Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort is a decent skiing and snowboarding resort in Niigata Prefecture. It’s one of many in the area, but what sets it apart is that it has its own bullet train station — aptly named Gala Yuzawa Station. The journey from Tokyo takes only 90 minutes. That means you can hop on a train just after 6 a.m. in Tokyo, be grinding the slopes by 8 a.m., and still get back into the capital by nightfall, in time to feed your cats/child/pet rock.

Terrain difficulty

The place is well suited to beginners, with a range of gentle slopes in the central area. There are some intermediate options too, with a couple of expert courses in the northern and southern parts of the resort. Additionally, there is a 2.5 km downhill course — a fun feature aimed at beginner-intermediate snowsters (yes, that is a word now).

Gala Yuzawa ski resort
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Resort stats

Elevation Base elevation: 329 meters
Summit elevation: 1,280 meters
Vertical drop: 951 meters
Number of runs 16
Longest run 2.5 km
Lifts Ropeway: 1
Gondola: 1
Quad lifts: 3
Triple: 2
Pair lifts: 2
Gradient Maximum: 33 degrees
Night skiing Not available
On-piste restaurants 9+

Lift passes

Ticket type Adult Children (6 to 12) Senior
1 day ¥5,200 ¥2,600 ¥4,400
2 day ¥8,000 ¥4,000 ¥6,800
1/2 day (AM or PM) ¥4,200 ¥2,100 ¥3,600
3PM Pass ¥2,200 ¥1,100 ¥2,000
Gondola One-Day Pass ¥2,000 ¥1,000 ¥2,000
Barouche Lift Ticket ¥1,000 ¥500 ¥1,000
Gala Season Pass ¥42,800 ¥21,400 ¥42,800

There are also various discounts available, for example purchasing your pass via the website at least one day in advance gets you ¥200 off an adult or senior ticket, and ¥100 off a child’s ticket. Also a couple of years ago, Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort introduced an IC lift ticket, if you recharge it online you get even more of a discount of ¥500 for adults and seniors, or ¥200 for children.

Gear rental

The Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort website claims that they have the “World’s largest rental”, and while we can’t prove anything either way, it’s definitely true that they have a very extensive range. They stock new models every season and perform daily maintainence to keep everything in tip-top shape. You have the option of ski and snowboard sets ranging from ¥5,000 for a standard set to ¥7,000 for a premium ski set. Jackets and pants are also available, along with goggles and helmets. It’s possible to rent gear for two days for a very nice discounted rate of ¥7,500 for a standard ski or snowboard adult set. If you book your rental items ahead of time online, you can also get a discount.

Lesson and guiding

In great news for the non-Japanese speakers among us, there is an English speaking ski school. A group lesson will set you back ¥2,000 for 2 hours, while a 2 hour private lesson costs ¥30,000. Keep in mind that these prices do not include gear rental, lift passes or accident insurance.

Snow and skiiers at Gala Yuzawa
Hop on the Shinkansen for a day on the slopes at Gala Yuzawa | Photo by Chris Kirkland

Off the slopes

Food and drink

When it comes to food options at Gala Yuzawa you’re spoilt for choice. There are eight different restaurants and food shops plus a food court all serving up a wide variety of cuisines. You’ll easily find sushi, rice balls and steaming hot ramen, as well as ice cream and crepes. Most of the restaurants are concentrated around the Ski Center ‘Cowabunga’, and Rest House ‘Cheers’ is where you’ll find the food court. There is only one restaurant in the north area though.

Alternative snow activities

There is a variety of non-skiing/snowboarding activities available that are especially well suited to kids — both big and small. The Snow Enjoyment Park has sledding slopes and a separate snow play area. If you don’t have your own sled you can easily rent one for ¥1,000. There’s also a snowmobile sleigh tour that starts at the front of the Snow Enjoyment Park and takes you to the nothern area of the ski resort.

Other facilities

If you need a break from the snow, there’s plenty of things to keep you entertained. Gala Yuzawa has hot springs, a fitness pool and rest space with massage chairs, as well as shop for sports equipment and souvenirs. There’s even a daycare facility for the little ones, lugagge storage facilities and plenty of lockers.

Getting there

We’ve already mentioned that Gala Yuzawa has it’s own shinkansen station, and that is definitely the most convenient way to get there. Gala Yuzawa Station is on the Jōetsu Shinkansen route that connects Tokyo to Niigata. Services only stop at Gala Yuzawa Station during the ski season though, and are a little infrequent.

An alternative option is to take the Jōetsu Shinkansen to Echigo-Yuzawa Station and take the free shuttle bus from the east exit of the station. In the peak of ski season the shuttle bus also services a few other ski resorts nearby as well as hotels in Yuzawa Onsen Town.

Finally, if you have a car (or are willing to rent one) you can make the drive from Tokyo in about 3 hours. Depending on the route you take, there may be road tolls. But once you arrive, there is free all day parking.

Getting around

Given the fact that Gala Yuzawa is connected to other nearby ski resorts, hotels and Yuzawa Onsen Town by a free shuttle bus, it’s incredibly easy to get around. Just be sure to check the shuttle bus timetable and route, as during peak season there are three different bus lines that go to different places.

Where to stay

If you want to make an overnight trip of it, hotels can be found near Echigo-Yuzawa Station, which is one stop away from Gala Yuzawa Station. Yuzawa has heaps of hot springs, making it a grand old place to kick back and relax.