Visitor reviews for Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort
July 16, 2018
Peter from United States
Nozawa is growing up. While the ratio of Japanese visitors to international visitors in the winter is fairly constant (70:30ish), there's increasingly more of the services that inbound guests want. There are several places to get excellent coffee, breadcentric breakfasts, etc, and the accommodation base in the village is gradually being upgraded.
But this remains a real working mountain village (3,600 residents year-round) that just happens to have an Olympic-quality ski field. It feels much more like a small European resort (think Lech, Gstaad, or its twin, St. Anton), although culturally you're absolutely aware that you're in Japan. There's been a ski resort here for over 100 years so the snow and mountain management is world class.
The village continues to invest and will replace the main gondola over the next two years. After the opening of the new shinkansen a few years ago, it's just over two hours from Tokyo so much more accessible than it used to be. The green season is picking up, with a lot of winter athletes training on the artificial slope, as well as mountain bikers rubbing shoulders with the regular guests looking for cool weather, local food/sake/beer and onsen.
Nozawa Onsen Ratings
Overall: 4.2. Based on 22 votes and 12 reviews. Vote
(1) At least one overnight stop, (2) requires a whole day, (3) requires more than half a day – you may have time for a few turns (4) arrive by lunchtime and ski all afternoon, (5) there is a main airport within an hour of Nozawa Onsen.
Public Transport: 4.6
(1) There are no buses or taxis to Nozawa Onsen, (3) there are slow or infrequent buses / trains available, (5) getting to the resort is easy with frequent bus / train connections.
(1) An ugly resort in a bland setting, (3) average mountain views and resort, (5) a spectacular setting and a beautiful / historic resort town.
(1) No places to stay in/near Nozawa Onsen, (3) a few places to stay in the resort, (5) a wide variety of accommodation suitable to suit all budgets.
Cheap Rooms: 4.6
(1) No budget accommodation available, (3) just one or two hostels so book ahead, (5) several cheap hostels and pensions available.
Luxury Hotels: 3.8
(1) No luxury accommodation available, (3) just one or two luxury hotels so book ahead, (5) several up-market hotels in Nozawa Onsen.
Ski in/Ski out: 4.5
(1) The ski area is located far from any accommodation, (3) a free ski bus takes you to the ski area in a short trip, (5) Ski-in ski-out accommodation is available.
(1) There are no child care facilities at Nozawa Onsen, (5) the resort has excellent child-care facilities including at least one reasonably priced creche.
(1) Occasionally gets enough snow for skiing, (2) is often closed due to a lack of snow, (3) occasionally suffers from a lack of snow, (4) rarely suffers from a lack of snow, (5) Nozawa Onsen is snowsure even in the poorest seasons.
(1) Nozawa Onsen relies entirely on natural snow, (3) there are just a few snow cannons, (5) there are snowmaking facilities on all pistes.
Snow Grooming: 4.6
(1) There are no snow groomers at Nozawa Onsen, (3) occasionally some pistes are left ungroomed and in a poor state, (5) all the runs at Nozawa Onsen are groomed daily.
(1) there is nowhere to ski when it is windy or visibility is bad and lifts often shut, (3) there are some trees for poor visibility but main lifts sometimes close, (5) Nozawa Onsen is mostly in forest where you can ski in flat-light and windy days, lifts rarely close.
Nearby options: 3.6
(1) If snow conditions are poor at Nozawa Onsen, it will be poor everywhere nearby, (3) there are good alternatives within an hours drive, (5) other locations on the same lift pass provide a rich variety of snowsure ski conditions.
Regional rating: 4.7
(1) Nozawa Onsen usually has poor snow conditions compared to other resorts in region, (3) has average conditions for the region, (5) usually has the best snow conditions in the region.
Lift Staff: 4.9
(1) The staff at Nozawa Onsen are rude or unhelpful, (5) lift staff at Nozawa Onsen are pleasant, cheerful and eager to help.
(1) the resort is always busy and there are usually long lift queues, (3) it is quiet apart from occasional weekends and school holidays, (5) it is uncrowded and lift queues are very rare.
Ski Schools: 4.3
(1) No ski schools available, (2) one or two ski schools but local language only, (3) a few ski schools but book early for multi-lingual instructors, (4) plenty of ski schools and multi-lingual instructors available, (5) excellent ski schools with friendly multi-lingual ski instructors.
Hire and Repairs: 4.8
(1) Nothing can be sourced, not even ski-wax or ptex. (3) there are some ski shops but rentals need to be booked in advance, (5) good quality ski equipment can be purchased or hired and overnight repairs are possible.
Variety of pistes: 4.5
(1) The ski runs are featureless and unvaried, (3) the ski runs are varied but not extensive enough for a week, (5) Nozawa Onsen has diverse and interesting pistes including forests and high alpine terrain.
(1) Beginners can only watch others ski and snowboard, (3) a few gentle slopes but beginners will get bored in less than a week, (3) Vast areas of gentle terrain.
(1) No intermediate terrain at Nozawa Onsen, (3) intermediate skiers will get bored after a few days, (5) vast areas of cruising runs.
(1) Nothing for advanced skiers and snowboarders, (3) enough steep terrain for a few days with some good offpiste, (5) Enough steep terrain and offpiste areas to entertain advanced skiers for at least a week.
Snow Park: 3.8
(1) Not even a kicker at Nozawa Onsen, (3) average sized park quite well looked after, (5) huge park area and expertly crafted pipes, jumps and boardercross trails.
(1) No off-piste worth mentioning, (2) off piste is out-of-bounds, (3) some varied offpiste that stays fresh for one or two days, (5) a vast array of off-piste routes that can stay untracked for several days.
(1) There is nowhere to go for cross-country skiing around Nozawa Onsen, (3) there are some cross country trails available, (5) the area features many spectacular and well maintained cross-country trails.
(1) No designated luge or toboggan runs, (3) there are toboggan runs that open quite often, (5) Nozawa Onsen has long and well maintained luge / toboggan facilities suitable for all ages.
Mountain Dining: 4.6
(1) Nowhere to buy food by the pistes, (3) some places to eat up on the mountain but they are often busy and expensive, (5) there is a variety of excellent mountain eateries right next to the slopes to suit all budgets.
(1) Bring your own food, there isn't even a shop. (5) A wide variety of places to eat and drink in the resort, from fast food to fancy restaurants.
(1) Nothing to do, not even a bar, (3) there are a few bars in the resort but nothing special, (5) clubs and bars stay open until very late and have a friendly atmosphere.
Other Sports: 3.1
(1) No sports facilities at all apart from ski lifts, (3) resort has just a small public swimming pool, (5) resort has all kinds of sports facilities, including a full-size swimming pool.
(1) Besides the snow and walking there is nothing to do here, (3) the non-skier will find things to do for few days but may become bored after a week, (5) the resort area is a fascinating place to visit, regardless of winter sports.
Winter Walks: 3.7
(1) Very limited walking and no snowshoe trails, (3) a couple of designated scenic walking/snowshoe trails, (5) extensive and diverse winter walking trails for all abilities.
Ski Pass Value: 4.6
(1) A 1 week ski pass is overpriced compared to the number of lifts available, (3) the ski pass is averagely priced and covers a reasonable number of lifts, (5) ski passes are excellent value for money and cover a lot of lifts spanning a big area.
Value (National): 4.7
(1) Overall, Nozawa Onsen is one of the most expensive ski resorts in the country and not worth the money, (3) overall represents average value for money, (5) overall offers the best value resort in the country.
Value (Global): 4.8
(1) Overall, Nozawa Onsen is one of the most expensive ski resorts in the world, (3) overall it offers pretty average value for money compared to resorts from other countries, (5) internationally the resort offers excellent value for money.
October 24, 2016
Simone Flores from Japan
Nozawa Onsen is one of those special places on the planet that will keep drawing you back. We travel a lot for work and adventures and usually make a habit of not going back to the same place twice. But Nozawa is the exception and we go there almost every year and have been doing so for a few years now.
The snow is amazing and that in itself is a big draw card but there is so much more with the food, culture and authentic traditional feel. We always stay with the good folk at Lodge Nagano. They have been there a long time and know the village and mountain very well; great friendly vibe and everything is easy. We had some friends with kids last season so stayed at their Nozawa Central Apartments just down the road. Also an awesome set up with the rental shop down stairs and great staff.
It is also very easy to get there now with either the snow shuttle of the plane or the new Bullet train that stops in Iiyama just down the road. We always try and go later in the season; in early March when the snow is still good but no crowds at all.
August 14, 2012
Max Kelly from Japan
Visited Nozawa last season and it must have been a record season for snow fall. Stayed at Villa Nozawa and they had to dig a trench thru the car park just to get out the front door. There was a 4 meter base up top and it just kept falling.
Loved the traditional feel of the lodge and the whole village. Really what a ski holiday in Japan should feel like. With quaint bath houses and restaurants and beautiful shrines scattered around the village.
August 18, 2011
Scott Nolan from Australia
We visited Nozawa Onsen for the first time and stayed halfway up the mountain in a fantastic property called Sasa-Nozawa. It snowed for the whole week we were there, and the powder was so light and dry. Ski patrol tend not to be too anal with skiing OOB .
The food in the village was ever so cheap, we found that we were paying around $60 for 2 for dinner AND drinks.
Also not to missed is one of the many free onsens around the village, they are great to soothe aching muscles after a days skiing.
Nozawa Onsen has something for everyone, and we will definitely be going back next year.
March 30, 2011
Matthew Thompson from United Kingdom
6th-13th March 2011
Amazing resort with plenty of nice wide quiet runs, especially during the week. The Skyline run that leads onto Karasawa green run is so much fun. Usually gets busier at the weekends with locals but due to the earthquakes it stayed relatively quiet. This place is ideal if you want to improve your snowboarding or skiing as there is plenty of space without the chains of ski schools & busy lift queues during the week.
We had fantastic snow & enjoyed the beautiful tree runs. We stayed at Villa Nozawa, part of Lodge Nagano. Australian & Japanese owners with Japanese style rooms, amazing breakfasts, fantastic place for couples & families.
The food is quite cheap with most meals around £7-£12 & you can get a lot for your money. Some places we went to cost around £30-£40 per head if you fancy splashing out on a banquet meal (worth every penny), which often include a private onsen within the hotel restaurants such as Himatsuri (completely private onsen, great for couples with indoor & half open roof onsen) and Kiriya Ryokan, which gave us a completely private meal(large private onsen included with meal too that can be shared with other occupants of the Kiriya Ryokan).
Most of the restaurants may appear closed to the eye but just pop your head under the half curtains you'll always get a warm welcome & some of the best customer service I've ever had.
Best conditions we've had snowboarding & some of the best food. Usually more busier tourism up to end of February we heard. From March we experienced a slightly quieter atmosphere with amazing snow. If you want to go snowboarding/skiing & get a real unique Japanese experience go to Nozawa Onsen. Though not a massive resort the conditions give you plenty to play with just off the piste groomed runs. Also there are buses that run to nearby(within an hour) resorts too where you can buy bus & lift ticket in one, ideal if you have a longer 2 weeker trip planned.
You should really all experience a ski trip like this. Nozawa Onsen - this one is unique.
March 19, 2011
John Clouston from Australia
Just had a wonderful week at Nozawa Onsen 1-9th March 2011. Snow quality was amazing. Over 120 cm of new snow in this week. All light and dry powder. I have skied all over the world and the snow quality here was as good as Utah. People friendly and the food great and inexpensive.
I will be back next year. Like everyone else, myself and family have been saddened and shocked by the earthquake and tsunami that hit North Eastern Japan. Villages Like Nozawa Onsen need support so if you have been to this region then go back again. I know we will.
February 02, 2010
Terry Alderman from Switzerland
All I can say is get to the Stay Bar, at Nozawa Onsen, for a Dynoburger - best burger I have ever had!!!
July 28, 2009
Kylie Musgrave from Canada
We visited Nozawa Onsen last season and absolutely fell in love withe the village, the mountain, food, hotsprings and the people.
Having skied as a family in many places around the world we found this to be one of the most interesting ski holidays we have been on with a terrific blend of authentic culture and enjoyable snow.
Stayed at Villa Nozawa in Nozawa Onsen and they were terrific, could not have been more friendly and helpful, great value too. The web page is nozawaholidays.com
Great location, just 100m from the slopes so easy with the kids
The hot springs or onsens are also a fantastic experience and must be done. It's a perfect way to soothe the aches and pains after a day on the slopes. Then, at night, wander the quaint streets and check out the 30 odd restaurants in the village. There are some cute little bars too.
It was a great trip and we will be back.
February 05, 2009
JohnA from United Kingdom
Nozawa Onsen is a very nice place with a small village atmosphere and very helpful people. Wonderful onsens (free public ones abound) and, at around 40 deg C or higher, they will cook you quite quickly.
Site claims that Nozawa Onsen has 40% beginner (and I can believe that), 30% intermediate (doubtful) and 30% expert (believable). The doubt about intermediate surrounds the definition.
I found that there was a lot of flatish (often requiring a long push to get anywhere) "slopes" and quite a few fairly steep ones but not much in between.
Lift unloads were poorly placed in relation to the load for the next logical lift. That said, it was easy to avoid the worst of the pushes once you worked them out.
Some stunning rides to be had along Skyline, on Challenge and Yamabiko (but not on weekends when it gets a little crowded - Nozawa Onsen is sorta like Thredbo on a good day.)
March 02, 2008
Gavin Greenway from Afghanistan
We visited Niigata and Nagano prefectures in the 3rd week of Feb 2008. Assuming Snow-Forecasts.com permission, this review has been posted on 6 resorts visited during this trip. We visited Gala Yuzawa, Naspa Ski Garden, Maiko Korakuen, Naeba and Tashiro Kagura Mitsumata (known locally simply as Kagura) in Niigata prefecture and Nozawa Onsen in Nagano prefecture.
The main reason for this wider review is that unlike many European resorts, where you tend to ‘stay’ on a resort, in Japan, or certainly around (Echigo) Yuzawa, the main bullet train town, you tend to stay in Yuzawa, and then take one of the free buses to a plethora of resorts in the vicinity. We hope that this review would help people who are new to skiing in Japan, an experience we can highly recommend.
Echigo Yuzawa is the main bullet train station 77 minutes from Tokyo central station. The experience of taking these fantastic trains should be enough for most people! The trains look like something from Futurama and are double-deckers, allowing great views all the way. Japanese train punctuality is of course a given even in heavy snow. In fact the locals looked at us quizzically when we asked if there were any ‘problems’ with the trains because of the blizzard conditions in Yuzawa. “no…..why?” came the response. Once at the station, it's easy to hail a cab or catch a complimentary bus toyour hotel or chosen resort. I believe there are around 20-30 resorts with a 20 minute bus ride from Yuzawa station. Some people even play ‘resort roulette’ if they can’t decide which one to try that day and get on the first resort bus they see. The Guinness world record for travelling the most ski lifts in one day was broken in Yuzawa in 2007 by the wwwwelovesnowcom team that booked our trips.
Of course, many are attracted to Japan for the legendary quality of snow. The predominant winds sweep across Siberia, pick up moisture and dump on the Japanese alps. Many visitors go further to the resorts of Hokkaido and I cannot comment on those, suffice to say that if you want to combine a trip to Japan with a city visit, then Yuzawa’s accessibility by Shinkensen (bullet train) would win it for me. Hokkaido requires another flight from Tokyo plus transfers. Compare that with Gala Yuzawa, which has a gondola to the slopes from within its own bullet train station, meaning you could leave your ski boots on for the day trip from Tokyo!
The snow this season (2007/8) has been apparently ‘average’ but to us Europeans, it was ‘fantastic’. It had snowed 5 days non stop before our arrival, and snowed every day bar one for our 8 day stay. Arguably there was too much snow as walking around the town was sometimes hairy. Imagine cars with a metre of snow overnight on their roofs to provide a picture.
To the European used to believing snow quality starts at 2000m, throw away this rule book. The ski in hotel at Naspa (our base) starts at circa 400m above sea level. SO WHAT? the snow was superb. The runs at Naspa themselves are not overly challenging, but if you had a family and wanted to touch up your skills it’s a great base. You can get a short bus to black runs and off-piste at Naeba and Kagura.
All we know, as once a year chancers, was that in 2007, we had a week at Les Arcs, in France, the second biggest ski area in the world, with glacier options above 3000m. The temperature rose to 20c, at 1000m, in the 1st week of March. The snow, although plentiful above 2000m, was like porridge.
Compare this to the Niigata region, where you can off-piste up to your waist in powder and you can understand our new found love for Japan.
Choice of run/Lifts etc:
Gala Yuzawa was a little limiting for an intermediate, although good for a day out. The ski school there had English instruction, and I finally learned to snowboard after years on skis. The snow being so good encouraged me 'to have another go' at learning this skill. I didn’t see any drag lifts in Japan, another snowboard bonus.
Maiko Korakuen, like Kagura, had a massive amount of variety. We were looking for blue runs alongside reds and blacks at each resort to cover different abilities; neither disappointed.
Naeba, on the other hand, was more for the intermediate and above and tremendous fun!
Nozawa Onsen (in Nagano) was, again, great for all levels, and very beautiful. We hired a car for the 1.5 hour drive from Yuzawa. Nozawa is a more traditional town, with kimonos not uncommonly worn in the village. The resort itself is beautiful with fabulous views and waist deep snow off-piste. What else could you want?
The lift equipment is exceptional across the resorts we visited. The Yuzawa area is home to the world’s largest gondola (approx 170 people per car) from memory, and the world’s longest lift linking resorts of 5.5km. Japan is pistes ahead in this regard.
This was a major pull for us. We did not fail to have a good meal in the many small bars/restaurants in Yuzawa. Typical costs were around USD25 per head including drinks. Tipping is considered rude. It can seem intimidating to walk into a small inn and order food; the flip side being the sense of adventure. The food always being fresh and often prepared with skill in front of you. The tradition of providing pictures or plastic mock ups of food outside the restaurant, helped us to at least have some clue what we were ordering.
We flew from London to Tokyo for this trip and the Japanese would not lever their seats back on the 12 hour flight for fear of upsetting fellow travellers. This will give you just a taste of what hospitality to expect.
The last of this cultural jigsaw is the Japanese public bathing spas (onsen). After a hard day on the slopes this is a must. The Japanese ‘expect’ excellent facilities, and I understand all hotels will have them, as will many ski resorts themselves (at the base of ski lifts). We become addicted to this après-ski pastime and became fastidiously clean.
Length of season:
Tashiro Kagura Mitsumata or ‘Kagura’ opens at the end of November and runs through to late May. This is no joke apparently. As 3-4m of snow builds up over the winter I understand t-shirt skiing is possible till early summer.
If you want a diverse, fascinating trip to Japan visiting 7 different ski resorts in 1 week with off-piste, on-piste, south facing, north facing options, why not go for it? Combine it with a city trip before, after or to relieve tired legs in the middle and it could be the trip of a lifetime. The Western run wwwwelovesnowcom guys helped us book by e-mail and on the phone. They will do as little or as much as you like to help from booking hotels, to train tickets, to provide day guides for off-piste treks. Brilliant.
Shame we are now back in London.