Seth Wescott became enamored with Japan's second largest island while competing on the World Cup circuit. The northernmost of the country's 47 prefectures, Hokkaido is blessed with 400 inches of annual snowfall and nearly a dozen ski resorts.
"The snow quality is amazing there," says Wescott. "The cold air comes off the Asian continent, hits the ocean, picks up the moisture, and just dumps it on Hokkaido."
As for which of the resorts to visit, Westcoot says it's hard to go wrong. The entire island is much less populous than other parts of Japan and, though locals frequent the ski resorts, they tend to steer clear of the trees. "There's all these inbound hardwood forests with a ton of powder in there," Wescott says. He also recommends hiking into the empty backcountry and trying out the myriad local sushi joints. Seafood might not be how Western skiers typically warm up, but it makes perfect sense in mild Hokkaido.