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att. Travel - Snow Resorts in Japan
att. Travel - Snow Resorts in Japan
You are here: att.JAPAN > Travel Guide > Snow Resorts in Japan
att.JAPAN Issue 49, November 2009

Snow Resorts in Japan

It's winter again and that means skiing and playing around in the snow. There are all types of different ways people choose a snow resort. You might be particular about the quality of the snow. Do you look at the available facilities? A place with nice scenery? One with a full school? A place easily accessed? Or maybe a place a bit out of the way but not so crowded? How about a place where you can enjoy a hot spring or other after-ski services? A place with alternative skiing? If you are a person basically just looking to slide on some skis or even if you want to enjoy a luxurious ski resort holiday, you're ready to have fun with Japan's skiing scene.

 The Japanese Skiing Scene
There are many great ski areas in Japan, which gives a good range of options. Of course conditions vary from year to year but most ski areas are open from around December until about March the following year. You can often find places that start the fun a bit early towards the end of November, just as well as other places that extend the season for some spring skiing until around May.
On most of the slopes the average temperature is probably somewhere between -5C (23F) and 5C (41F) but of course this varies depending on where you are. In places like Hokkaido in the middle of winter, you will be looking at temperatures less than -10C (14F), about cold enough to freeze snot.

Just about all ski areas rent the basics like skis, boots, and poles and while many places will rent ski wear, they may not have those large or small sizes you want so it is recommended to call ahead of time. Be sure to bring your own undergarments, tights, etc. It is probably better to check in advance as to whether or not things like gloves and goggles are available for rental as well.
There are many places that offer instruction courses but it is probably best to make sure they are available in your language of choice prior to departing.
Using a ski bus to get to the ski area is a good way to go. The shinkansen is a quick and convenient way as well. If you are going to Hokkaido, tour companies as well as airline companies often have special ski packages and such that may be really good deals.

Once you arrive at the ski area, change in the locker room and line up for the ski lift. For those beginners, make sure you specifically check for beginner slopes so as not to get in over your head too soon. Many places these days also have slopes for families as well.
One good thing to look forward to after you have skied is hot springs. In Zao and Nozawa there are large hot spring towns nearby. In Hakuba, they have a shuttle bus running to and from the hot spring facilities. It is quite a good time to enjoy looking at the snowscape while submerged in the hot water.
It is recommended you check as to whether alternative skiing such as cross-country, snowboarding, half-pipe, etc. is available before you finalize any plans.

 

 Hokkaido

The northernmost part of Japan, Hokkaido, is well known for its excellent snow quality and many out of the ordinary ski resorts. Of course, a lot of snow falls because it is quite cold. How cold? Well, during the months of January and February, even on a clear day, it is only when you feel the inside of your nose freeze just from breathing that you can really comprehend just how cold it really gets. From Tokyo, after catching a flight to New Chitose Airport, the usual way to get to the various ski areas is by JR trains, different buses, or even by taxi.
For varied courses and cruising, head up to Furano in the center of Hokkaido.
Further down south in Niseko, slopes such as Hirafu, Niseko Village, and Annupuri offer such top-quality powder that these destinations are well known outside of Japan as well.
Alpha Resort Tomamu is spread out over a wide space and has every kind of facility available and a good number of places to eat and drink. Enjoy shopping and take your choice from the many restaurants at your selection.
Rusutsu is the largest ski area in the country and offers, among many other things, hot springs and romantic snow resorts.

 

 Tohoku

Up in the north eastern part of the main island of Japan is the area called Tohoku. Now, while it may not be as well known as Hokkaido, there are still many places with really wonderful snow. Getting to many of these areas may take a bit of time so it is probably geared more for those who really want to get in a lot of playtime and not be hassled with waiting for the lifts. Also, it is not quite as cold as Hokkaido and you can skip a plane ride as you need only take the JR Shinkansen or maybe a highway bus.
At the Tazawako ski area in Akita Prefecture, not only are there great courses with excellent snow quality, the scenery of frost-covered trees and slopes overlooking Lake Tazawa is simply magnificent. Over at Hachimantai, they tend not to clear away any of the snow, meaning there are times where you can just get buried in the snow, something really attractive to those at an advanced level. Cross-country skiing is also very popular here as well.
The ski area in Appi, Iwate Prefecture is especially recommended for beginners. There is a wide variety of courses to choose from and the atmosphere is a very fashionable one.
If you say Yamagata Prefecture, you mean Zao with its great weather and beautiful snow-covered tree landscape. Then there is also Gassan, where you can enjoy skiing into July!
There are 24 ski areas in Fukushima Prefecture with the center being the Inawashiro/Bandai area where 11 of these can be found. Alts Bandai is the largest resort of those. During the winter, a shuttle bus runs from Fukushima Airport to the various lodges and ski areas around the Inawashiro/Bandai area.

 

 Joshin-Etsu
This part of Japan is popular for the various ski areas with varied slopes to choose from. It is also close to Tokyo.

*Nagano
 

Here you will find a collection of slopes blessed with magnificent mountain scenery and supreme snow quality.
Sugadaira-Kogen is a big slope with 50 courses, all with a fair amount of good-quality snow. There are a good number of lodging facilities but you can easily make this a day trip from Tokyo. Catch a bus or take a taxi from Ueda Station on the Nagano Shinkansen line.
Shiga Kogen boasts the top numbers in Japan for gross area, number of lifts, carrying capacity, number of courses, general course extensions, etc. There are 21 ski areas high in elevation and with some fast snow. The area is divided into Yokoteyama, Sun Valley, Ichinose, and Okushiga. The Sun Valley and Ichinose areas have many lodging facilities. If you are basically looking for a resort, try the Okushiga Yakebitaiyama Hotel for its nice atmosphere and peace and quiet. There are many inns with hot springs around the Hoppo and Kumanoyu areas or you can even try a large hot spring town like Yudanaka or Shibu Onsen. From Yokoteyama, the highest elevation in Shiga Kogen at 2305m (7562 ft.), there is a wonderful lookout point where, on a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji and even all the way to the Japan Sea. Take the Nagano Shinkansen line to Nagano Station, change to the Nagano Dentetsu line and go to Yudanaka Station, and then take a bus or taxi. You can also catch a direct bus back from Nagano Station.

If you go up to Jigokudani Yaen-koen, you can see wild Japanese monkeys bathing naturally in a large hot spring bath.

Nozawa, enjoyed by both families and advanced level skiers alike, is a very large snow resort with a history and hot springs. You can enjoy 13 different bathhouses down in the maze-like hot spring town of yore. Take a bus from Togari-Nozawa Onsen Station on the Iiyama line or a direct bus from Nagano Station.

Hakuba offers outstanding snowfall with exceptional snow quality. Slopes with magnificent scenery and those with many changes and variations are sure to please. It was the home of the 1998 winter Olympics and is the most popular ski destination in all of Japan attracting many high level skiers. With a long season from December to May, they also offer extended stay programs. Heli-skiing is also available, something which is not so easily found in Japan. You can catch a free shuttle bus from either Kamishiro Station or Hakuba Station, both on the Oito line, or there are taxis as well. There are also buses to Happo-one from the Shinkansen Nagano Station.

 

*Niigata 

In Naeba, the Naeba Prince Hotel gives this area a very stylish attractiveness. The high elevation and great snow quality attract many and with an amusement park in the snow, you are able to bring the whole family along. Get off at Echigo-Yuzawa Station on the Joetsu Shinkansen and take a bus or a taxi.

The Minami-Uonuma area is known for its rice production and you can find some very tasty meals and sake here. With its steady snowfall, you will find everything you need in the ski areas in this region.

Joetsu Shinkansen Echigo-Yuzawa Station is at the center of the Yuzawa area. Transportation around this area is quite convenient. The GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort is especially convenient as it is right in front of GALA Yuzawa Station on the Joetsu Shinkansen line.

In Myoko there are 3 ski areas and from the top, on a clear day, you can even see Mt. Fuji. You can find Japan's foremost long course, with a rare 1000+-meter elevation difference, at Myoko Suginohara. Myoko Akakura has the prestige of being the first international ski area in Japan and can be reached by either bus or taxi from Myoko-Kogen Station on the Shinetsu Honsen.

 

*GALA Yuzawa

GALA Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture is a large-scale ski resort directly connected to GALA Yuzawa Station on the Joetsu Shinkansen bullet train line. It takes just 77 minutes from Tokyo by the most rapid bullet train. You immediately arrive at the ski center after you go out the ticket wicket at the station and it is very convenient.
GALA Yuzawa has as many as 16 courses ranging from complete beginner to advanced. It also has a snow park equipped with various apparatuses where freestyle skiers and snowboarders can enjoy themselves.

Rental skis, boots and skiwear are available, including carving skis and snowboards. You can join skiing and snowboarding lessons conducted in English as well as Japanese. (For English lessons, prior reservations are required.)
A package plan "Yukiasobi-Plan" in which rental wear, boots, a return gondola ticket, a return bullet train ticket, and so on are included is good for beginners to enjoy the snow without a lot of fuss.
Soaking in onsen hot springs is highly recommended after skiing. There is a spa in GALA Yuzawa and you can warm your cold and tired body after you enjoy fun on the snow.

To get to GALA Yuzawa, it is convenient to use a special package including a return bullet train ticket, gondola and lift tickets and discount tickets for rental. If you have a "JR EAST PASS," you can get to GALA Yuzawa fare-free and use the "Yukiasobi-plan" at a discount price.

*GALA Yuzawa Station is only used during the season when the GALA Yuzawa ski resort is open.

 

 

Sponsored Links
JR EAST PASS is economical and convenient when traveling around the JR East Area.
It is an ideal ticket for a trip such as Narita Airport - Tokyo - Nagano.
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 Information
Snow Resort List PDF 162 KB

 Links
Yuzawa Town Tourist Association
Minamiuonuma City Resort Tourist Association

From japan-ryokan.net


 



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