as the ‘Alpine Ibiza’), affluent Courchevel 1850 and charismatic Lech, respectively.  
In Switzerland, it’s all about charming chalets and chocolate shops, while across the border in France, après ski means dance music and champagne showers (the French know how to do it right... they coined the term). Then there’s the Scandinavians, with their laidback sauna culture, northern lights and avant-garde design, all of which translates to a quirky ski culture. 
After Michelin-starred mountainside dining? Italy takes the cake. Imagine a six-course degustation at St Hubertus, within the Alta Badia ski resort in the Dolomites, after a full day on the slopes. Perhaps a dinner of artisanal delights at Il Gallo Cedrone after shredding in one of the country’s most fashionable resorts, Madonna di Campiglio? 
For exquisite modernity, a stay at Falkensteiner Hotel Montafon beckons. A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, it offers easy access to just under 300 kilometres of perfectly groomed Austrian pistes, while Grand Hôtel Des Alpes, on the border of France and Switzerland, provides an idyllic Wes Anderson-style stay by the slopes of bougie Chamonix.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out 6 Places for a Winter Escape in India.

About Madeleine Keck
Journalist and travel writing aficionado: Madeleine has visited six continents and worked throughout four. At home in Melbourne, you'll find her reminiscing on past solo backpacking journeys, dreaming of the next adventure and wishing she lived in a continuously warmer city.

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