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Comparison of the week: Snow trip in New Zealand vs Japan


Both are meccas for winter sports enthusiasts, but which is better?

We compare virtually everything at Finder, and every week our Comparison of the Week isn't afraid to tackle the big questions.

If the idea of barrelling down a mountain of snow sends your heart aflutter then you can't go past experiencing New Zealand or Japan's snowfields. Many would agree (myself included) that they're both a cut above what Australia has to offer.

But which is worth hightailing it across the seas and cashing in annual leave to get to? We've sussed the answer out for you.

The comparison

New ZealandJapanWinner
Flight timeThis depends on your starting city.

From Perth you'd be looking at a flight time of 10+ hours to Queenstown on a non-direct flight.

From Sydney you can get in within 3 hours on a non-stop flight.

This also depends on your starting city.

From Perth your flight to Tokyo comes in at 13 hours and is non-direct while from Sydney it takes 9.5 hours non-stop.

Cairns is one of the shortest trips, taking 7.5 hours.

New Zealand
Airport distance to snow fieldsQueenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand and while not the only snow field in the country, is one of the best known.

From its airport you can hit the slopes within 30 minutes.

Some of Japan's most highly regarded snowfields are up north in Hokkaido.

While you can fly into Sapporo Airport to get to them, most flights from Australia take you to Tokyo or Osaka where you'll then have to transfer onto an internal flight.

There are snowfields close to Tokyo, though they're more local and less well-known. From the airport you can get to some of them on the train within two hours.

New Zealand
Amount of holiday leave you need to takePretty obvious but with a flight time as short as 3 hours (from Sydney) you can hit the snows over a weekend without having to sacrifice leave.While you could leave for Japan on Friday afternoon, hit the powder on Saturday and Sunday morning at a snow field closer to Tokyo and be back in time to work on Monday it's super tight and not very convenient to do.New Zealand
Average flight priceFlights to Queenstown are generally more expensive than to other cities like Auckland and Christchurch. The average return fare for an adult to visit Queenstown from major cities is:

  • From Gold Coast: $447
  • From Sydney: $555
  • From Melbourne: $499
  • From Brisbane: $665

These averages were provided by Skyscanner.

Flights can start from $299 return from Cairns if you catch a great break otherwise the average price an Aussie pays to visit Tokyo looks like this from major cities:

  • From Gold Coast: $726
  • From Sydney: $966
  • From Melbourne: $990
  • From Brisbane: $1,010

These averages were provided by Skyscanner.

New Zealand
Number of ski resorts20+500+Japan
Ski pass pricesFor a 1-day adult ski pass, prices range from $114 (Cardrona) to $142 (Treble Cone).For a 1-day adult ski pass you'll pay between ¥5,000 (Zao Onsen) and ¥7,400 (Niseko). Converted, that's $60–$94.Japan
Hotel pricesPrices for a 3-star hotel during peak season range from $90–$523 per night.

These averages are based on a 3-night stay in Queenstown for 1 August 2019 on Hotel Finder.

Prices for a 3-star hotel during peak season range from $62–$491 per night.

These averages are based on a 3-night stay in Sapporo for 15 December 2019 on Hotel Finder.

Note, these dates were chosen as dates a year in advance and aren't available to book online. Prices will increase dramatically over Christmas in general.

Peak season length4 months (mid-June to mid-October)4 months (mid-December to mid-April)Tie
Highest resort elevationRoundhill in Lake Tekapo has the highest elevation at 783 metres. It features 18km of runs and 6 ski lifts.Japan's Yokoteyama-Shibutoge and Shigakogen Mountain Resort both have an elevation of 2,307 metres. Shigakogen is the more extensive with 83km of runs and 58 ski lifts.Japan
Food pricesAccording to Numbeo a meal in an inexpensive restaurant averages NZD$18 ($17) while a local beer comes in at NZD$8 ($8).According to Numbeo a meal in an inexpensive restaurant in Japan averages ¥870 ($11) while a local beer comes in at ¥400 ($5).Japan
LanguageNew Zealand is an English-speaking country.English isn't the native language. However, most of the popular resorts are familiar with the language.New Zealand
Currency conversionThe Aussie dollar converts at around 1:1 with the New Zealand dollar making it easier to budget your trip on-ground.The conversion rate is 1AUD to ¥80 which is a little difficult to calculate off the top of your head.New Zealand

The verdict

Japan might have cheaper on ground costs (such as accomodation, food and ski passes) and has a wider range of fields and higher resort elevations but we think New Zealand ultimately comes out on top. Not only is it quicker and cheaper to get to, with the potential to get there and back in a weekend from Australia's east coast, but there are no major language barriers and with an almost 1:1 conversion rate with the Aussie dollar, calculating your spend is super easy.

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