Home to 9 of the 12 tallest mountains in Japan, the region of Nagano is no stranger to snow sports. It hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics, and now, even the Freeride World Tour makes a stop here. This is also where I bury myself waist deep in pow - its broken two of my ribs but I come back for more every year! Here's my top five resorts:
Due to COVID-19, safety measures were put in place by Japan which impacted the 20/21 ski season. The strict border closures resulted in resorts operating predominantly for local residents only. In Nagano which is home to Hakuba 47, Happo One and Nozawa Onsen, face masks were strongly recommended and increased disinfection protocols were implemented. Such restrictions are not anticipated to continue into the 21/22 winter season.
Combining two stand-out mountains into one top-notch ski area, Hakuba 47 & Goryu quite literally serves up a little of everything to keep every type of skier and snowboarder happy. This ski resort is all about variety and finding freshies has never been easier. There’s no denying it, some skiers and snowboarders visit Hakuba 47 & Goryu for no other reason than for the epic terrain parks. On the downside, off the mountain there isn’t so much to do, with just a few places to stay, eat, and drink next to the slopes. However, the advantage of this is that the slopes rarely get crowded!
Happo One offers up Hakuba Valley’s largest ski area and home to some seriously snowy steeps (it’s where the Olympic Super-G event was held). If you’re looking for plenty of challenging terrain, Happo One is sure to satisfy, and with plenty of first-rate restaurants and bustling bars you’ll be entertained off the slopes too! Happo One really does cater for everyone, whether you’re looking for a top-notch restaurant or just somewhere to hang out and drink with friends. It’s without a doubt one of the most well-rounded destination ski resorts in Nagano, even the whole of Japan.
Before skiing transformed this historic mountain village into a fantastic ski resort, people came to Nozawa Onsen for its healing hot spring baths. Now it combines these two attractions perfectly, along with retaining its small-town feel. One of Nozawa Onsen’s most convenient features is that everything in the village is clustered together. Accommodation is either on the mountain or just a few minutes’ stroll from the lifts, while restaurants, bars, and shopping at your doorstep no matter where you stay. Spectacular scenery awaits too, especially when the sun sets in front of skiers making their last run down the mountain!
Welcome to the largest interconnected ski area in Japan! Shiga Kogen is made up of 19 separate ski resorts, with trails running between them through the mountains and a shuttle bus operating on the roads below. Our top pick from all of them is Yakebitaiyama where the white stuff stays in excellent condition for longer compared to some nearby resorts. It also enjoys bigger dumps than other ski spots in the region, and its high elevation guarantees some wonderful views. It’s also close to the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, which makes for an unforgettable day trip off the slopes.
Cortina has to be one of the best resorts in Hakuba Valley for its family-friendly night skiing. The long, wide, and gentle beginner course can be a bit of fun for skiers of all abilities. Advanced skiers will also love this place, and after a dump it’s a true powder junkie’s dream, just be prepared to share! The slope ends by the hotel at the bottom, and the bar makes for an ideal place to sit and enjoy a drink. There’s no ski town at Cortina but luckily the facilities here are top notch so you shouldn’t get bored, with the onsen being especially excellent.