Ok, so this won't be the best review. Reason being that I damaged my knee 2 days before getting to Yuzawa and wasn't able to go boarding, but having snowboarded here for the last 2 years, I think I'm qualified to write a review.
First off, big thanks to the SJ team for the free tickets. As expected, they were waiting for me at my hotel when I arrived. I wish I could have used them properly.
Gala Yuzawa's accessibility is both a blessing and curse. Being a bullet train ride away from Tokyo means that it's easy to get busy, especially on CNY weekend. The station and town was bustling with people who had made the trip over. Feb 19/20 had seen some good snowfall through the region, but 21-23rd saw higher than normal temperatures and rain.
I couldn't make it out, but if I had there would be one run I would have gone straight to, the 26mil Yen run. This is an ungroomed patch where most piste-only skiers won't touch. Last year saw us up to our thighs in untouched powder. With higher falls than last year this would have been glorious.
When combined with Yuzawa Kogen and Ishiuchi Maruyama, Gala becomes an even bigger area that has something for most people, but may be a tad boring to hard-core hike/back country types.
As far as amenities, Gala caters well, with an onsen at the base station, and multi-language menus for various food types as well. Even friends with no Japanese ability and food intolerances were able to get by here. There's the usual soba/udon fare, chips, japanese curry, rice bowls, karaage and pizza, and marion crepe outlet for the sweet toothed.
If you're finished on the slopes for the day, there is quite a long windy run back down to the base station, which can also get a bit icy, so if you are low on energy/concentration, you may want to consider getting the gondola back.
Once unstrapped, there are regular buses running to Yuzawa town which will take you close to your accommodation. Although I suppose it's not really a secret, if you're near Echigo Yuzawa station, you simply must try the creme caramel (purin) from either Hatago Isen across the road from the West exit/taxi rank or Messia Gare in the station. The pudding is onsen steamed and has to be one of the creamiest I've ever had. On the last day of my JR ticket, I jumped on a shinkansen from Tokyo back to Echigo Yuzawa just to get pudding. Yes, it's that good IMO.
There are plenty of places to eat around Yuzawa as well, both in the station and around, so if your hotels food is not to your liking, there should be other things around that you'll like. My personal favourites include Vitreaux (katakana - Biitro) near the East exit of E-Y and the Italian restaurant in the station. Honourable mention also goes to the Yakuniku place about 2 blocks up from the station in the Plaza D building.
With JR offering package deals for bullet train and lift pass, this place is ideal for those that need to get a quick snow fix. You can even go snowboarding in the morning, leave at 2 and make your plane in the afternoon. But if you have a little more time to spend, then Yuzawa is worth exploring.
From 21 February, 2015 To 23 February, 2015
Snow condition on visit:
Some new snow but higher than normal temps and rain.
Things I liked:
Pudding, onsens, more town atmosphere in Yuzawa than snow resort atmosphere, Takahan Hotel