Skiing and snowboarding in Niigata
| Niigata Prefecture
Yuzawa Town was the setting for Kawabata’s famous novel ‘Snow Country’, and for convenience this region of Niigata Prefecture is hard to beat. The Gunma region of Minakami is on the other side of the long tunnel going through the Tanigawadake mountain range between Gunma and Niigata, and is a bit closer to Tokyo. However, if it’s proximity and convenience you are after it doesn’t get any easier than Yuzawa as many of the ski resorts are close to the expressway and train stations. If you take the Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo Station, you can be at Echigo Yuzawa Station in as little as 80 minutes and skiing in 90 minutes.
Today, this old rural settlement has been transformed into a resort town complete with literally hundreds of hotels, tower buildings and vacation condominiums. Near the main Echigo Yuzawa train station some of the old charm still exists, and it’s worth taking a quiet stroll and visiting some of the small restaurants in the area. Yuzawa can act as a base for over 20 nearby resorts in the town and neighbouring Minamiuonuma area. These include well-known resorts such as Naeba, Kagura, GALA Yuzawa and Iwappara.
GALA Yuzawa is the ultimate in convenience as it has it's own Shinkansen bullet train station and you can literally step off the platform and onto the gondola that whisks you up the mountain. They occupy the same building.
Naeba is arguably the most well known ski resort in all of Japan. It was the first of the many Prince Hotel ski resorts and has been the site of several World Cup and national ski races for years. In recent years Naeba prefers to be known as part of ‘Mt Naeba’ as it is now connected to the popular Kagura resort areas via the ‘Dragondola’ gondola, which is still apparently the longest of its kind in the world and takes 15 minutes to get between Naeba and the Tashiro station of Kagura. Kagura itself is known for often having the best powder snow conditions on the region and a popular backcountry point.
Other notable resorts in the area include Kandatsu Kogen and the skiers-only family NASPA Ski Garden. In neighbouring Minamiuonuma city, the Maiko Snow Resort, Ishiuchi Maruyama and Joetsu Kokusai resorts are all easy to get to from central Yuzawa.
The other main ski resort region of Niigata Prefecture is centered around beautiful Mt Myoko. This region is in Niigata Prefecture, but can easily reached from Nagano City.
The slopes of Myoko are home to some excellent ski resorts including Akakura Onsen, Akakura Kanko Resort, Myoko Suginohara and Ikenotaira Onsen. The small Seki Onsen is known for very large amounts of snow. Myoko is one area of Japan that has recently been getting some increased attention from overseas due to the quality and quantity of snow. Each winter Myoko seems to hit the national news in Japan with stories of ridiculous amounts of snowfall.