Hakuba Photo

The Top Four Snowy Slopes of Nagano, Niigata

Find out the best places to go for winter fun!

Hakuba Photo
Serena Ogawa   - 11 min read

It is no secret that Nagano and Niigata Prefectures are home to some of the best skiing in Japan—and dare we say, the world. But with such a large area to cover, you may be wondering where to start and where to stay for your ultimate winter vacation and skiing/ snowboarding extravaganza.

Wonder no more!

With four wonderful areas to choose from, you can decide which area of Nagano or Niigata is the right fit for you. Each has its own charm and local characteristics to give it a unique flavor. But no matter where you choose to go, once you hit the slopes all your worries will be far behind you.

Hakuba

The Hakuba Valley straddles the Northern Alps of Japan. Home to ten ski resorts and more than 200 slopes, this is the largest-scale ski resort village in Japan. Travel freely between the various slopes and enjoy your favorite winter snow sports to your heart’s content. In addition to skiing, there are also many other enjoyable activities and attractions to be found in Hakuba.

(Photo: Hakuba Photo)

With a theme of unity, Hakuba promotes the power to move forward together. As such, you will find that the people here are hospitable. The overall atmosphere creates a unique mountain resort feeling. And with warm wisdom merged with modernity, the largest resort village mixes history, life, and newness.

As for the slopes of Hakuba’s ski resorts, from beginners to advanced pros, anyone can enjoy these accessible and varied courses. Winter sports enthusiasts will surely be inspired. Advanced skiers will certainly enjoy Happo’one and Tsugaike Kogen; if you are after something a bit more intermediate, try Iwatake or Hakuba Goryu 47; and for beginners, there are many free lessons and discounted tickets.

(Photo: Hakuba Photo)

If you are looking for more than ski slopes, look out for the outdoor baths offered along the river; these baths will warm you up after a long day skiing. There are also local bus tours exploring the scenery Hakuba has to offer or while away your evening watching a live performance.

From there, enjoy regional foods—like pork shabu-shabu—at the local restaurants, along with freshly baked bread and coffee. What could be better than a meal overlooking the Northern Alps? You can even find cooking courses to help you learn authentic Japanese cuisine. At night, experience the bars that dot Hakuba and warm yourself with some spirits.

There are many hotels to choose from in the area, such as the Hakuba Tokyu Hotel, which has been developed as a renewed space; the hotel is complete with shops and cafes. Find your favorite piece of Hakuba and make winter wonderland memories here.

(Photo: Hakuba Photo)

Check out more information about the Hakuba slopes.

Shiga Kogen

Visit the Shiga Kogen in Nagano where this mountainous city stretches from 1300 meters to 2300 meters above sea level. Shiga Kogen is located near Joshinetsu Kogen National Park and provides a popular Mecca for skiing. With eighteen ski resorts, fifty snow lifts, and eighty slopes with a wide variety of skill levels there is so much to enjoy in Shiga.

(Photo: Shiga Kogen Photo)

Stay at one of the hotels dotting the slopes and appreciate the scenery and scale that differ from other Japanese ski resorts. With the Ski Circus ticket, you can even ride all the lifts and gondolas in the area and use all eighteen ski resorts. Aside from the excellent facilities, you will also have access to many Japanese and Western restaurants, and at the foot of the mountain, there is even a craft beer factory and hot spring town.

Visit Snow Monkey Park—a popular hit with many tourists—to not only see the adorable red-faced monkeys but also enjoy the slopes at the park. The natural scenery of the national park combined with the high quality of the snow will create an unforgettable experience. At night, on seven courses, enjoy night skiing to see a different side of the slopes. You can also try a snowshoe tour, sponsored by the Shiga Kogen Guide Association, and try your feet at this fantastic sightseeing option.

(Photo: Shiga Kogen Photo)

Skiers and snowboarders who are just starting out can enjoy taking lessons; while intermediate enthusiasts have many slope options; advanced skiers have opportunities to enjoy backcountry skiing with a guide. With so many chances to see undisturbed snow country, how could anyone say no?

(Photo: Shiga Kogen Photo)

Check out more information about the Shiga Kogen.

Myoko (Niigata Prefecture)

Arrive at Myoko Kogen, just a 40-minute train ride from JR Nagano Station. This area is well known for its heavy and lush snowfall that provides the perfect place for winter sports. With accommodations and restaurants nearby, guests can enjoy the four ski resorts in the area. Toted as a family ski resort area, Myoko is a wonderful place to experience all that winter Japan has to offer.

With many opportunities for backcountry skiing, visitors will get their fill of snow sports while also enjoying other aspects of Japan. Visit a shrine of the Togakushi plateau and take a walk in this fluffy, white paradise. Ride on the local sightseeing train called Snow, Moon, and Flowers that operates between Myoko, Naoetsu, and Itoigawa where you can even enjoy delicious meals onboard.

(Photo: Grant Gunderson | JT)

Speaking of food, the Myoko area offers a plethora of restaurants. There are many great restaurants in the Akakura Onsen area just waiting to be discovered, each with its own charm and characteristics.

With abundant choices for food and slopes, a visit to Myoko is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

(Photo: Camilla Rutherford | JT)

Check out more information about Myoko.

Nozawa Onsen

Get a taste of fire and ice in Nozawa Onsen; this town offers not only beautiful snowy slopes for skiing and snowboarding but also more than ten outdoor hot springs to relax in. With skiing and after-ski selfcare to look forward to, Nozawa Onsen Town is the perfect place. At this healing retreat, you will find more than 200 accommodation facilities from hotels to Japanese-style inns. It is truly a place where you can reset your mind and body.

With a beginner’s course just off the gondola lift, there are thirty-six other courses for advanced and intermediate skiers, each with fluffy powder and fantastic vistas. The advanced skier or snowboarder can enjoy backcountry tours that run vertically through the mountains. Restart each day with a vibrant experience and leave your daily troubles behind as you race down the slopes of Nozawa.

(Photo: kylenorthwest)

In the area, you will also find the Nozawa Onsen Ski Museum, hot springs, spas, local restaurants, and many shops. It is a miniature city where you can find everything you need to pass the time away. Try the local specialties that use a type of plant called nozawana and then relax in the hot springs within walking distance of each accommodation.

If you are looking for more custom experiences, then Nozawa Onsen has it all. From stamp collecting at various locations to making traditional sweets or even buckwheat noodles, Nozawa has something to appeal to everyone—there are even snow monkey tours. At night, once the kiddies are asleep, why not go bar hopping and enjoy some karaoke with the locals. There are also snowshoe tours under the starry skies of Nagano that can’t be missed.

(Photo: kylenorthwest)

Check out more information about Nozawa Onsen.

If you visit these areas in Nagano and Niigata, please follow the Covid-19 safety guidelines.


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Serena Ogawa

Serena Ogawa @serena.ogawa

Travel Editor for Japan Travel by day, novel-writing cat lady by night.