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Resort

Nozawa Onsen

Tokyo Haneda Airport
bullet-train, shared taxi or private transfer
1,085 metres

If you like culture to complement your carving, you might just have found 'the one' in Nozawa Onsen.

This is where the Japanese come to ski, and it really is about time we joined them. Located north of Tokyo at the foot of the charmingly named ‘Mount No Hair’, the village has been popular since the 8th Century thanks to its bounty of hot springs (onsen); the resulting steamy cobbled streets, historic inns, hole-in-the-wall restaurants and authentic vibe make it impossibly atmospheric. As well as plenty of skiing there’s much more to discover, from ancient Shinto shrines and snow-laden temples to cheeky snow monkeys and steaming onsens.

Nozawa has a great evening buzz – in the Japanese sense of the term. On the whole that means delicious dinners instead of a belly full of beer, and relaxed bars in place of clubs. The locals are trying hard to preserve this ancient retreat, so respectful visitors are much appreciated. Though the Japanese will often choose to dine in, eating out in Nozawa Onsen is a real highlight, with fabulous Japanese and Western food at good prices. 

Nozawa Onsen

Resort Card

Beginners:
Intermediate:
Advanced:
Snowboarders:
Après Ski:
Families:

Our Opinion

"We always say that the (really pretty) ski mountain has enough interest to keep even the most expert skiers thoroughly entertained for up to perhaps four days, but you’ve then skied it out so would probably need to head to another ski resort. Which is a real shame, because you certainly won’t want to leave Nozawa Onsen village…this is why people fall in love with Japan! Truth be told, this is our favourite ski resort in Japan and I head back each and every season, as much to soak up the atmosphere in the village, as well as the fantastic tree skiing. But it's becoming increasingly popular and there are only a limited number of beds (well...futons) in the village. As the saying goes, book early to avoid disappointment."

Nick Coates Founder
Nozawa Onsen
36.9228°N 138.4405°E

Skiing & Snowboarding in Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen covers three ski areas presenting upwards of 50km of runs, and whilst popular with Japanese weekenders the slopes can be delightfully quiet on weekdays. The lift system is generally good, but a little old – it was last upgraded for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics – and there’s a pleasing distribution of slopes, from family-friendly blues to spine tingling tree runs and plenty of powder off-piste. Predominantly, the runs are wide sweepers which cut through forest to reveal stunning views. Night skiing is possible on Saturdays and during holiday periods, and due to the proximity of the Sea of Japan it is often possible to ski in Nozawa as late into the season as early April.

Expert & Off Piste

As with many resorts in Japan – you can spend a very happy several hours in the powder amongst the trees.

You can dip your skis in between the ski runs either side of the top lift in the Yamabiko zone (note the difference between "do not enter"and "do not enter unless you are a good skier" signs). There’s some fantastic tree skiing to be had up here, though for steeper terrain head to the Sky Line ridge. But there is no avalanche control in Nozawa, so the attitude to sidecountry and backcountry skiing is understandably cautious; if you’re well-equipped and experienced, you’ll find some thrilling long powder runs down to the village.

Staying on-piste then you’re never far from a steep challenge anywhere in Nozawa. The black runs are varied – generally either covered in moguls or bathed in oodles of powder. There are several testing runs from the Mukobayashi chair drop-off; we particularly like the steep, narrow Grand Prix, accessed from the ridge. Other favourites include Schneider, Utopia and Kurokura.

Intermediate

Only around a third of runs are rated orange (Japanese intermediate), but you’ll enjoy getting your speed up on wide, well-groomed pistes and challenging yourself with moguls, terrain park jumps and some off-piste. For enjoyable trails, we recommend Yamabiko at the summit, and there are a few shorter intermediates which peel away from beginners' runs if you don’t mind a combination. The long ‘Sky Line’ trail is a good challenge, even if the journey back up is painfully slow!

Novice

One of the things we love about Nozawa Onsen is that the beginners can venture right to the top of the mountain – green runs will bring you all the way down. From the top of the Nagasaka Gondola just keep to the skiers right and work your way down rinkan – a gentle course which snakes its way to the foot of the mountain. Just wonderful views and no nasty surprises.

Indeed, the large areas of gentle terrain make Nozawa a good choice for newbies. The often-busy Hikage the central point for lessons, so Karasawa is a more peaceful alternative. 

Staying in Nozawa Onsen

This is not a purpose-built ski resort (quite the opposite, thank goodness!) and, consequently, there isn't any designed-in ski slope accommodation. Instead, you'll likely find yourself down in the village – which is where you want to be for the atmosphere – with a short walk uphill to the slopes. We know Nozawa Onsen intimately and following is merely a hand-picked selection of a few of our trusted favourites.

This is a place in which many choose to stay in a ryokan – traditional Japanese inns where the focus is on peace, comfort, and onsen culture, providing a window into authentic Japan. Traditional beds are in the form of futons on tatami mats. In addition, there are several Western style hotels and cheaper pensions if you prefer (most with shared bathrooms), though very few apartments and no 'chalets' to speak of.

 

Hotels & Ryokans

The best ryokan in Nozawa Onsen. Indeed, the nicest accommodation in the entire village.

Deluxe
Village (centre)

The village's newest luxury hotel is stylish, contemporary and very Japanese.

Deluxe
Village (centre)

A pleasingly modern-take on the traditional ryokan. Our most popular selection.

First Class
Village Centre

Recently refurbished hotel, ideally situated between the village and the ski slopes.

Medium
Top of the Village

Contemporary downstairs, a traditional ryokan upstairs. One of our favourite selections.

Medium
Bottom of the Village

Classical, historic inn which is authentic in all respects. Wonderful onsen baths.

First Class
Village Centre

Small, Western-style hotel. A real home-from-home in Nozawa Onsen.

Budget
Village Centre

Cheap, cheerful & friendly, in the very centre of the village. Budget achieved!

Budget
Village (centre)

In the heart of the village, this authentic ryokan is calm and tranquil, the rooms clean and simple.

Medium
Village (centre)

As the name suggests, it has the best location overlooking the village. Friendly & comfortable.

Medium
Village (centre)

Apartments, Chalets & Houses

A stand-alone four-bedroom lodge, which annexes the village's best new hotel.

Deluxe
Village (centre)

Newly renovated and right in the heart of the village - one, two and four-bedroom options.

First Class
Village (centre)

Funky and colourful apartments in a converted ryokan. One of a kind!

First Class
Village (centre)

Ski-in, ski-out self-catering apartments. Unheard of in Nozawa Onsen!

Medium
Nagasaka base station

Ski Guiding & excursions

Nozawa Onsen only recently relaxed its rules - it used to be the case that a ski patroller would come charging after you if you dipped the ropes. Nowadays there are couple of reputable companies offering backcountry tours, both on a private basis or as part of small group. There's easy access to some great terrain, be it using the lifts and then turning left (when everyone else turns right) or knuckling down for some short hikes to find the powder bowls. 

Wandering the cobbled streets past ryokans, onsens, cafés and souvenir shops is a delight in itself, and you couldn’t possibly leave without seeking warmth and refuge in at least one of the hot springs.The town has more than 30 natural hot springs, many of which are within ryokans and hotels. And the there is nearby Jigokudani valley, where you’ll see Japanese snow monkeys doing just the same as you, enjoying the onsens! Afternoon tours head out daily. 

On the mountain

Hire an experienced, qualified, locally-knowledgeable private ski or snowboard guide.

Join some like-minded souls and head out with a guide to seek powder, wherever it may be!

Skiing in the powder snow requires a different technique - once learned, paradise awaits.

Off the mountain

Take an afternoon off the slopes and go see the monkeys!

Itineraries featuring Nozawa Onsen

These suggested itineraries will give you a starting point for what your ski holiday to Nozawa Onsen could potentially entail. Sometimes we combine ski resorts and we often cherish the opportunity to explore and experience Japan beyond the ski slopes.

 

We hope these itineraries will inspire, excite and inform you as we begin the planning process. But note: they’re not set departures or tours, as every holiday we plan is completely tailor-made for you - consider these itineraries as inspiration only.

The Japan Ski Holiday - Itinerary
Itinerary

The Japan Ski Holiday

Powder snow, a bit of culture, snow monkeys, onsens and the capital! We can't improve on this.

two weeks
Niseko - Tokyo - Nozawa Onsen - Kyoto
Find out more
The cultural skier - Itinerary
Itinerary

The cultural skier

This is a winter holiday to Japan, with the bonus of several days on the ski slopes.

16 days
Tokyo - Nozawa Onsen - Kanazawa - Takayama - Kyoto
Find out more
Japan Alps Explorer - Itinerary
Itinerary

Japan Alps Explorer

Bullet-trains, snow monkeys, atmospheric villages, shrines, neon cities and...snow.

16 days
Tokyo - Nozawa Onsen - Hakuba Valley - Kyoto
Find out more

Ski Concierge

In Nozawa we can include transfers, lift passes, equipment hire, ski guiding & ski school. In each instance, the price you pay with Different Snow will be cheaper – or, at worst the same – as what you would pay locally. And we can assure you of quality - this is a smaller ski resort than Hakuba and Niseko and, consequently, choice is more limited and standards can slip a little. However, we know the best....and only use the best and therefore we get no complaints.

Lift Pass

As it's one mountain and one ski area, it's all reasonably straight-forward in Nozawa. Ski passes can be bought for full and half days. Children are under 12 and seniors are over 60. Standard. Pre-school kids ski for free – bonus!

Equipment Hire

There are quite a few options available to us in Nozawa, but experience has lead us to one tried, tested and trusted supplier. These guys have the latest model skis and snowboards, professional staff and a decent range of premium specialist powder equipment. You can bank on none of the above if you choose to simply 'walk-in' in to a ski hire place in Nozawa Onsen - there's some real dodgy kit around. And because the outlet we use is part of one of the two main ski bases, in the gondola station, you can leave you equipment with them overnight, meaning there's no need to lug it down in to the village and back each day.

Lessons

Nozawa Ski School is located at the base of the Hikeage Gondala, at the top of the Yu Road travelator (a moving footway from the village).

Lessons are run daily with one day and half day (10-12 noon and 1.30-3.30pm) sessions. Qualified English speaking instructors can teach the basics or fine tune your powder technique. The school customises lessons to three age groups; infants (3-6 years), kids (7-16 years) and adults (17 years+), offering group lessons for beginner to intermediate skiers and snowboarders or private lessons for all levels.

Transfers to & from Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen is 160-miles away from Tokyo, a distance covered in only one-hour-and-forty minutes on  the bullet-train. Iiyama is the local station, and from there a regular ski shuttle operates to take you the 20-minutes up to the village.

However, we tend to use shared taxi road transfers for moist of guests if travelling directly to Nozawa Onsen from the airport - easier with bags, less hassle and door-to-door. You can then use the bullet-train to get you back to Tokyo, or onwards to your next ski resort, so as not to miss out on the experience.

What our customers say

4.5 star rating

Our customers rate us 'Excellent'

Terrific

Very knowledgeable, patient and organised. Enjoyed all of my chats with Nick who offered a fantastic personalised service. Itinerary, accommodations and transfers all exactly as planned, loads of useful info to accompany the trip. Would definitely use again and recommend.

Patricia O'Donnell  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

I cannot recommend them highly enough

Once in a lifetime trip to Japan and they where fantastic. The itinerary was the most detailed itinerary i have ever seen, they even included things that they had found while living in japan that would not be in the tourist guide books. They kept in contact with me every step of the way. I will definitely use them again.

Nicola  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

Please visit our TrustPilot page to read the full reviews.

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