Eight people are feared dead and two are in a critical condition after an avalanche hit a group of high school students and teachers on a ski slope in central Japan.

It's not immediately clear how many of the victims were students, officials say.

The avalanche occurred on Monday morning near a ski slope in Nasu, 160 km north of Tokyo, where 52 high school students and 11 teachers were climbing, a local government official said.

Officials said the eight showed no vital signs.

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Japanese officials typically do not declare victims dead until a doctor has made a formal announcement.

"We have avalanche incidents once or twice a year around here, but haven't had anything this big," a fire department official said.

- AAP