With the recent spike in popularity of ski fields in Nagano and the surrounding areas, Echigo Yuzawa has also become a hot spot for international skiers. Echigo Yuzawa is known for its heavy snowfalls in Japan and is also famous for being the backdrop of Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata’s novel, Snow Country. Its easy accessibility from Tokyo means that convenience is also another factor which helps to maintain the location’s reputation. In fact, it only takes a mere 1 hour and 20 minutes by shinkansen from Tokyo, so travellers can base most of their sightseeing and accommodation in the city with the option of ski trips to the surrounding areas.
If this option appeals to you, then GALA Yuzawa Ski Resort is the place to go. It is the only ski slope in the world directly connected to a shinkansen station, making it popular for its incredibly easy accessibility. GALA Yuzawa also stocks a total of 5,500 rental skis and snowboards, so you can drop by without any gear at all – a highly convenient perk. The changing rooms and the spacious powder rooms are also bonuses for the fashion conscious. There are very few, if any, other ski resorts that can be reached via a short train trip from Tokyo where you can arrive without any gear on hand. It is also linked to Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort and Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort which means you have a total of 3 ski resorts to enjoy while you’re there.
There are a total of 14 ski resorts in Echigo Yuzawa. Naeba Ski Resort is the most central of all ski resorts in the area. While it boasts a long course stretching over 4km, it is also known for holding the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup in 2016, making it a world renowned ski resort.
And, of course, all eyes will be captivated by the sight of the expansive Naeba Prince Hotel at the base of the ski slope. Inside the massive hotel, housing a total of 1,224 guest rooms, are various restaurants, shops, as well as even an onsen – a traveller’s paradise all under one roof.
The ski slope is right at the footstep of the hotel, providing a pleasant ski-out, skiin experience for all visitors. After a full day of skiing you can treat yourself to a range of different foods inside the resort and enjoy what the night life has in store. Nothing could be more accommodating than what the resort has to offer.
Other massive ski areas, Kagura, Mitsumata and Tashiro, can also be accessed from Naeba by taking the world’s longest gondola lift – the “Dragondola” (a combination of the words ‘dragon’ and ‘gondola’). Both areas combined make for one giant ski resort with 35 chairlifts and gondolas and a total of 44 courses for all ski lovers to enjoy.
For those who are after a more hardcore skiing experience, then tackling the top of the mountain by starting at Wadagoya in the Kagura Ski Resort hillside is the thing to do. You can also enjoy the huge powder snow fields in the upper regions of the mountain and dabble in some off-piste skiing. Backcountry skiing can also be done as long you register beforehand. It is often lauded as “the closest powder snow heaven from Tokyo” and its title is well deserved.
If you are looking for a luxurious place to stay in Echigo, then the NASPA New Otani hotel at the base of NASPA Ski Garden comes highly recommended. The hotel provides many luxurious rooms and serves delightfully delicious meals. Though the ski resort itself is rather compact, it offers a variety of different courses, making
it a great place to bring the family. They also cater to English speakers, so drop on by if you get the chance to.
Skiing isn’t the only form of fun to be had in Yuzawa. Exploring the various restaurants and stalls in the area around JR Echigo Yuzawa station is also another fun drawcard. There are izakayas which serve seafood freshly caught from the Sea of Japan as well as an enormous shopping area inside of Echigo Yuzawa station itself where you can find local ingredients and souvenirs. The place is unique in that you can find vending machines which allow you to taste a variety of sake. Because of what the area has to offer, it is not only popular amongst overseas tourists, but Japanese visitors as well. A visit to the town of Echigo Yuzawa should definitely be on the cards if you’re ever in Yuzawa.