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Nagano Ski Resort Comparison: Where to Go & Why?

Nagano Ski Resort Comparison: Where to Go & Why?

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Nagano boasts both some of the best ski resorts in Asia and deepest powder in the world. Spoiled with choice when it comes to deciding which resort to go to, this page is here to help you answer the question, which Nagano ski resort is best? On this page you will find the following:

Nagano Ski Resorts: An Introduction

Nagano Ski Resorts: All the Stats

Nagano Ski Resort Comparison: Where to Go & Why?

More FAQs: Which Nagano Resort is Best for You?

Nagano Ski Packages & Accommodation

We hope the information on this page helps you to choose the best Nagano ski resort for you and encourages you to book your winter getaway. It’s one of many pages that discuss where you’ll find the best skiing and snowboarding across Japan, including our ’30 Best Ski Resorts in Japan’ page.

NAGANO SKI RESORTS: AN INTRODUCTION

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Lying to the north-west of Tokyo, Nagano prefecture boasts the largest number of resorts of any part of Japan. Host of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Nagano’s pedigree speaks for itself, attracting skies and snowboarders from all over the world each winter, who come seeking the region’s legendary powder, friendly resorts and all the trimmings including hot springs, great food and plenty of attractions nearby the resorts. The resorts of Hakuba are often compared to those of Hokkaido including Niseko. Nagano is our home therefore it’s our recommendation of the overall better destination. While Hokkaido is without question fantastic and you won’t regret if you head there, Nagano and nearby Niigata have the following advantages:

1 /  MOST RESORTS IN JAPAN: Nagano has the most ski resorts in Japan – a total of 85. When combined with bordering Niigata, it has a huge number of resorts to choose from – 133 to be exact – giving skiers and snowboarders a huge amount of choice within easy access of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and the major airports.

2 /  AMAZING SNOW: the resorts of Nagano and Niigata receive a huge amount of snow each year and some of the best powder in the world. Sure, Hokkaido might have even more but trust us, you won’t be left wanting by the conditions here.

3 /  BETTER WEATHER: Nagano and Niigata have better weather than Hokkaido. More snow in Hokkaido equals more days of heavy snowfall and white-out. Nagano and Niigata get plenty of snow but also have more bluebird days of big blue skies. A big advantage.

4 /  HIGHER RESORTS, STEEPER TERRAIN: while the resorts of Japan don’t match those of Europe and North America for size and terrain, it can be said that the resorts of Nagano are generally the largest and steepest in Japan. So if size and quality of terrain is important to you, then Nagano is the best option.

5 /  MUCH, MUCH CLOSER TO TOKYO: Nagano and Niigata are easy to reach from Tokyo and its airports, using the Hokuriku Shinkansen and Joetsu Shinkansen lines – taking around 80-minutes to both Nagano Station and Echigo-Yuzawa Station, the major transport hubs for each region – or express buses and charters services from the major airports. In comparison, to take the train from Tokyo to Niseko – the most popular resort in Hokkaido – will take around 8-hours and cost around three times as much as the fare to Nagano. For that reason, many people choose to fly from Tokyo to Hokkaido. The flight from Tokyo to New Chitose Airport in Sapporo takes around 1.5 hours from where it’s another 2 to 3-hours to Niseko by bus or train. Nagano and Niigata are much, much closer to Tokyo and other major cities including Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka allowing you to incorporate it into a wider Japan trip with ease – a big advantage.

For the reasons stated above we recommend choosing our home region of Nagano for your ski and snowboard adventure in Japan and THE FOLLOWING FAQs ARE FOCUSED ON THE RESORTS OF NAGANO AND NIIGATA ONLY. We hope the following information inspires and assists in planning your winter adventure.

NAGANO SKI RESORT COMPARISON


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For international visitors, we recommend the following resorts in Nagano and Niigata. As the numbers below show, they vary in size and character but each offers its own reason for choosing to go there. For more detailed information, click on the hyperlink to the ski resort page for each:

ResortSize (hectares)Elevation (metres)Vertical (metres)GondolasLiftsSki RunsBeginnerIntermediateAdvancedLongest RunSteepest RunBackcountrySeason
Shiga Kogen425 / 600*1330 - 23079775448735%40%25%6KM36°NONovember to April
Nozawa Onsen 300565 - 165010852193640%30%30%10KM39°NODecember to April
Hakuba Happo-One220760 - 183110711231430%50%20%8KM37°YESDecember to April
ABLE Goryu120 / 200**750 - 16769261111535%40%25%5KM35°YESDecember to April
Hakuba4780 / 200**820 - 161479415830%40%30%6.5KM32°YESDecember to April
Hakuba Iwatake125750 - 1289539192630%50%20%3.5KM35°NODecember to March
Tsugaike196800 - 17049041181450%30%20%5KM35°YESDecember to April
Hakuba Cortina50 / 100**872 - 1402530061640%30%30%3.5KM42°YESDecember to April
Hakuba Norikura50 / 100**700 - 1300600091630%40%30%2.5KM38°YESDecember to April
Togakushi581300 - 1749449071930%40%30%3KM31°NODecember to March
Madarao75 / 125**
910 - 1350
440
0
91330%
35%
35%
2.5KM
36°
YES
December to March
Tangram Ski Circus50 / 125**800 - 1320520051430%40%30%2.5KM35°NODecember to March
Ryuoo Ski Park97850 - 19301080191735%40%25%6KM39°NODecember to April
Akakura Onsen54 / 115**650 - 12005500141750%30%20%3KM38°YESDecember to April
Akakura Kanko61 / 115**740 - 1500760161040%30%30%4.5KM32°YESDecember to April
Ikenotaira60760 - 1500740061035%45%20%4KM30°NODecember to March
Suginohara90731 - 18551124141640%40%20%8.5KM38°YESDecember to March
Seki Onsen17900 - 121031002420%50%30%1.5KM38°YESDecember to April
Lotte Arai157329 - 1280951141525%40%35%5KM38°YESDecember to April

*the official size of Shiga Kogen Ski Resort is around 600 hectares however this includes three areas – Kumanoyu, Shibutoge and Yotokeyama – that while covered by Shiga Kogen’s all-mountain pass are not connected to the overall resort. Discounting those three areas, Shiga Kogen offers 425 hectares of connected terrain.

**this resort is connected to the resort listed directly above or below. The first number display shows the hectare size of the resort while the second number reflects the combined size of the two resorts.

NAGANO SKI RESORT COMPARISON: WHERE TO GO & WHY?


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The resorts listed above each have their own appeal – ranging from the large to small, those known for their terrain, powder, backcountry, accommodation, nightlife and more. While international visitors head to all resorts, most land at the higher profile ski areas of Hakuba Valley, Shiga Kogen, Nozawa Onsen and Myoko Kogen. We compare those resorts including:

HAKUBA vs NISEKO* — HAKUBA vs SHIGA KOGENHAKUBA vs NOZAWA ONSEN SHIGA KOGEN vs NOZAWA ONSENHAKUBA vs MYOKO KOGENSHIGA KOGEN vs MYOKO KOGEN

*Though Niseko is not located in Nagano – indeed its located far, far away in Hokkaido – we start with perhaps the most common question for visitors chooing their Japan ski resort – which is best, Hakuba or Niseko? This question could also be asked as which is best, Nagano or Hokkaido? After that, we focus of questions comparing the most popular ski resort areas in Nagano and Niigata.

HAKUBA vs NISEKO

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As the most popular ski resorts in Nagano and Hokkaido respectively, this for many visitors is the big question and one that could also be framed as ‘should I choose Nagano or Hokkaido?’. Firstly, when people speak of ‘Hakuba’ or ‘Hakuba Valley’ they are usually referring to a grouping of 10 resorts covered by the ‘Hakuba Valley Ticket’, and when speaking of ‘Niseko’ or ‘Niseko United’ they are referring to a grouping of 4 resorts covered by an all-mountain pass.

Which is bigger?

In total, the resorts of Hakuba add-up to over 1000 hectares of terrain and advertises itself as Japan’s largest ski resort however this misleading as most ski areas are not connected. Hakuba Happo-One is the largest resort in the valley offering around 220 hectares of interconnected terrain. The connected resorts of ABLE Goryu and Hakuba47 – pictured above – offer around 200 hectares of terrain while the standalone resorts of Tsuigake – 200 hectares – and Iwatake – 125 hectares – are the next largest. All this means that the largest extent of connected terrain you can enjoy in Hakuba, without the need to get on a shuttle bus or use a taxi, equals 220 hectares. In comparison, the four resorts of ‘Niseko United’ – Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Annupuri and Hanazono – making-upadd-up to 325 hectares of interconnected terrain. So, while Hakuba offers more terrain in total, Niseko offers a larger amount of interconnected terrain.

Which has better snow / terrain?

Located on the northern island of Hokkaido, Niseko enjoys a longer season and more snow than Hakuba. Indeed, plenty of people will tell you that Hokkaido’s powder is the best the world and for that reason, Niseko is always a great choice. Hakuba still gets plenty of amazing and enticingly, more bluebird days than Niseko. It also boasts the better and steeper terrain. Both of them have excellent backcountry. Which one suits you best depends on your priorities including the question:

Which has the best accommodation / is most fun at night?

Hakuba and Niseko offer the best range of accommodation and après-ski of any ski areas in Nagano or Hokkaido. They are the most international resorts with the best setups for international visitors. In terms of high-end accommodation and the most dining and nightlife options, Niseko remains the strongest ski destination in Japan – with Grand Hirafu and Niseko Village standing-out for their range of hotels, restaurants, bars and more. Hakuba also offers plenty of excellent accommodation and an increasing amount of dining and après-ski with lots to choose from around Hakuba Village and nearby Echoland.


HAKUBA vs SHIGA KOGEN

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While the resorts of Hakuba are Nagano’s best-known, recent years have seen more-and-more international visitors discover Shiga Kogen Ski Resort – pictured above. Located around 2 hours to the east of Hakuba Valley, Shiga Kogen is Japan’s largest and highest ski resort. It enjoys Nagano’s longest season and has the most reliable snow – thanks to its elevation and inland location – of any resort in Nagano. Let’s start be clarifying the most common question:

Which is bigger?

As detailed above, the 10 resorts of Hakuba Valley offer over 1000 hectares of terrain however the greatest extent of interconnected terrain is only 220 hectares. In contrast, Shiga Kogen Ski Resort offers a total of around 600ha of terrain with 15 of Shiga 18 ski areas connected and offering Japan’s largest extent of connected terrain at 425ha. Only Kumanoyu, Yokoteyama and the small ski field of Shibutoge are not connected to the rest of the resort, requiring visitors to drive or use the resort’s shuttle bus or taxi to reach them. Therefore, if you want to know which resort offers the most skiable terrain without needing to get on a bus, in a taxi or need to drive yourself to another area, the answer is simple. Shiga Kogen is not just larger than Hakuba but also the largest resort in Japan.

Which has better snow / terrain?

Shiga sits between 1330 to 2307 metres above sea level and as such, is Japan’s highest ski resort. It enjoys Nagano’s longest season and thanks to its higher elevation and topography, Shiga is enjoys the region’s most reliable snow. Located closer to the coast, Hakuba typically experiences more snow than Shiga but a shorter season than Shiga Kogen. However, if going steep and getting off-piste is your thing, Hakuba is the better option. It boasts steeper and more challenging terrain than Shiga Kogen including some of Japan’s best backcountry. At this time, backcountry in Shiga is only permitted when accompanied by a guide.

Which has the best accommodation / is most fun at night?

Hakuba has a better range of accommodation including high-end and self-contained options, than Shiga Kogen and has notably more nightlife. Shiga has plenty of good accommodation and a limited number of bars and restaurants around Ichinose Village, however Hakuba offers much, much more in that regard.


HAKUBA vs NOZAWA ONSEN

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One of Japan’s best all-round resorts, Nozawa Onsen – pictured above – sits around 2 hours to the east of Hakuba. It has a big reputation for fantastic powder, great terrain and just as much fun off the mountain. With more-and-more high-end accommodation popping-up each season and lots of good dining and bars, Nozawa Onsen rivals the most popular resorts of Hakuba.

Which is bigger?

Nozawa Onsen offers 325 hectares of terrain, more than any single ski area in Hakuba Valley. As detailed above, Hakuba Happo-One Snow Resort is the largest connected ski area in Hakuba Valley at 220 hectares while the connected resorts of ALBE Goryu and Hakuba47 offer around 200 hectares of terrain. Tsuigake also offers 200 hectares while Iwatake offers 125 hectares. These and the other resorts of Hakuba add-up to over 1000 hectares of terrain – all covered by the ‘Hakuba Valley Ticket’ – however Nozawa Onsen offers more as a single, connected ski area.

Which has better snow / terrain?

Both enjoy fantastic powder and excellent terrain. Hakuba resorts including Happo-One, ABLE Goryu and the Hakuba Cortina offer some of Japan’s steepest and best terrain – while Nozawa Onsen boasts one of Japan’s longest ski runs at 10km. Hakuba and Nozawa typically receive huge snowfall and comparable powder. A big point of difference between the two is that while having some excellent tree zones and sidecountry, backcountry is not permitted at Nozawa Onsen whereas Hakuba offers some of Japan’s best.

Which has the best accommodation / is most fun at night?

Nozawa Onsen is a historic hot spring village sitting at the base of the ski fields. It offers lots of great accommodation including ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses) with their own hot springs and an increasing number of high-end self-contained options. Hakuba has a bit more in terms of accommodation including large, high-end hotels and fine dining venues, but Nozawa Onsen’s compact streets and traditional character combine to give it lots of charm that’s hard to beat.


SHIGA KOGEN vs NOZAWA ONSEN

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Shiga Kogen and Nozawa Onsen lie around 1 hour from each other, meaning both can easily be enjoyed on a multiday visit. They offer some of Japan’s best skiing and snowboarding but each with its own character and positives. Nozawa is all about combining great powder, terrain and après-ski while Shiga suits anyone wanting to focus fully on the snow and enjoy Japan’s largest area of interconnected ski fields.

Which is bigger?

Shiga Kogen – pictured above – is Japan’s largest ski resort offering 600 hectares of terrain of which around 425 hectares is connected. In comparison, Nozawa Onsen offers 325 hectares of terrain making it another of Japan’s largest resorts but notably smaller than Shiga.

Which has better snow / terrain?

Shiga Kogen’s higher altitude and profile as Japan’s highest ski resort – sitting between 1330 to 2307 metres – means that it enjoys Nagano’s longest season and most reliable snow. Nozawa is notably lower elevation – at 565 to 1650 metres – however its location closer to the coast than Shiga means it typically receives heavier snowfall and some of Nagano’s best powder. Nozawa Onsen also boasts one of Japan’s longest ski runs at 10km and overall, a fantastic mix of terrain. In short, both resorts are excellent and are well-suited to multiday visits.

Which has the best accommodation / is most fun at night?

Nozawa Onsen has more to offer when it comes to accommodation and nightlife. It offers a mix of hotels, traditional guesthouses and self-contained options with many including their own ‘onsen’ (natural hot spring). In addition, it has plenty of restaurants and bars that you can wander between and ‘bar-hop’ at night, whereas Shiga Kogen has no central village and limited dining and drinking options a night. Most visitors to Shiga package meals with their accommodation and focus fully on the snow. If the action off the slopes is important to you, then Nozawa Onsen is the better option.


HAKUBA vs MYOKO KOGEN

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The grouping of ‘Myoko Kogen’ is, like Hakuba, comprised of multiple resorts known for their deep, deep powder and authentic character. When considering Myoko, it’s worth noting that while it’s located in the southern end of Niigata Prefecture, given its proximity to the resorts of Nagano and access via Nagano Station, it can be considered together with resorts including Hakuba, Shiga Kogen and Nozawa.

Which is bigger?

Hakuba Valley is notably bigger than Myoko Kogen. When people refer to ‘Myoko Kogen’ they are typically referring to five resorts – Akakura Onsen, Akakura Kanko, Ikenotaira, Suginohara and Seki Onsen – with some also grouping the relatively new Lotte Arai Resort within the grouping. The connected resorts of Akakura Onsen – 54 hectares – and Akakura Kanko – 61 hectares / pictured above – combine to offer 115 hectares, the largest extent interconnected of terrain in Myoko which offers just around 300 hectares in total*. Hakuba Happo-One is the largest resort in Hakuba offering 220 hectares of terrain, with the connected resorts of ABLE Goryu and Hakuba47 offering around 200 hectares and the total size of Hakuba’s 10 resorts adding-up to over 1000 hectares.

Which has better snow / terrain?

Myoko Kogen’s location near the north coast results in huge dumps of snow as the winter weather moves across the Sea of Japan from Siberia. Even in a less-reliable season, Myoko is almost guaranteed to have big snow with most seasons being truly big as it experiences some of the deepest powder in the world. The resorts of Myoko make the most of their powder, offering some of Japan’s best treezones, side and backcountry. Hakuba’s powder, terrain and backcountry is also excellent and the resorts have better infrastructure and setups for international visitors.

Which has the best accommodation / is most fun at night?

This is an easy one. The answer is Hakuba. Hakuba has a huge range of accommodation catering to all budgets including high-end and self-contained options, and dining and nightlife. Myoko Kogen is far less developed with few high-end accommodation options and limited dining and drinking options. Therefore if you want to wine, dine or party, choose Hakuba. But if you fancy going more local and getting into the really deep stuff, Myoko Kogen might just be for you.

*Lotte Arai Resort is sometimes included within Myoko Kogen grouping. Offering 157 hectares, it is larger than the connected resorts of Akakura Onsen / Kanko. If you included Lotte Arai in the Myoko grouping, in brings the total terrain size to 439 hectares.


SHIGA KOGEN vs MYOKO KOGEN

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Shiga Kogen Ski Resort and the resorts of Myoko Kogen – pictured above – sit around 1 hour from each other, allowing visitors to visit both areas when enjoying an extended stay in Nagano. If you’re trying to choose between the two destinations, Shiga Kogen is significantly larger than any ski area in Myoko however Myoko experiences more powder. The resorts of Myoko also allow backcountry whereas Shiga Kogen only allows backcountry when accompanied by a guide.

Which is bigger?

As noted above, Shiga Kogen is Japan’s largest ski resort. It offers visitors 600 hectares of terrain, 425 of which is interconnected. In contrast, the five resorts usually grouped within Myoko Kogen – Akakura Onsen, Akakura Kanko, Ikenotaira, Suginohara and Seki Onsen – add-up to only 282 hectares with the connected resorts of Akakura Onsen and Kanko offering the largest expanse of interconnected terrain at 115 hectares. So, in terms of size, Shiga Kogen wins hands-down.

Which has better snow / terrain?

The resorts of Myoko Kogen receives some of the heaviest snow in Japan and as such, lays claim to some of the deepest powder in the world. Located near the north coast, Myoko Kogen also receives its snow earlier and more regularly than inland resorts such as Shiga Kogen which receives less but drier snow. As noted above, Shiga Kogen offers substantially more terrain all of which is covered by an all-mountain pass. The ‘Myoko All-Mountain Pass’ covers four resorts – Akakura Onsen, Akakura Kanko, Ikenotaira and Suginohara – with the big attraction of each resort allowing backcountry, whereas Shiga Kogen only permits backcountry when accompanied by a local guide. So, if you want the maximum amount of terrain and great snow, choose Shiga. But if you want deep powder and fantastic backcountry, choose Myoko.

Which has the best accommodation / is most fun at night?

Neither Shiga Kogen nor Myoko Kogen boast much in the way of high-end accommodation however between the two, Shiga offers a lot more. As the largest ski resort in Japan, Shiga Kogen has plenty of hotels and lodges spread across different ski fields while Myoko Kogen’s best accommodation is centred in and around Akakura Onsen village. Similarly, neither Shiga nor Myoko have much in the way of nightlife. You’ll find some bars and restaurants around Akakura Onsen village while in Shiga, the most drinking and dining options are found in Ichinose village. If you’re looking for high-end accommodation and lots of dining and drinking options, then best to head to Hakuba or Nozawa. But if you prefer resorts with more ‘Japanese’ characters and that all about the action on the mountain, then either Shiga or Myoko will suit you well.

MORE FAQs: WHICH RESORT IS BEST FOR YOU?


Got another question about skiing and snowboarding in Japan? Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned veteran of Japan looking for a change of scene, there’s a good chance that if you’re asking a question about skiing and snowboarding here, so too is someone else! Here are some of the most common questions when it comes to skiing and snowboarding in Japan – and of course the answers too.

NAGANO SKI PACKAGES & ACCOMMODATION


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Based in Nagano and operating all year round, we are a registered travel agent, tour and charter operator offering a full-suite of winter services including ski/snowboard packages, accommodation, lift passes, private charters and a range of tours including both group and private options. For information about all our winter services, click through to our Ski Packages & Recommended Nagano Resorts’ page.