Work and Ski Japan: How to Get a Job in a Japanese Ski resort

by | Last updated Oct 3, 2023 | Japan Live Work and Play, Live Work Play Travel, Work Abroad Backpacker Jobs

On your work and ski Japan trip why not visit the snow monkeys of Nagano’s Jigokudani Monkeys


When thinking of Japan you might not immediately think of ski and snowboard resorts. However, Japan is one of the hottest ski and snowboard destinations in the world, and for very good reason. It provides a kaleidoscope of cultural experiences mixed with unique hospitality and great ski and snowboard areas. In fact, Japan has the largest number of ski and snowboard resorts in the world. Having over 600 ski resorts (ski-jo) dotted over the Japanese islands from the northern island of Hokkaido to the main southern island of Kyushu. Do you want to experience JAPOW (abbreviation for Japan Powder)? In this post I will cover all there is to know to start your work and ski Japan trip in the upcoming 2023/2024 ski season in Japan. If it is your first time to Japan, there is plenty you will want to know!


When is the Ski Season in Japan?


The Japanese ski season generally starts around mid-December and goes through until around mid-April. This does depend on the white stuff though. However, some Japanese ski resorts stay open longer thanks to the help of snowmaking machines. The peak of the season is from mid-January until the end of February. 


Do You Need to Speak Japanese to Work in A Japanese Ski resort?


You don’t necessarily need to speak fluent Japanese to work in a ski resort in Japan. There are plenty of English-speaking staff throughout the resorts and ski fields. Many of the Japanese resorts cater for foreign visitors with a lot of people who work in the resorts speak fluent English. It is recommended you learn to speak some Japanese. The job you apply for and get can also depend on how well you speak Japanese. For instance, a job as a receptionist greeting guests is more than required to speak good Japanese as there will be many Japanese people coming to ski and snowboard – unless the resort is specially aimed at English-speaking people. However, if you get a job behind the scenes such as a housekeeping job, you may not need to speak fluent Japanese. So don’t worry if you cannot speak Japanese very well – this will be a good opportunity to learn and practice speaking Japanese in Japan!


What Visa Do You Need to Work in the Japanese Ski Fields?


In order to work in the upcoming ski season in Japan (or any other job in Japan for that matter), you will need to apply for a working holiday visa. If you don’t qualify for this, good news is, there is a new temporary work visa where employers can sponsor you to work. You will need to have an ERFS documentation from the sponsoring oganisation in Japan. You can get help with this from some of the organisations I mention further on in this post.


Qualifications required to work in a Ski or Snowboard Resort


It will depend on which job you are applying for as to whether you are required to have a qualification. Here’s a quick overview of qualifications needed to work in the snow.


Qualifications Required to Work in a Japanese Ski Resort – General


It is preferred you have some experience in the field of employment where you are seeking a position. Like pulling beers and mixing drinks to work in a bar. Making coffees to work in a coffee shop. Waiting tables to work in a restaurant, etc. Employers aren’t interested in training travellers as they know you are really only there for one season. Some of the luxury resorts may not even consider you without extensive experience or a formal qualification. 

Depending on the snow resort and the position hold, you may need to speak very good or fluent Japanese. But this can depend on the clientele. Some resorts are geared to foreigners so speaking Japanese may not be too much of a big deal. If you hold a position where you interact with a lot of Japanese people, then speaking Japanese will be essential. If however, you have a position in the kitchen it may not be necessary you speak fluent Japanese.


Types of General Jobs Available in Japanese Ski resorts


People are required for a variety of jobs during the Japanese ski season. The positions available cover a broad range of skills but are mostly-in and/or related to the hospitality industry. They include: 

  • food and beverage: chefs, bar staff, waiting staff (including silver service), kitchen staff (dish washers, salad preparers, etc.) and fast-food service;
  • hospitality: bartending, waiting, housekeeping (chalet staff), room service and bellhops;
  • office: reception, reservations, word processing and payroll;
  • retail: sales assistants and cashiers;
  • other: ski-lift operators, attendants and technicians, ticket sellers, nannies, medical staff, public parking attendants, snow-makers, snow groomers and shovellers, rescuers;


Qualifications Required – Ski and Snowboard Instructors


If you already a ski or snowboard instructor you may want to look at a job in this field in Japan rather than Europe, Canada or even Scotland at this time. Why? Just because it will be a great experience! You may wish to contact Professional Ski Instructors Association of Japan SIA of details about working. There is a job board linked at the bottom with some of the ski and snowboard schools seeking a ski or snowboard instructor.


Which Japanese Ski Resort Area Would You Like to Work at?


To decide where you want to work visit a travel agency and pick up brochures on skiing and snowboarding in Japan. Brochures are very informative. They give overviews of the snow areas, services available such as onsite ski/board hire and information on accommodation available. You can use this information to your advantage, particularly when looking for a job because you will know what is available. Meaning, the resort will list all the services it offers – room and board, ski hire, beautician, restaurant. You can then apply for a specific job at the resort for the service. Or visit websites such as Ski Japan Guide. Here is my overview of the best ski resorts to work and ski in Japan.


work and ski Japan. People on a ski lift in Japan.

Enjoy the snow in your spare time as you work and ski Japan


The Main Japanese Ski and Snowboard regions 


Japanese Island of Hokkaido


Hokkaido is the coldest and most northern Japanese island. The main resorts are to the west and east of the city of Sapporo. With Niseko, Furano, Rusutsu, and the popular Club Med facility in Sahoro. 

Niseko is a popular package tour destination. There are many places to stay, a lively nightlife and lots of terrain to explore. It has legendary backcountry powder runs and lots of great tree runs. 

Kiroro is a newer ski area (opening in 1992). The view from the top of the gondola is breathtaking with the Japan Sea on one side and the white snow-covered peaks on the other. 

The picturesque area of Furano is always one of the first ski resorts people think of when they think about skiing in Hokkaido. Located further inland it is known for its light powder. It is one of the foremost ski areas in Japan and a regular host of World Cup events. 

Rusutsu is a modern resort. It has loads of things to do for the whole family and those who aren’t interested in strapping on a pair of skis. Tomamu and Sahoro are also large recreational winter playgrounds that are geared towards families on vacation.


Tohoku region on the Japanese Island of Honshu


Tohoku is the northern part of the main island of Honshu and has a number of resort regions. It stretches from Fukushima and Yamagata all the way up to the northern tip of Aomori Prefectures. The main ski regions include Hakkoda in Aomori, resorts to the west of Morioka City, including Shizukuishi and Appi Kogen and Hachimantai. Also the area around Zao in Yamagata, and the Bandai/Inawashiro region of Fukushima. Although the Tohoku area is often dismissed as being too far to be convenient, the Shinkansen and expressways make it a good alternative. Especially for those interested in better snow conditions and less crowds.

Zao’s ski lifts have been running since the 1920’s, making it one of Japan’s oldest resort areas. It is devoid of the modern hotels and has a much warmer old-style feel. Home to the famous snow monsters (created from frost and snow built-up on the sturdy evergreens around the mountain). Zao has a good variety of courses to choose from. 

For those really looking to get away from the crowds, Tazawa-ko in Akita Prefecture is the place to go. Hardly ever crowded, this picturesque ski resort area is located above Tazawa-ko, the deepest lake in Japan with three resorts to choose from. 

Hunter Mountain, although technically in Tochigi (not Tohoku), is the closest to Tokyo. The best way to get to Hunter Mountain is by car and it makes a good day trip from Tokyo. This resort is not large but is a well-run, comfortable resort with an American-style feel complete with signs in English.




The Chuetsu area of southern Niigata Prefecture cannot be beaten. The Gunma region of Minakami is on the other side of the long tunnel going through the Tanigawadake mountain range between Gunma and Niigata. And is a bit closer to Tokyo. However, if it’s proximity and convenience you are after, it doesn’t get any easier than Yuzawa. The mountain range stretches all the way to the Sea of Japan and the area gets enormous amounts of snow. If you take the Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo Station, you can be at Echigo Yuzawa Station in as little as 70 minutes.

Today, this old rural village has been transformed into resort hotels and tall blocks of vacation condos. Near the train station, some of the old charm still exists, and it’s worth taking a quiet stroll and visiting some of the small restaurants in the area. Yuzawa can act as a base for over 20 nearby resorts in the town and surrounding area, including Naeba, Kagura, GALA, and Ishiuchi. 

Naeba is arguably the most well known (trendy) resort in all of Japan. Naeba was the first of the many Prince Hotel ski resorts and has been the site of several World Cup and national ski races for years. Although Naeba may be more style than substance, it is a huge resort that attracts millions of visitors every year. 

The other main resort region of Niigata is centred around beautiful Mt Myoko (located in Niigata Prefecture, but easily reached from Nagano City). Not as well known as the Yuzawa area, Myoko Kogen has some excellent ski resorts including Akakura, Myoko Suginohara, Ikenotaira and the indomitable Arai Mountain. In the middle of this resort area are the Myoko Akakura, Ikenotaira and Shin-Akakura resorts. These three ski areas have joined together under one lift ticket commonly known as Myoko Kogen, which makes up one of the largest ski areas in Japan.


The heart of Central Honshu – Nagano


Nagano is the heart of mountainous central Honshu and home to the famous Japan Alps. The Nagano Prefecture has some world-class resorts within its boundaries which were used for the 1998 Winter Olympics. The main regions are Hakuba Village, Shiga Kogen and the Nozawa Onsen area, all of which hosted events at the Olympic games.

Hakuba is arguably the most popular ski area in Honshu. There are more than a dozen ski areas lined up along a 30-kilometre stretch of mountains. Within the Hakuba Village area are resorts like Happo-one, Iwatake, Tsugaike, Sun Alpina, Goryu Toomi, Hakuba 47. Many people consider Hakuba as the centre for skiing in Japan. The men’s downhill and Super giant Slalom as well as the ski jump and Nordic combined events took place here during the most recent winter Olympics. 

Hakuba may be the heart of Japanese skiing, but Shiga Kogen is the giant of the Japanese ski areas. Boasting 22 resorts with some excellent facilities and good skiing late in the season.

Nearby Nozawa Onsen is the place to go if you want the feel of an old-time Japanese village, while experiencing one of the best single ski resorts in Japan. The ski resort is owned by the village that maintains it. One of the runs is called the Schneider slope in honour of the Austrian ski pioneer, Hannes Schneider. Nozawa calls itself the birthplace of Japanese skiing. The Schneider course ends up at the door of the Japan Ski Museum where you can learn about the rich alpine history in the area.


For extensive information on the ski and snowboard resorts in Japan visit Ski Japan Guide. I thank the editor of Ski Japan for writing and allowing me to reproduce some of the above information on the best places to work and ski in Japan.


How to Get a Job in a Japanese Ski resort?


Now you know about the types of jobs you can get in Japanese ski resorts and where the jobs are, you will want to know how to get one. You could approach the resorts directly. Many of them will be mentioned in the ski brochures I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Or contact an organisations that can arrange a job for you. Check out the following that can help you get a job in a Japanese Ski resort.


What do you Get for Working in a Ski resort in Japan?


The biggest thing you will get from working in a Japanese ski resort is the wonderful experience. But the wage (earning roughly 1,000 – 1,400 yen per hour), staff accommodation, food while on duty (sometimes) and a discounted ski lift pass (sometimes) are all great too! Oh, and the friends you make, make the experience even better.


Advantages of Doing a Ski Season in Japan


If you aren’t convinced yet, here are a number of great reasons why you should do a ski season in Japan. 

  • There is plenty of snow. Between 10-15 metres of snow can fall during the season.
  • Japanese food is incredible. There are plenty of new, exciting, cheap and tasty dishes to try.
  • It is one of the safest countries in the world.
  • Japan has a great bullet train system so if you start to get ‘cabin fever’ you have access to nearby towns to discover some of the Japanese culture.
  • A great opportunity to learn and practice speaking Japanese and to discover Japanese traditions and culture.


Are You ready to Work and Ski Japan?


There are some great ski and snowboard areas in Japan where you can find positions in the ski resorts. If Japan is on your work and travel abroad radar, then getting a job in a Japanese ski resort may be right up your alley. If you are planning your work and ski Japan adventure or have done it already, I would love to hear from you in the comments following.


Travelling Around Japan

It is a shame to travel all the way to Japan and not experience as much of it as possible. Why not start with a few days in Tokyo. Or perhaps travel the country for a month or so. You will definitely need accommodation when you first arrive – here is what is available. But why not come to Japan for a year on a Japan Working Holiday.


Want to have an Endless Winter? Continue your work and ski adventures in other countries.

Work and Ski Canada, Europe or Scotland, or what about Australia or New Zealand?


work and ski Japan. People on a ski lift in Japan.

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Sharyn McCullum Travel Writer and Founder Of Live Work Play Travel, Work Abroad, Work Online, Travel Blog Enjoying At Beer At The Coldstream Brewery In The Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia.

Sharyn McCullum – Travel Writer / Blogger, Remote On-line Worker, sometime Digital Nomad and Travel, Live and Work Abroad Expert. Is a chocoholic, coffee connoisseur and lover of ’80s music. Been travelling all her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. Lived in London 4 years on a working holiday. Has holidayed in Hawaii over 15 times and currently calls Melbourne, Australia home. Is inspiring others to live work play travel around the world with this blog. Read more about Sharyn here.

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    I wish we all could become nomads again for a while. The world is too beautiful to not explore.


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