A snow resort combined with a traditional onsen experience, Nagano

Mayo Harry | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Some people call the Nozawa Onsen ski snow resort, the “Kyoto” of the Japanese snow resorts because, while there, you can experience not only a fantastic top quality snow but also dive into the rich onsen (hot spring) culture and history. You will not see any geisha girls wandering down in Kimono, and you will not spot many temples. So why is it called the "Kyoto" of the Japanese snow resorts? The Nozawa Onsen snow resort is only a shuttle bus ride away from the traditional onsen village, called Nozawa Onsen village. Thus, a snow trip to Nozawa Onsen offers the opportunity to explore the local Japanese onsen culture while enjoying snow sports. However, unlike in some very convenient Japanese popular snow resorts, such as Niseko or Hakuba, here you cannot expect a ski-in / ski-out convenience to the snowfield from the accommodation.

©iStock / Umarin Nakamura

Nevertheless, this is the only con that I can think of, and that would definitely not stop you from enjoying your snow trip itinerary. Staying in the onsen village in a Japanese traditional style accommodation will spice up your snow trip. There are many accommodation options in the village to suit your budget, from hotels, hostels, Japanese ryokan inns, holiday apartments, etc.  Skiing or snowboarding at the Nozawa Onsen ski snow resort, plus staying Nozawa Onsen village, undoubtedly would provide one of the best cultural experiences in the Japanese territory.

Why choose the Nozawa Onsen ski snow resort?

©wikimedia / E-190

The Nozawa Onsen ski snow resort boasts one of the largest scales and snow quality in Japan. It opened 95 years ago and has been a popular snow destination for Japanese skiers and snowboarders for a long time. The Nozawa Onsen ski snow resort has a couple of in-bounds and side-country areas with reasonably steep terrain, which is not easy to find in Japan. Recently, the number of oversea visitors has increased dramatically, and the resort now caters to these oversea visitors as well.  There are many ski and snowboard rental shops in the resort, so it is possible to travel light to the resort from the village. There are 36 varieties of courses and slopes for skiing and snowboarding, and the field is so large that one day is not enough to explore it fully. When you get hungry while you are skiing or snowboarding, there is a wide variety of eateries (more than 20!) scattered around the field. Surprisingly most restaurants sell alcohol! Enjoy a relaxing time in the snow, but be sensible. Remember, not all restaurants accept credit cards.

©yokota air base / VIRIN

Private lessons and group lessons for both skiing and snowboarding are available every day for all ages and all levels. You can book the lesson online or go directly to the Hikage ski center on the field to book. If you are not sure of your level and like to get some advice choosing the class, I would recommend going to the center early, like 8.30 am to avoid queuing up.  

Recommendation courses for beginners and pros

©iStock / Umarin Nakamura

Once you get to the resort, take the Nagasaka gondola, which starts from the first car parking (where the shuttle bus stops). It will take you directly to 1407m. The "Uenotaira course" is known as the world's best beginner course, as it takes place on a wide and gentle slope. The running distance is as long as 2,000m, and you will be satisfied when you finish one slide. If you are an experienced skier or snowboarder looking for the quality snow and views, go to the Yamabiko area. There are five courses to choose from, and the view from all courses is just breathtaking. If the weather is right, you might be able to see the Japanese Sea in the distance. Between these courses, there are particular areas for pros with untouched snow where you can enjoy back-country skiing or snowboarding at your own risk.

©iStock / Umarin Nakamura

The Nozawa Onsen ski snow resort offers something for everyone: from beginner to pro-level skiers and snowboarders, families, and active young travelers. It is highly recommended to stay for several days or perhaps one week to enjoy the world-class snow as well as its historical aspect, especially once in the onsens of the Nozawa Onsen village.

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