Let me start by saying – if you love the snow – you need to go to Japan.
This post is a little behind (about eleven months in all honesty). After publishing my post 48 hours in Tokyo I’ve been wanting to share the little hidden gem that is Nozawa Onsen. Most travelers on the pow hunt will head to Niseko, Hokkaido or Hakuba. Allow me to tell you, this off the beaten ski resort is an all round gem.
Nozawa Onsen is nestled within the Nagano region (where the 1998 winter Olympics were held) not too far from Tokyo Narita airport. Most notable for the thirty natural ‘onsens’ it houses but the best part? Barely any other travelers! This charming hot spring village is located at the foot of Kenashi-yama Mountain which is home to approximately 4,000 people. Nozawa Onsen is said to date back to 8th century.
If Apres is what you’re after… you may have to bring the party yourself. But if ski, eat, ski, sleep repeat is what you’re after – look no further!
What’s the snow like?
Ok, let me be real. I’d never seen ‘powder‘ before. I’ve only skied in Australia (LOL) and a weekend in New Zealand. I’d heard about what actual powder felt like, but nothing could prepare me for the marshmallow mist we received.
It was incredible.
Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort is blessed with over ten to thirteen meters of snow fall each season, the average snow depth is about three and a half meters.
If you need some reference…. I’ll post some videos on the avaycay Facebook page. There are some less than graceful falls.
How many runs are there?
With 36 runs (over fifty kilometers of trails & pistes) and 20 lifts there is something for everyone! There’s a beaut’ mix of runs for all levels, with 40% beginners and 30% for intermediate and 30% for advanced skiers.
There’s plenty of action facilities including; a steep 39 degree run, terrain park with half pipe, long groomers and plenty of moguls. The longest run is a leg aching 10km (Uenotaira run) from the top to the bottom taking you at least ten minutes pending your alacrity of adrenaline.
The lifts operate from 8.30am to 4.30pm, except for weekends, with night skiing available.
What’s the altitude?
The top of the mountain is 1,650m above sea level, and the village is at 565m. This means you get 1085m of vertical to ski and board down.
What’s an onsen?
There are thirty onsens within the small village, thirteen of which are open (and free) to the public. You will also need to take your own towel and soap. Knowing the etiquette is super important – so make sure you read up on that before entering, especially if you have tattoos! Most baths mix natural hot water with cold water to produce a bath that’s still well over forty degrees Celsius!
The hungry ones can visit the famous hot spring Ogama which is the hottest of the springs in Nozawa with the water temperature reaching about 90 degrees Celsius. Ogama has become the “kitchen” of the village as it is used to boil eggs and vegetables. You can even buy an ‘Onsen Egg‘ at most restaurants.
A key feature of Nozawa’s many onsen’s are their fine mineral contents, these minerals are said to help relieve the symptoms of neuralgia, dermatitis, whilst improving metabolism and aiding in blood circulation. It will also leave your skin feeling refreshed and relaxes your muscles and joints, preparing you for your next day on the slopes! It’s WIN WIN!
Where to stay?
Thanks to the ever handy Airbnb, we rented an apartment for the six of us within striking distance of the ski lifts. ALL Aussies will stand with me in solidarity when I scream how delightful it is to live in such close proximity to a ski lift – no thirty minute commute required! Yippee!
Where (and what) to eat?
Well! My photography skills may be lacking (they are)… but the food in Nozawa Onsen was such a surprise. I thought we’d be eating ramen for seven days.
How to get there?
I’d scoured for a bus on arrival, but alas we were coming pre-high season and the buses weren’t running just yet (note: they start running 18th December – 17th March 2019.) So we hired a private van. We caught a bus back to Tokyo, for both we used this service.
Now get out there snow bunnies, the next season awaits!!
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