Season: mid-Dec to May
With 600ha of terrain including Japan’s highest chair-lifted ski run at 2307m, Shiga Kogen is the largest resort in Asia. The higher elevation and topography of the resort blesses it with the longest season and most reliable snow in Nagano. With excellent variation of courses, the resort is well-suited to anyone from beginner to advanced, particularly suited to intermediate skiers/snowboarders. The expansive resort is covered by an all-mountain pass. It takes days to explore on “Ski Safari” and away from the central areas, you are likely to have powder-filled runs to yourself, with lift queues a rarity. Less developed than Hakuba or Nozawa, the resort retains a distinctly Japanese character. With the world-famous Snow Monkey Park and several onsen towns nearby, Shiga Kogen is the best resort for those wanting an authentically Japanese adventure!
Season: late-Dec to April
Consisting of 9 separate resorts, Hakuba is an expansive area covered by a single pass. Nestled in the Northern Alps, this stunning alpine region towers to heights of over 3000m, offering advanced skiers/boarders Japan’s best high alpine conditions. On-piste terrain caters for all levels – from beginner to advanced – with the highest chair-lift running to 1831m and multiple terrain parks catering to the tricksters. The Hakuba resorts are spread over a large area with only a limited number connected by ski runs. Without the use of buses, visitors are limited to individual resorts, making a single days skiing somewhat restricted. Hakuba’s popularity with international visitors somewhat dilutes its Japanese character however with numerous accommodation options and the best après ski and foreign language services of the Nagano resorts, Hakuba is popular for many reasons.
Season: mid-Dec to end-March
Nozawa is a medium-sized resort with a lively village. Its compact size and great variation of courses make is a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Particularly well-suited to snowboarders given its compact nature, Nozawa retains a youthful and lively atmosphere both on the mountain and at night in the village, which is well-serviced by a range of restaurants, bars, and accommodation. The proximity of the village – an easy walk from the gondola stations and chairlifts – makes it a convenient and fun resort to base yourself. Blessed with deep powder and long skyline runs, Nozawa has quickly become a favorite destination for international visitors. Several free public ‘onsens’ (natural hot springs) in the village add to its appeal, while events including the Fire Festival held each January, mean Nozawa is always lively, fun, and increasingly popular.
Season: mid-Dec to early-April
Myoko Kogen does not in itself exist but is the name applied to five small resorts – Akakura Kanko/Onsen, Suginohara, Ikenotaira, and Seki Onsen. Myoko experiences a ridiculous amount of snowfall - 14 meters or more per year! – making it a powder paradise best suited to advance skiers/boarders with a taste for deep powder! Akakura Kanko/Onsen offer the most interconnected terrain while Suginohara has the highest chairlift at 1855m and Japan’s longest groomed run at 8.5km. Villages servicing the resorts are small and somewhat rundown, so don’t expect much après ski here. However, if your priority is powder, Myoko’s massive snowfall and relaxed approach to off-piste and backcountry is very enticing. A sense of independence and your own transport helps with moving between resorts – resorts that promise some of the deepest powder in the world!
Season: late-Dec to end-March
Madarao is a small resort but one that packs a big punch! Whereas most Japanese resorts restrict or prohibit off-piste skiing, Madarao actively encourages it with 13 official tree runs in addition to its 31 groomed courses. Madarao has great powder and a good range of beginner and intermediate runs. Given its compact size, Madarao is a great option for newbies, day-trippers and true powderhounds looking for some off-piste fun! Madarao’s popularity is growing and the previously quiet resort can now be busy. Linked to the smaller Tangram Ski Circus, visitors have the options of either a Madarao-only or all-mountain pass covering both resorts - enough terrain to keep skiers/boarders entertained for a day or two. With spectacular views of nearby Mt Myoko, Madarao’s reputation for great powder and a relaxed atmosphere means its popularity will continue to grow.