It’s no secret that the snowfall in Nagano this winter is much less than usual. Unusually warm weather patterns have led to higher than normal temperatures and as a result, lower snowfall. Many ski resorts opened late with many still not fully operational. Some better snow is forecast over the coming weeks however it looks as though this snow season won’t live up to Nagano (and Japan’s) reputation for huge amounts of excellent, very reliable powder.
Having said that, there is still good skiing and snowboarding available if you know where to look! Always the optimists, we are hopeful that better is yet to come. After all, tt’s only the end of January and we only need to look back to last year, when we experience excellent snowfall in March and into April setting us up for amazing spring in Nagano…
WHERE’S THE BEST SNOW IN NAGANO?
As always, our recommendation for Nagano’s most reliable skiing and snowboarding is Shiga Kogen. Located nearby the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, Shiga is Japan’s largest and highest ski resort. Boasting Japan’s highest chair-lifted ski run at 2307 meters – Yokoteyama – Shiga’s altitude is key.
Put simply, higher altitude means colder temperatures and colder temperatures equals more snow. Shiga Kogen’s location further from the coast than many other resorts also works in its favour. As the winter weather moves overland the air loses its moisture, blessing the resort with dry powder.
Shiga Kogen is known for the reliability of its snow. Even when the snowfall is down, Shiga is your best bet when searching for the best snow available in Nagano.
OKUSHIGA: GOOD SNOW & EMPTY SKI RUNS
The resort is made-up of 18 ski areas – some large, some small – each with their own character and positives. Situated deep within the resort, the ski fields of Okushiga are among our favorite in Nagano and reporting good snowfall.
Located away from the resorts central area, Okushiga offers a mix of terrain summitting around 2000m, with trails suitable for skiers and boarders of all levels.
Gentle green runs at the base are perfect for beginners including those who want to organise a lesson through nearby Shiga International Ski School. Up top you have a good mix of black, red and green runs running you back to the bottom with Okushiga’s biggest selling point is its empty runs and lifts – giving you more bang for your back.
Recommended Accommodation in Okushiga
When headed to Okushiga we always recommend Hotel Grand Phenix. Combing European-style accommodation and comfort with traditional Japanese service and outstanding facilities, Grand Phenix offers guest ski in/out access, fine dining restaurants, spacious rooms, indoor and outdoor baths, heated indoor pool and more.
It is unmatched in Shiga Kogen for service and comfort – our recommendation when wanting the best out of your ski adventure.
SHIGA KOGEN CENTRAL AREA: THE RESORTS MAIN HUB
As the name suggests, Shiga Kogen’s Central Area is in the middle of the resort and offers guests unparalleled access to main ski areas and overall resort, along with the greatest concentration of accommodation, restaurants and bars.
Most ski runs are open and experiencing some very nice conditions despite the snowfall being down on previous years. The Central Area is a great option for visitors who want to have easy access to everything Shiga Kogen has to offer.
But that comes at a price. As you’d imagine, this is also the busiest area of the resort with Japanese school groups also using the large hotels in the area, making some runs crowded. With lower snowfall at nearby resorts, even more visitors than usual are visiting the Central Area. So while it has plenty to offer including some of Nagano’s best snow, you will be sharing it with others.
Recommended Accommodation in the Central Area
Ideally located in Takamagahara, Hotel Sunny Shiga offers guests everything they need in a family-friendly ski hotel. Rooms come in all shapes and sizes – with options suitable for single travellers, couples, families and larger groups – while the hotel’s in-house restaurant is known for its generous meal service.
A large public bath – for the exclusive use of hotel guests – and communal lounge area round-out this homely, reliable accommodation option in the heart of the resort.
GO FURTHER AFIELD & DISCOVER YAMABOKU WILD SNOW PARK
For those who are mobile and motivated, less snow also means more opportunity to discover areas that are often just that bit too far to get to. Located nearby Sihga Kogen but often made remote in winter by heavy snowfall and iced-up roads, Yamaboku Wild Snow Park is an undiscovered secret just waiting to thrill!
Known for its truly authentic local character, Yamaboku is a small resort known for the magic combination of powder, trees, and a resort which encourages you to get in deep and explore! With only three chairlifts serving the small resort, ungroomed courses crisscross tree line runs creating a truly unique resort.
While the snow is definitely down on previous years, clear roads make the resort more accessible than usual. With bigger crowds heading to Shiga Kogen in search of its snow, Yamaboku is a great option for intermediate to advanced skiers and snowboarders looking for something quieter and totally local, nearby Shiga.
Recommended Accommodation nearby Yamaboku
Located at the foot of the mountain, Yamada Onsen is another undiscovered secret but local favorite in Nagano. This small and cute hot spring town has a big reputation with local residents and several guesthouses to choose from.
Our recommendation is Fujiiso. Located in the center of town, Fujiiso is one of the region’s most acclaimed guesthouses, known for its contemporary Japanese design, indulgent ‘onsen’ (hot springs), and outstanding meal service.
Offering guests both Japanese and Western-style rooms, Fujiiso is a true winter refuge – a place to unwind and breathe in the essence of Nagano in winter. A place of peace, quiet and remedy after wild days on the mountain.
Guests staying at Fujiiso also have the option of a Private Snow Monkey Tour conducted from and returning to the hotel. Including a private vehicle and driver, English-speaking guide, entry to the world-famous Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, lunch, and your choice of afternoon activities, this is the most comfortable and entertaining way to explore the nearby region.
So let’s hope that the real starts falling soon! But for those already here or on your way, just remember, there is still plenty of good stuff and always a reason to head to Nagano in winter…
GETTING TO SHIGA KOGEN, YAMABOKU OR ANY OTHER RESORT IS OH SO EASY…
Locally-based and operating all year round, Snow Monkey Resorts is Nagano’s No1. Tour and charter operator. With a fleet of vehicles suitable from small groups – from a single traveler, couples, group of friends or family – to large expeditions – of up to 44 passengers – we are here to get you to and from the resorts of your choice with minimal hassle, maximum comfort, and timely service.
All of our vehicles and drivers are properly registered and accredited, and being locally-based we offer the most reliable service based on local know-how. Charters are fully customizable to your needs are can be arranged to include pick-up and drop-off directly at your accommodation or ski resort of choice, luggage transportation, and other activities as you move from one point to the next.
Most popularly, we can coordinate your charter to include a stop at the world-famous Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park (including entry tickets and lunch if preferred) or any other nearby attraction, allowing you to take in some of Nagano’s highlights while on the road and maximizing your time on the mountain!