Japan Ski/Snowboard FAQs: Which Resort is Best For You?
As one of the world’s premier winter sports destinations, Japan spoils visitors for choice when it comes to fantastic resorts and even better snow. On this page you will find loads of FAQs to help you choose the best resort for you under these headings:
— Japan’s Ski Season General FAQs
— Nagano & Niigata Resorts General FAQs
— Nagano & Niigata Resorts Detailed FAQs
— Japan Ski Resorts: Everything You Need to Know
Plenty of people will tell you that Japan has the world’s best snow conditions and when you combine that with all the trimmings of skiing and snowboarding in Japan – including the ease of transport, friendly resorts, great food and of course hot springs! – it’s easy to understand why people people fall in love with this country and come again and again and again. But there’s so much choice it can be hard to know where to go and how to start planning your trip. To help you do just that, we’ve tried to answer some of the most common questions of visitors heading to Japan for winter. Please note, with the exception of the section directly below – ‘Japan’s Ski Season General FAQs’ – the FAQs ON THIS PAGE ARE MOSTLY FOCUSED ON THE RESORTS OF NAGANO AND NIIGATA. We hope the following information inspires and assists in planning your winter adventure.
JAPAN’S SKI SEASON GENERAL FAQs
Let’s start with the basics including when to expect the snow, when you should visit and where you’ll find the best resorts. In this section you will find answers to the following questions:
— When is Japan’s snow season?
— When is the best time to visit?
— Is it expensive to ski / snowboard in Japan?
— Which area has the most ski resorts?
— Which is the best ski area in Japan – Nagano or Hokkaido?
Remember, if you can’t find the question you’re looking for it might be in another section so make sure to check-out the entire page to get all the answers that you’re after. In the sections below we introduce the best resorts in Nagano before asking which one suits you best. But let’s start with the most important question:
When is Japan’s snow season?
It depends on the region. The snow begins in the north and moves south as temperatures drop in the latter part of the year. Hokkaido will receive snow first, usually from November onward with the resorts typically operational by the last week of November to the first week of December. The snow will gradually move south through Tohoku and then onto Nagano and Niigata. The ski resorts of Nagano and Niigata will typically receive their first snow in the first or second week of December with most opening between December 15th to 22nd. The snow should then be at its heaviest through January, February and into March. Many ski resorts in Nagano and Niigata will close toward the end of March or stay open into April (depending on snow conditions). The resorts of Hokkaido should remain open a little longer, into April or as late as May (again, depending on snow conditions).
When is the best time to visit?
No matter where you’re headed, the resorts of Japan typically receive their heaviest snow in January and February. Of course it will vary between seasons but overall, these months are when you can expect the greatest amount of snow.
Is it expensive to ski / snowboard in Japan?
No. Compared to North America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia, skiing and snowboarding in Japan is relatively cheap. Lift passes vary across resorts but are typically between JPY3500 to JPY6500 (approx. USD$25 to USD$50) with cheaper per day prices available with multi-day tickets or all-inclusive packages. Put simply, when you considered the quality of the resorts and the cheap prices of their lift passes, it’s hard to beat Japan for the overall experience.
Which area has the most ski resorts?
Nagano Prefecture is home to 85 ski resorts the most of any area in Japan. When combined with nearby Niigata – which has 48 – the combined area of Nagano and Niigata has 133 resorts. In comparison, Hokkaido has a still very healthy 51 resorts.
Which is the best ski area in Japan – Nagano or Hokkaido?
This is the age-old question… ultimately, both are excellent so it comes down to what you want. The ski resorts of Hokkaido typically enjoy a longer season, more snow and what many people will argue is the best powder in the world! Nagano has more resorts, higher resorts, steeper terrain, excellent snow, more bluebird days and is much closer to Tokyo and Japan’s other major cities. Nagano also borders Niigata and other regions with many ski resorts and can be reached quickly using the Shinkansen/Bullet Train from Tokyo or other rapid services from Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka meaning that it’s easy to move around and combine your skiing and snowboarding with a broader Japan adventure.
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 & NIIGATA RESORTS GENERAL FAQs
Whether you’re a newbie or experienced powderhound, looking for luxury or to avoid the crowds, or traveling as a family and want to know which resorts are best for kids, we hope the following FAQs help in choosing which of Nagano and Niigata’s fantastic resorts you’ll visit. In this section you will find answers to the following questions:
— Which resorts have the longest seasons?
— Which resorts have the most reliable snow?
— Which resorts have the most / best powder?
— Which resorts are best for English-speakers?
— Which resorts have English-speaking ski / snowboard schools?
— Which resorts have ski / snowboard rental?
— Which resorts have the best accommodation?
— Which resorts have the best nightlife?
— Which are the best resorts for onsen / hot springs?
For a direct comparison of the most popular resorts including Hakuba Valley, Shiga Kogen, Nozawa Onsen and Myoko Kogen, see our ‘Best Nagano Ski Resorts: Where to Go & Why in 2023/24’ page. Obviously our answers are subjective and are simply intended to point you in the right direction. In answer to some questions we could have listed a number of resorts but for the sake of brevity, we have limited each answer to a maximum of three suggestions. So let’s get started with:
Which resorts have the longest seasons?
Shiga Kogen has the longest season of any resort in Nagano and Niigata. Shiga is both the largest and highest resort in not just Nagano but anywhere in Japan. Thanks to its higher elevation and location, Shiga Kogen boasts the longest season of any resort in the region, typically running from late-November well into April or as late as early-May. Expect the entire resort to be open from mid-December until mid-April. Other than Shiga, most resorts in Nagano and Niigata operate from early to mid-December until late-March or in a good season, into April.
Which resorts have the most reliable snow?
Again, it’s Shiga Kogen. Given its higher elevation – actually the highest ski resort in Japan – and natural topography, Shiga also boasts the more reliable snow conditions in Nagano and Niigata. While it receives slightly less snow than other resorts in the region due to its location further from the coast, Shiga Kogen’s inland location mean that the snow is drier and thanks to the surrounding mountains, stays in better condition for longer. Protected from the warmer southern weather pattern by the mountains, Shiga is subject to colder weather patterns moving in from the Sea of Japan. These winds originate far to the north, as far away as Siberia, and are far colder than those coming from the Pacific Ocean to the south. As the weather moves in from the sea, the snow falls and gradually loses its moisture as it moves overland. By the time it reaches Shiga, it might be less than areas closer to the coast but there’s still plenty, its drier and the most reliable thanks to the resorts higher elevation which guarantees cold conditions even in a warmer season.
Which resorts have the most / best powder?
This one is hard to answer but in Nagano, Nozawa Onsen and the resorts of Hakuba, especially Happo One and Hakuba Goryu/47 are considered to have the best powder. Due to its north-facing direction and relative protection from wind, Hakuba 47 in particular often has fantastic powder. In nearby Niigata, the resorts of Myoko Kogen receive a ridiculous amount of snow each year and some of the deepest powder in the world. If deep powder is your thing, try the resorts of Myoko Kogen or the little-known Muikamachi Hakkaisan in Yuzawa.
Which resorts are best for English-speakers?
The resorts of the Hakuba Valley – specifically Hakuba Happo-One, ABLE Goryu and Hakuba47 – and Nozawa Onsen have the best setup and most services for English-speakers in Nagano.
Which resorts have English-speaking ski / snowboard schools?
Many resorts have English-speaking ski/snowboard schools including Shiga Kogen, most resorts in Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen and a couple in Myoko Kogen.
Which resorts have ski / snowboard rental?
Pretty much every resort. If you’re after English-speaking rental services and/or high-quality gear, head to the bigger resorts including Nozawa Onsen or the most popular resorts in Hakuba including Happo One, Hakuba Goryu/47 and Hakuba Cortina/Norikura. Madarao Mountain Resort also offers good quality rental with English-speaking staff. Shiga Kogen also has plenty of rental services however the best options will be directly through high-end accommodation and their in-house rental service while Gala Yuzawa and Naeba in Niigata are also well-setup with high-end rental services.
Which resorts have the best accommodation?
The range and quality of accommodation varies greatly across Japan’s resorts. These are three of the best in Nagano:
Hakuba Happo One boasts the best variety of accommodation in the region including high-end and luxury hotels and chalets along with plenty of mid-range and budget options. Accommodation is concentrated in three main areas – Wadano, the central village and Echoland. With additional hotels and private residences opening-up each season, there’s plenty to choose from but expect to pay high prices in peak periods including Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year along with weekends and public holidays.
Nozawa Onsen is good sized resort but unlike Hakuba – where accommodation is spread throughout a large valley – the majority of Nozawa’s accommodation is entirely within one village. This ensures the best options book-out well in advance and demand high prices but having said that, Nozawa offers some excellent accommodation including private chalets and high-end ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses). Just make sure to book well in advance.
Shiga Kogen can’t match Happo One or Nozawa Onsen in terms of high-end/luxury and Western-style accommodation however where it comes into its own, is its range of traditional Japanese hotels and guesthouses. Inside the resort there are some very good options including large hotels while nearby Shiga, the hot springs towns of Kanbayashi, Shibu and Yudanaka Onsen offer the best range of traditional guesthouses near any ski resort in Nagano.
Which resorts have the best nightlife?
It’s worth noting that the resorts in Japan aren’t setup for apres ski to the extent of many in Europe and North America but if you’re after some decent nightlife head to Nozawa Onsen or Hakuba Valley – basing yourself around Wadano, the main village or Echoland if staying in Hakuba. There are plenty of bars and restaurants catering to the international market, many of which are owned and operated by foreigners and where everything is in English. This will appeal to some while turn others off.
If you’re looking for a resort with still some nightlife but a more ‘Japanese’ feel, try Akakura Onsen/Kanko in Myoko Kogen. It’s a bit rundown and can’t compete with Hakuba or Nozawa in terms of nightlife however there’s enough going to find something to do at night at it’s very much still Japanese.
Which are the best resorts for onsen / hot springs?
Most resorts will at have an ‘onsen’ or two in their village or accommodation with their own in-house hot springs. Our ‘Best Nagano Ski Resorts: Where to Go & Why in 2023/24’ page profiles these three recommended resorts:
Nozawa Onsen was a hot spring village long before it was a ski resort. For more than 1300 years, people have been traveling to Nozawa to soak in its abundant thermal waters and do this day, the village connected to the resort has 13 public onsen and plenty of guesthouses and hotels offering their own hot springs.
Shiga Kogen is another great option when looking to enjoy Japan’s beloved hot springs on your next winter getaway. The Kumanoyu ski fields of Shiga have some good options when searching for an onsen while guesthouses and hotels dotted throughout the resort including in Takamagahara and Sun Valley also have in-house onsen. But our suggestion for the onsen-lovers out there, is to base yourself in nearby Kanbayashi, Shibu or Yudanaka Onsen. Located within 30-minutes drive of the Shiga Kogen ski fields, the three towns boast numerous hot spring guesthouses while Shibu Onsen has 9 ‘public’ onsen for the exclusive use of hotel guests.
Akakura Onsen/Kanko is another resort with a hot spring village directly accessible from the ski slopes. Not as developed as Nozawa Onsen, Akakura Onsen/Kanko is a great option if you want to enjoy are more relaxed Japanese experience.
NAGANO & NIIGATA RESORTS DETAILED FAQs
Now let’s get further into the detail of the resorts, their features and which ones suit you best. In this section you will find answers to the following questions:
— Which resort is the largest?
— I’ve read that Hakuba is the largest resort. Which is larger, Shiga Kogen or Hakuba?
— Which resort is the highest?
— Which resorts have the longest ski runs?
— Which are the best all-round resorts?
— Which are the best resorts for beginners?
— Which are the best resorts for intermediates?
— Which are the best resorts for advanced?
— Which are the best for sidecountry / tree zones?
— Which are the best resorts for backcountry?
— Which resorts have the best parks?
— Which are the best resorts for families?
The answers to some of these questions including which resort is the largest and which is the highest, are based on statistics however other questions such as which is the best for beginners to advanced, for backcountry and terrains, is a matter of opinion. We could have provided many recommendations in answer to these questions but as above for the sake of brevity, we have limited each answer to a maximum of three suggestions. So let’s get started with:
Which resort is the largest?
Shiga Kogen. Boasting over 600ha of terrain – of which 425ha is fully connected – Shiga Kogen is the largest resort in not just Nagano but all of Japan. You might read that Hakuba Valley is the largest resort however this isn’t quite correct. In stating that, Hakuba Valley are totalling the entire amount of terrain across all resorts in the valley however only a couple of those resorts – Hakuba Goryu/47 and Hakuba Cortina/Norikura – are actually, meaning that to you need to take a bus or car between most resorts. The largest resort in Hakuba is Happo-One with 220ha of terrain while Nozawa Onsen has around 300ha of terrain. So as you can see, Shiga Kogen is by far the largest area. For more information about the largest resorts in Japan, see our ’10 Largest Ski Resorts in Japan & Where to Say’ page.
I’ve read that Hakuba is the largest resort. Which is larger, Shiga Kogen or Hakuba?
When it comes to declaring Japan’s largest resort there is often a misunderstanding with Hakuba also promoting itself as ‘Japan’s Largest Snow Resort’, and in doing so creating a lot of confusion. This is for marketing. The resorts of ‘Hakuba Valley’ offer a combined area of just under 1000 hectares of terrain. However, most of those resorts are not connected meaning that the largest connected area of ski fields in Hakuba is at Hakuba Happo One – a total of 220ha. The joint resorts of Hakuba Goryu/47 and the stand-alone resort of Tsugaike are the next largest at 152ha and 196ha respectively, however all of these resorts are separated by some difference requiring you to drive or use a bus or taxi to move between them. 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 the largest resort in Japan.
Which resort is the highest?
Shiga Kogen also tops the list of not just the highest ski resort in Nagano but all of Japan, boasting the highest chairlift reaching 2307 metres in the Yokoteyama ski fields. In contrast, Hakuba Happo One is the highest resort in Hakuba Valley with its highest chairlift reaching 1831 metres, while Nozawa Onsen maxes-out at 1650 metres. You might be surprised to learn that Suginohara – one of the resorts making-up Myoko Kogen – beats both Happo One and Nozawa with a maximum elevation of 1855 metres but as you can see, Shiga Kogen is well and truly the highest resort around.
Which resorts have the longest ski runs?
This is contentious question with a couple of resort’s simultaneously claiming the longest run in Nagano or all of Japan! As far as we can confirm, these are the longest runs in each resort/ski area:
Nozawa Onsen – 10KM / Yamabiko → Kaminodaira → Paradise → Forest Beginner Course
Starting in the snow-covered trees of Yamabiko the course leads you through Kaminodaira and into the super wide Paradise, before taking a right and heading into the forested Beginners Course as it leads you above the village and back to the gondola. While not the particularly challenging, this truly long series of connected runs is probably the longest stretch you’ll find in Nagano.
Myoko Suginohara – 8.5KM / Shakunage → Panorama Connection → Suginohara Joint Course → Downhill Course → Shirakaba Course → Family Course
Though technically in Niigata, Myoko Kogen’s proximity to resorts including Nozawa mean it’s can be grouped as a Nagano resort and a good thing it is. Both Myoko Suginohara and Ikenotaira offer some lovely long runs with the longest hitting 8.5km. Starting from the top of the resort take the Shakunge Trail onto the Panorama Connection and then once at the Joint Course, switch across to the other side of the resort starting with the Downhill Course and ride all the way back to the gondola. Mellow and picturesque, the run can be enjoyed by most skiers and boarders!
Hakuba Happo One – 8KM / Skyline Course from Kurobishi → Sakka
Starting from the top of the resort, head down Kurobishi and follow the Skyline Course all the way back down to Sakka. On days of heavy powder you’ll really feel the burn in your thighs and love every moment. Happo One is one of the best resorts in Nagano for long runs with several courses covering good distances.
Shiga Kogen – 6.5KM / Terakoya → Higashidate → Forest Trail → Bunadaira
Starting from the top of Terakoya (2054m) descending down to Higashidate offers some of the best views and powder that Shiga has to offer, before leading to a winding Forest Trail which will keep you entertained for 4km before dropping you on to Bunadaira. While not the longest of the long runs in Nagano, the mixture of terrain on this 6.5kmstretch of snow is sure to have you smiling.
Oh yes… and there’s one resort claiming at 13KM ski run – the ‘Tacochi’ course at Yamaboku Wild Snow Park. At 13km long you might be asking, why have I never heard of the ‘Tacochi Course’ and why have you included it last? Why indeed! Yamaboku is a tiny ski field of ungroomed runs and only a couple of ageing chairlifts. Unlike the other runs on this list, the Tacochi course is off-piste and largely backcountry meaning its only suited to upper intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders. We kind of think it’s cheating to list a backcountry course as the longest run when all others are within the resort boundaries however Yamaboku claims it as the longest run in Nagano so it’s worth including here.
Which are the best all-round resorts?
Japan Ski/Snowboard FAQs: Which Resort is Best For You?
As one of the world’s premier winter sports destinations, Japan spoils visi…
We could list several resorts but three of the best overall resorts are:
Nozawa Onsen offers a large amount of terrain suitable for all levels, good infrastructure and a lively village offering plenty of accommodation, restaurants and nightlife. Always popular, it’s family-friendly and easy to get to. The only real drawback with Nozawa is that it does not permit backcountry and on weekends and holidays, it can take time to get onto the main Nagasaka Gondola. On busy days, we recommend heading to the Hikage Gondola in the morning and avoiding the Nagasaka Gondola until the crowds clear.
Hakuba Happo One – pictured above – is the largest resort in Hakuba Valley and the most central. The terrain is a little more challenging than Nozawa with access to great backcountry and skiing/boarding above the tree-line – a rare thing in Japan – with plenty of open beginner runs at the bottom. In the area around Happo One there is a huge array of accommodation from large hotels and luxury chalets to mid-range and budget options. With lots of nightlife and services for English-speaking service, Happo One is hard to beat.
Akakura Onsen/Kanko is the only connected resort in Myoko Kogen, offering a good amount of terrain catering to all levels. Beginners will enjoy expansive green runs in the lower areas of Akakura Onsen while intermediate and advanced riders will love the upper areas of Akakura Onsen and Kanko, where you typically find big powder, steep terrain and access to backcountry. The village isn’t as developed as Nozawa or Happo One however there’s plenty of accommodation and hot springs.
Which are the best resorts for beginners?
All resorts have beginner runs but these three are really well-suited to newbies:
Shiga Kogen is the largest resort in Japan and as such, it’s no surprise that it has terrain suitable to all levels including beginners. Typically quieter than the resorts of Hakuba Valley and Nozawa Onsen, beginners can find their confidence with lots of space and room to make mistakes.
Hakuba Iwatake is located less than 10-minutes drive from Hakuba Village and is one of Nagano’s most picturesque resorts. Not just picturesque, it has wide, gentle runs perfect for beginners. Combined with its great views, Iwatake is a great place to fall in-love with skiing and snowboarding.
Hakuba Tsugaike is a large, standalone resort to the north of Iwatake. At the bottom of the resort is an unfathomably wide and flat area where beginners and newbies can cut their chops with copious room to play.
Which are the best resorts for intermediates?
Another category we could list lots of resorts for but let’s start with these three:
Shiga Kogen is ideally-suited for intermediate skiers and snowboarders. A huge amount of the ski runs are rated intermediate with a nice variety and great snow conditions – a perfect resort to push yourself to the next level.
Hakuba Goryu/47 located just to the south of central Hakuba village, the connected resorts of Hakuba Goryu/47 offer a similar size of terrain to Happo One and excellent terrain for intermediate skiers and boarders. Hakuba 47 in particular is ideal for intermediates skiers/boarders with runs of nice length and steepness along with one of the best terrain parks in Japan.
Nozawa Onsen is as explained above a great all-round resort. Intermediate skiers and boarders will enjoy it the most, with terrain and the resorts terrain park offering lots of fun for multiple days.
Which are the best resorts for advanced?
All resorts cater to advanced skiers and boarders but these three are especially good:
Hakuba Happo One is one of the few resorts in Japan that has skiing above the tree-line, making it hugely appealing for advanced skiers and snowboarders. Not just that, access to backcountry and steep on-piste action makes it perhaps the best resort of advanced riders. Add to that, when the snow is good its excellent combining for a massively appealing resort.
Hakuba Cortina/Norikura is the most northern resort in the Hakuba Valley. The upper runs are very steep and access to some fantastic backcountry means that if you’re an advanced skier or boarder, it’s worth going that little bit further up the valley to these fantastic connected resorts.
Muikamachi Hakkaisan is unknown to most international visitors but if you’re after steep terrain and fantastic powder, then it really needs to be on your list. Most of the resort is red or black with a large 80+ person ropeway transporting skiers and boarders to the top of the resort from where you can through yourself down some of Niigata’s most challenging terrain. And when the powder dumps, it really dumps! Once you discover Hakkaisan you’ll love it forever!
Which are the bests for sidecountry / tree zones?
Best Places to Stay in Madarao
Located around 60 minutes to the north of Nagano City, Madarao Mountain Res…
Most resorts offer some sidecountry but not so many have dedicated tree zones. These are three of the best:
Madarao is accessible from Iiyama Station by public bus and taxi and boasts some of Nagano’s best tree runs, side and backcountry. Whereas many Japanese resorts restrict going off-piste, Madarao actively encourages it making it one of the best destinations for those seeking some action in the trees.
Akakura Onsen/Kanko is another resort that allows backcountry and offers great sidecountry through the trees. Blessed with a massive amount of snow each year, the combined resort offers great fun both on and off-piste.
Ikenotaira is the next resort along from Akakura Onsen/Kanko. A long resort with ageing infrastructure, the mellow ski runs are best-suited to beginners however an abundance of trees running along the runs provide some truly great action for intermediate and advanced riders – who can ride through the trees from the top of the resort to the bottom. Nicely spaced, it’s the perfect place to find your confidence amongst the trees and on days of big powder – which are often – enjoy some truly awesome conditions.
Which are the best resorts for backcountry?
Many resorts in Japan restrict if not do not allow backcountry. So if that’s what you’re after it really pays to do your research and make sure you head to the right one. Start with these three:
Hakuba Happo One offers the rare chance to ride above the tree-line and some of Nagano’s best backcountry and alpine skiing and snowboarding. A big advantage of backcountry at Hakuba is that the lifts will take you up to the top of the resort from where you have easy access on-foot to some superb backcountry and astounding views.
Hakuba Goryu/47 also provide access to further fantastic backcountry in Hakuba Valley. Both require skiers and snowboarders to register before heading-out so make sure to follow the rules and always go out with a few friends.
Madarao is a small resort where the best fun is off-piste. Known for its tree runs and powder bowls, Madarao and Tangram also offer some of Nagano’s best backcountry. Highly recommended.
Which resorts have the best parks?
Most resorts in Japan will have a small park but often nothing remarkable. These three stand-out at the best:
Hakuba 47 is without question the resort with the best terrain park in Nagano. Accessible via the resort’s only gondola, the park offers lots of jumps, rails and hits to enjoy. Whether you’re up to the park yourself or just want to watch others go at it, we recommend 47 above all others.
Naeba is accessible using shuttle buses from Yuzawa in Niigata – a journey worth making if you’re after a very good terrain park with plenty to keep you entertained.
X-JAM Takaifuji is little known to international visitors. One of four resorts making-up Kita-Shiga Kogen, X-JAM has an excellent terrain park including two half-pipes and very decent-sized jumps. Almost exclusively a snowboarders resort, X-JAM is worth checking-out if headed to Kita-Shiga Kogen or nearby Shiga Kogen.
Which are the best resorts for families?
Most resorts provide an activity area for kids and/or range of services for families. When travelling as a family, especially if you have young children, these are three of the best:
Hakuba Happo One is the largest and most popular resort in Hakuba Valley and as such, has the most facilities and services for families ranging from dedicated activity areas, indoor facilities along with English-speaking childcare services and ski/snowboard schools for the kids. If you’re headed to Hakuba, Happo One is without question your best option.
Nozawa Onsen is another great option. It’s popularity with international visitors means there are lots of good options for families including kids activity areas, childcare and English-speaking ski and snowboard lessons available.
Iwatake Snow Field doesn’t match either Happo One or Nozawa Onsen in terms of facilities or services for kids however it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a resort that is well-suited to kids still finding their confidence with skiing or snowboarding. The picturesque has lots of long, wide runs with gentle terrain which families will enjoy exploring together. Much less popular than nearby Happo One, you’ll also have more room to enjoy while still having plenty of good accommodation options nearby.
THE OTHER WINTER STUFF FAQs
To round-out our FAQs about the resorts, someone people might be wondering which ones offer the most in terms of other activities or access to Nagano Station and the Jigokudani Monkey Park. In this section you will find answers to the following questions:
— Which are the best resorts for other winter activities?
— Which is closest resort to the monkey park?
— Which is the nearest resort to Nagano Station?
— Which are the best resorts for combining with cultural activities?
While the resorts of Nagano have plenty to keep you entertained all winter, there’s also plenty to do nearby. See below for our list of winter services including packages including accommodation, ski passes, transport and tours:
Which are the best resorts for other winter activities?
Visitors looking to enjoy activities other than skiing and snowboarding should consider heading to:
Shiga Kogen also plenty to do other than skiing and snowboarding. For families, there are multiple activity areas to enjoy while the resorts five gondolas – by far the most of any resort in the region – provide access to the upper reaches of the resort from where you try snowshoeing or simply enjoy the views. For visitors looking for some high-speed action, snowmobiling is available in the Yakebitaiyama ski fields of Shiga Kogen with several areas and hotels have hot springs in which to unwind and enjoy the beauty of Japan in winter. Shiga Kogen is also the nearest resort to the Jigokudani Monkey Park – an easy morning or afternoon visit using the public bus or on a tour.
Hakuba Happo One is the largest resort in Hakuba Valley and also has the most options for activities other than skiing and snowboarding. The resort has multiple activity areas for families and offers snowmobiling and other activities. Hakuba village has the greatest concentration of restaurants, cafes and shopping – particularly high-end options – providing plenty to do in the day if you just feel like taking it easy.
Nozawa Onsen is another good option for visitors wanting options off the slopes. The village has plenty of restaurants and bars providing entertainment well into the night, while the town’s numerous onsen also provide a relaxing alternative throughout the day. Located around 50 to 60-minutes from the Jigokudani Monkey, visitors to Nozawa Onsen can also reach the park fairly quickly although public transport options are limited to a couple of buses each day.
Which is closest resort to the monkey park?
Shiga Kogen is only 25 to 30-miuntes drive from the Jigokudani Monkey Park – home to Nagano’s hot spring-loving monkeys. The smaller resorts of making-up Kita-Shiga Kogen are also around 25 to 30-minutes drive from the park while the always popular Nozawa Onsen is around 50 to 60-minutes from the park. The resorts making-up the Hakuba Valley are around between 2 to 2.5-hours drive from the monkey park.
Which is the nearest resort to Nagano Station?
Togakushi is the nearest ski resort to Nagano Station – the region’s major transport hub and gateway to the resorts of Nagano. From the station, it takes between 45 to 50-minutes to reach Togakushi by bus or taxi. In comparison, the resorts of Hakuba Valley are between 60 to 90-minutes from the station (depending on which one you’re headed to) while Shiga Kogen is around 80-minutes from the station.
Which are the best resorts for combining with cultural activities?
Many visitors to Japan aren’t just coming for the snow but also want to enjoy the country’s rich history. These are three of the best resorts from where to enjoy everything Nagano has to offer:
Shiga Kogen is another good option when wanting to combine your skiing and snowboarding with cultural activities in Nagano. The location of the resort make it easy to combine with visits to Nagano City’s near-1400 year old Zenko-ji Temple or the Jigokudani Monkey Park which is located very nearby Shiga. When heading to Shiga Kogen, we also recommend staying in one of the nearby hot spring towns of Kanbayashi, Shibu or Yudanaka Onsen. Offering numerous traditional guesthouses and the chance to enjoy the atmosphere of a hot spring village, this is a great option for visitors wanting to make sure their winter getaway is a distinctly Japanese experience.
Togakushi is the nearest resort to Nagano City and situated within one of Japan’s most important cultural landscapes and Shinto shrines. The area has been considered sacred for over one thousand years, linked to the very creation myths of Japan itself, and as such, home to many ‘shukubo’ (temple lodgings) and traditional guesthouses. The resort itself is very picturesque and local, allowing visitors to experience Japan’s mountain culture and engaging experiences including snowshoeing to and from the shrines although within easy reach of Nagano City.
OUR WINTER SERVICES FAQs
Based in Nagano, we are a registered travel agent and the region’s No.1-rated tour and charter operator. We provide a range of winter services as detailed below. In this section you will find answers to the following questions:
— Can you arrange ski packages?
— Can you arrange just accommodation?
— Can you arrange lift passes?
— Can you arrange transport and / or tours?
— What tours do you operate in winter?
To check-out our full suite and services for the coming season, click on the banner above or head straight to our ‘Winter Deals in Nagano 2023/24’ page. Alternatively, click on the INQUIRY button below and send us a message. We’ll get back to you asap!
Can you arrange ski packages?
Yes. We are a registered travel agent and tour operator. We can arrange ski packages in Nagano including accommodation, lift passes, ski/snowboard rental, ski/snowboard lessons, transport, tours, and more. We operate all year round therefore will respond to your enquiry within 48 hours.
Can you arrange just accommodation?
Yes. If you’re just looking for a great place to stay in or near a resort, we can arrange accommodation for you including recommendations and selecting accommodation to match your needs.
Can you arrange lift passes?
Yes. We can arrange lift passes for you and have them waiting at your accommodation without the need to exchange vouchers once you arrive.
Can you arrange transport and / or tours?
Yes. We are a registered tour and charter operator. All of our vehicles and drivers are fully accredited and we can provide transport to and from the ski resorts and other major destinations. We can also arrange tours to and from the resorts to the region’s best attractions and experiences including the Jigokudani Monkey Park and more.
What tours do you operate in winter?
We offer a range of group tours each winter along with private tours to your choice of destinations. Operating from both Nagano Station and Hakuba, our group tours head to the monkey park in combination with visits to Zenko-ji Temple or snowmobiling and ‘snow fun’ activities in Shiga Kogen. All tours are led by locally-based guides and include lunch along with all transport and entry costs. Prefer to set your own itinerary and enjoy the convenience of private transport? We can arrange private tours to, from and between any destination in the region including door-to-door pick-up and drop-off at your accommodation and luggage transport including ski and snowboard gear.
JAPAN SKI RESORTS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Did you know that there hundreds of ski resorts in Japan? Needless to say, when you choose Nagano for your winter getaway you are spoiled for choice and this page if just one of many on our website profiling the best on offer here. Our ‘Japan Ski Resorts’ page has everything you need to know to start planning your ski and snowboard adventure including: LATEST NEWS & DEALS, THE BEST RESORTS IN NAGANO & JAPAN and of course OUR SKI PACKAGES, ACCOMMODATION, TRANSPORT & TOURS.