If the skiing isn’t a big enough draw, Japan’s cultural experience is unlike any other ski or snowboard vacation. For instance: There’s a wealth of culture bound up in traditional Japan onsens, which are primarily nude, hot spring-fed pools steeped in tradition and ceremony. Onsens are usually divided into male and female pools, and one must wash and scrub well before entering the quiet and contemplative waters. (If you have tattoos, you may be refused entirely.)
Japan’s culture of gracious hospitality extends to the slopes, too. Lift attendants bow and greet skiers and riders on every lap. Those at the bottom and top of the lifeline are "very polite and often bow as you get on the lifts,” says Sherman. “It’s very formal.” Snow monkeys can be found lounging near onsens in Nagano. Other interesting wildlife include large rabbits and kamoshika (aka Japanese serow), a goat-like animal that hangs around in the backcountry and out-of-bounds areas of the resorts. And if you want a break from the slopes, you can take a shinkansen (aka bullet train) or cheap domestic flight down to Tokyo, absorbing the culture, history, and unparalleled hustle-bustle of the sprawling (and spotlessly clean) metropolis.