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Early Spring Skiing at Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort

A great day with friends in Nozawa!

On Saturday, a few friends and I headed over to Nozawa for a day of skiing. After a long Friday night we slept in a bit too late and had to park near Karasawa, the resort’s most remote of its three valley areas. The sky was clear and the sun warm against our faces as we got changed into our winter gear, and by the time we hiked up to the Karasawa lifts we were already sweating.

We skied down to the Nagasaka area and took the Nagasaka Gondola, a 20-minute ride which approaches the top of the mountain. From there, we took one more lift to the top. Despite the warm early spring temperatures there was still powder covering the course and a brisk wind to cool us down.

You can see the Sea of Japan from the top of Yamabiko on a clear day.

Up here, several intermediate and expert runs encircle a wide side-country area with varied terrain and sparse trees. The middle is considered out of bounds, but skiers and boarders can enter at their own risk. We had plenty of fun playing in the natural half pipe and getting some air off natural features.

After several runs in the Yamabiko area, we headed down the mountain and visited some of Nozawa’s popular courses: Paradise, with its wide-open, gentle slope and beautiful scenery; the forest trail, winding endlessly through the woods; and Skyline, the steep ridgeline with panoramic views of the mountains and village (see below).

Skyline is one of Nozawa's longest runs. Come here if you have a need for speed.

Nozawa’s size and variety make it one of Japan’s premier ski resorts. There are a total of 36 courses in Nozawa, 40% of which are for beginners, so skiers and boarders of all abilities can enjoy the snow. From the top of the Yamabiko area to the bottom of the mountain, you can ski continuously for 10 kilometers! For advanced skiers, there are plenty of ungroomed and steep courses (with a maximum gradient of 39 degrees).

Beyond the slopes themselves, one of Nozawa’s strengths is its walkability. You can easily move between the ski resort and village, giving you plentiful options for lunch, après ski and relaxation. The thirteen soto-yu hot spring baths are free to enter and sooth your muscles after a long day on the slopes, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby where you can drink and socialize with locals and other visitors. At the same time, Nozawa still retains its small hot spring town feel.

Yutaki Onsen

The best part of a ski day is a dip in the hot springs.

And while there were plenty of baths and restaurants in town to enjoy, our group decided to head to one of our favorite nearby outdoor hot springs, Yutaki Onsen. Located across the Chikuma River from Nozawa, this onsen has lovely views over the water and both indoor and outdoor baths. Unfortunately, the men’s indoor and outdoor baths aren’t connected, so washing yourself outside during winter can be a harrowing experience. But, it is worth it to bear the cold for five minutes so you can enjoy the outdoor air and scenery from the comfort of a hot bath.

The onsen also has a cafeteria which features well-prepared, local fare. You can get standards such as tonkatsu, curry, and ramen, or you can try something new like sasazushi, miyuki pork, or purple udon. (Cafeteria closes at 7pm.)

Purple Udon: One of the many delicious options at Yutaki Onsen's cafeteria.

More Info

Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort is a great place to enjoy powder, hot springs, and the traditional atmosphere of a Japanese village. The resort is usually open from mid-December to early May. To reach Nozawa Onsen, take the Nozawa Onsen Liner or Nagano Dentetsu Nozawa line bus from Hokuriku Shinkansen Iiyama Station (about 25 minutes).

For more information, see Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort’s official website. Or, the Nozawa Onsen Village website.


Originally from Maryland, USA, I’ve been living and working in Nagano since 2012. After teaching English for a few years I moved onto the Nagano Prefecture Tourism department to help introduce more of Nagano to the world. I love the mountains here and enjoy skiing, hiking, and bouldering in my free time. There’s nothing quite like a day in the mountains followed by a relaxing dip in the hot spring with friends! (アメリカのメリーランド出身で、2012年長野県に引っ越しました。数年英語の先生として働いたけど、去年から長野県庁観光部に入って、より多くの人々に長野の良さを知って頂けるように努めています。長野県の山々が大好きで、暇な時はスキー、ボルダリング、登山などをやっています。山で遊んだ後の、友達と入る温泉はまた格別です。) 【長野県在住/20代/男】