Which Japan Ski Resort To Go To?
When it comes to great skiing, the Japanese people take their ski resorts pretty seriously. What better way to entertain all of the ski enthusiasts of the world then by offering world-class resorts that will cater to their every whim?
We will be comparing two leading ski resorts: Shiga Kogen and Nozawa Onsen Ski Resorts. Both are located about 4 hours by car, northwest of Tokyo. Both are completely self-contained destination resorts, so you don’t need to go far for anything during your stay. Visitors often spend up to one full week or more in these resorts.
A mecca for ski goers, is a collection of 21 resorts with 12 different mountain peaks in Shiga Kogen. All of which have combined to form the largest ski area in Japan. The value here is quickly evident when a purchase of one lift ticket gives you access to all 50 lifts, gondolas and ropeways in the area.
The snow quality is wonderful, and usually has a longer season than other ski resort areas in Japan. All due to its elevation. It is located in the highlands of Nagano Prefecture, and is divided into two areas.
Mount Yokote dominates the southern area, with ski runs and onsens scattered throughout. The northern part leads to Oku Shiga Kogen, and is flanked by a number of high peaks, creating an immense area for skiers and snowboarders to stretch out and explore. Transportation is provided free (with a lift ticket) to get from one resort to another. If you really want to get the full experience, plan on spending at least 4-5 days here. Or maybe even longer! There is seemingly endless ski runs to enjoy!
This resort is known for its ‘platinum powder.’ What is that, you might ask? Well, it is often said that Shiga snow is some of Japan’s finest. The high quality of the snow here in the Highlands is known throughout Japan. This area was part of the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998. Today, may be better known to the general public as the home of the snow monkey resorts.
For beginners, Shiga Kogen Ski School is outstanding. What’s more, Shiga attracts more local visitors than international ones, which make for a more authentic and cultural experience. As you explore the outlying resorts, it is not unusual to have the fresh powder all to yourself on off-peak days.
Though the area does not really have a resort town to speak of, there are hotels all around, and most of the nightlife happens in the hotels. Some of the more notable hotels are the Hotel Grand Phenix Okushiga and Hotel Mount Shiba. That’s not to say there are not settlements nearby, such as the towns of Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen. Both of them have some entertainment and many hot springs.
Nearby, the Snow Monkey Park of Jigokudani is another popular attraction. It is home to a unique troop of Japanese macaques. Fun fact: these are the only monkey’s known to bathe in the nearby hot springs.
This resort is one of Japan’s largest, oldest and least spoilt, with 27 lifts – 2 of them being gondolas.
Nozawa may not be widely known around the world. However, don’t let that stop you from experiencing this monumental adventure land of outdoor winter sport. The place is big – with a variety of runs, the powder conditions are always nop-notch, and the après-ski nightlife is abundant. This is an excellent resort for both the ski novice and advanced skiers. The ski runs themselves are well-groomed, with wide pistes, tree and mogul runs, and offer backcountry guides for the more adventurous.
The town of Nozawa itself is a relaxed destination right at the foot of the mountain. It offers lovely cafes and restaurants around every corner. This is a traditional Japanese town with its own charm. And it is devoid of the big hotels and uber-trendy international bars that are characteristic of most popular ski resorts. The depth of culture and history here is evident.
True to its name, Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort has phenomenal hot springs. Granted, you will find onsen baths at most any ski resort in the country – but these are quite special. Several public bathhouses all around town have been lovingly preserved in their original Edo-period state. They are free to use, are fairly basic, and very HOT! It is the perfect way to get the kinks out after a day on the slopes.
This resort hosted the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, and even houses a ski museum! It displays many different versions of historic skis from around the world. Visitors also get an education on the history of skiing. The museum is located near the base of the Hikage Gondola.
In keeping with the authenticity of the place, one type of accommodation available is a traditional ryokan inn. A Japanese guesthouse where guests sleep on futon bedding that have been laid out on tatami mats. Onsen and tasty food consisting of delicate, Japanese-style dishes are all included in the price.
How to Get to Shiga Kogen/Nozawa Onsen From Tokyo?
The best way to reach Nozawa Onsen and Shiga Kogen ski resort is by a private car transfer. It is by far the fastest and most convenient way to get from Tokyo Narita Airport, Tokyo Haneda Airport or Nagano to Shiga Kogen Ski Resort or Nozawa Onsen. As well as from any other pick-up location.
Avoid the hassle with multiple transfers and modes of transportation to get to the resorts. Your Tokyo to Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort or Shiga Kogen private transfer can be a clean and comfortable vehicle, with plenty of space for everyone in your party. As well as all for your luggage and equipment, there will be ample leg room for you to stretch out after your flight.
So Which Ski Resort is Best?
That all depends on your preference, of course! But the main takeaway is that Shiga Kogen is the largest and most international. While Nozawa Onsen is a bit more traditional and not so glitzy. Each have their fabulous skiing and resort amenities – we leave it to you to decide which one takes the cake in your view.