GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort
Impulsive skiers rejoice! Take the train from Tokyo, shred some lines, and be back home for dinner. Infrastructure is second to none with changing rooms, onsen, rental shops, and souvenirs right at your fingertips. Sure, it might look like it’s stuck in the past, but it works flawlessly for us skiers. Depending on your ticket, you can explore two other connected resorts making your slope choices practically endless, if you’ve got the time. Couple that with decent annual snowfall and Yuzawa town just a moment’s stroll away, and you’ve got yourself a damn good spontaneous ski trip.
– Address: 1039-2 Yuzawa, Minamiuonuma District, Niigata 949-6101
– Access from Tokyo: 74 minutes by Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo Station
– Best for: A Day Trip From Tokyo
Fujiten Snow Resort
As one of only two ski resorts that are technically on Mount Fuji, Fujiten Snow Resort takes the metaphorical cake in terms of legendary ski destinations. Failing that, it provides unparalleled views of the immortal mountain. Once again, you can turn up with absolutely nothing and hire all your gear at the rental shop. Sure, the slopes are primarily for beginners: but ski schools, a restaurant, and even the chance to ride on a snow groomer ensures you’ll have fun whatever level of skier you are. Also make sure to visit the neighboring village, Narusawa. Especially if you’re there on Feb. 23, Fujisan festival day!
– Address: 〒401-0320 Yamanashi, Minamitsuru District, Narusawa, 字富士山8545-1
– Access from Tokyo: 90 Minutes by Car From Shinjuku
– Best for: The Stories and Views
Japan’s oldest ski resort; filled to the brim with character and a heck of a lot of snow. Averaging 16 meters a year, advanced skiers will feel right at home. As far as infrastructure goes, there isn’t much, but that’s part of the charm of this place. Expect basic and outdated rental equipment, 0 groomed slopes, and all the intrigue that comes with a tiny family-run ski resort. The lifts rise to 310 meters, but what it lacks in height, it more than makes up for in terrain. It’s old, loved, and a must-visit resort for those who live and breathe skiing.
– Address: 〒949-2235 Niigata, Myoko, 関温泉
– Access from Tokyo: Under three hours from Shinjuku (train and bus)
– Best for: Advanced Riders
If you’d prefer something still off the beaten track but with a little more infrastructure, try Nozawa Onsen. It thrived as a hot spring area since 1272, but it wasn’t until a student of Iiyama Junior High School skied there in 1897 that things changed. Once you’ve had your fill of the 45km worth of ski slopes, pop by the famous bathing macaques at Jogokudani Monkey park or take a dip in one of 13 public onsen in the village. If you’re more of a night owl, check out Dosojin Himatsuri Fire Festival, the most unforgettable event of the year held annually on Jan. 15.
– Address: 7653 Toyosato, Nozawaonsen, Shimotakai District, Nagano 389-2502
– Access from Tokyo: Three hours by car, two and a half hours by Hokuriku Shinkansen and bus
– Best for: Village Life
Uncrowded slopes and reliable snowfall each year provides beginners and kids the perfect canvas to improve. While it’s still out of the way, its convenient links with bullet trains from Tokyo mean very little hassle. ‘Kids land’ at the base station features a snow escalator, sledding, and other activities for younger ones to enjoy. It also has many easy runs for newbies and a few challenging ones when you’ve improved. Ski and wear rental is available but may not be ultra-modern.
– Address: 3839-1 Fujiwara, Minakami, Tone District, Gunma 379-1721
– Access from Tokyo: Two hours 40 minutes from Tokyo by car
– Best for: Beginners and Kids
Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Area
Inconvenience is the nemesis of a family ski holiday. Thankfully, Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Area features Ski in-ski out accommodation, restaurants, rental equipment, and ski lessons all under one roof. Down in the town, you can visit Onioshidashi Park and witness the power of Mount Asama’s great eruption in 1783. This might not be the resort to come to if you’re looking for authentic Japanese culture, but having everything you need in one place is perhaps most important for families. Huge amounts of beginner slopes, but also enough to keep the whole family happy.
Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Area
– Address: Karuizawa, Kitasaku District, Nagano 389-0102
– Access from Tokyo: 90 minutes by Hokuriku-Shinkansen (+10 miuntes walk)
– Best for: Families
Fujimi Panorama Resort
If cruising through Japow isn’t enough for you adrenaline junkies, then Fujimi Panorama Resort is where you should head to. Not only does it provide top-quality slopes for all levels, but they also offer ice climbing and snow trekking. Once you’ve had your day on the mountain, take a 1-minute car journey to Fujimi Onsen “Yutoron Suijin no Yu”, where 8 open-air baths are ready to help relax (11 am – 8:30 pm). Expect plenty of food options and fairly modern rental shops which can provide both clothing and equipment. Empty-handed ski trips are the best!
– Address: 6666−703番地 Fujimi, Suwa District, Nagano 399-0211
– Access from Tokyo: Two hours 25 minutes from Shinjuku by train
– Best for: Extra Activities
Norn Minakami Ski Resort
For those of you who haven’t yet experienced it, night skiing is an absolute vibe. Fortunately, Norn Minakami Ski Resort gives you that opportunity until midnight every Friday and Saturday during the winter season. The base station may look slightly dated, but it gets the job done. The resort has great infrastructure and is able to deal with a number of skiers thanks to its quad lifts. It’s also great for kids with its “snow land” providing a number of options like snowball fights and sledding experiences. Snowfall isn’t as frequent here as some of the others on this list, but it makes up for it with 60 snow machines, just in case.
– Address: 479-139 Terama, Minakami, Tone District, Gunma 379-1614
– Access from Tokyo: 1 hour 50 minutes by train from Tokyo
– Best for: Night Skiing