Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort is known for being one of the biggest ski resorts in Japan. It’s also said to be one of the spots where skiing kicked off in Japan. During Nagano’s 1998 Winter Olympics it was the venue for the biathlon events. Given all this, it’s got the best of both winter sports and traditional Japan — and it’s accessible to foreign visitors thanks to English maps, menus, and so on.
Oh, and did we mention that it’s also right by an onsen town? Yes, you can hit the slopes by day and at night soak your aches away at the base of the mountain in Nozawa Onsen town. The winter sports/hot spring paradise that is Nozawa Onsen is located in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture. With it’s small-town, local feel, it’s a perfect getaway from Tokyo — whether you love one or both of these activities.
It may be the only resort in Nozawa Onsen, but without a doubt, it’s an impressive establishment. Even though it opened in 1924 (making it one of Japan’s oldest ski resorts), it has modern lifts and gondolas. It has a good balance of terrain for all levels of experience. And if you’re lucky, there is a chance to get a view of the Northern Japan Alps and the Sea of Japan.
There are 36 different runs, including nine runs over 1,000 meters. The challenging Skyline Course is 4.5km in length.
|Elevation||Base elevation: 329 meters
Summit elevation: 1,280 meters
Vertical drop: 951 meters
|Number of runs||14|
|Longest run||5.2 km|
|Lifts||Gondola: 1 (2 stations)
Quad lifts: 2
Pair lifts: 2
|Gradient||Maximum: Not available|
The following passes and prices are for the 2022/23 season. In addition to these passes, there are a few single use tickets available for individual lifts and gondolas. Group and handicap discounts may also be available on inquiry. Also worth noting is that preschool age children are able to use the lifts if they are with an adult who has a pass. Various other discounts and special tickets are also available, some of which include food vouchers.
|Ticket type||Adult||Child (Under 15)||Senior (Over 60)|
|Night skiing||¥2,200||¥1,300||Not available|
Salomon Station, located in the Nagasaka gondola station, is the official rental shop of Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort. The rental process is fairly straight forward, you fill out a form and pay at the main counter, before going to the equipment stations to collect your gear. Adult prices start at ¥8,000 for 1 day rental of a full set including a standard ski or snowboard and ski wear. Children start at ¥6,400, but there is no discount for seniors. Night skiing rental is cheaper at ¥6,000 for adults and ¥4,800 for children. You can also rent premium equipment, wear or a ski/snowboard only, as well as snowscoots and snowshoes.
Considering how big Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort is, it’s not surprising that there are many other rental shops in the area. Some boast convenient locations, either close to gondola stations or the center of Nozawa Onsen town, while others try to entice you with food and drink. A few worth noting are Sanko Rental which claims to have some of the cheapest rental prices in the area, Shirakaba which focuses on premium gear, and Kawatatsu which offers discounts for large groups.
Lesson and guiding
Nozawa Ski School has a team of international instructors offering both groups and private lessons for children and adults. Adult group lessons are available as morning courses (2.5 hours) for ¥10,000 or full day courses (4.5 hours) for ¥14,000. There are a maximum of eight participants in adult group lessons. If you’d prefer private lessons, these start at ¥30,000 for either a 2 hour morning lesson or 3 hour afternoon lesson. Private lessons are charged at a flatrate for the instructor, and you can have up to eight participants so they’re a great deal if you and your friends have similar ability levels.
Off the slopes
Local legend says a monk discovered the hot springs in the eighth century, and the town has been famous for them since the Edo period. The offerings include 13 public baths (called soto-yu), which are open to anyone and everyone, free of charge. Donations are appreciated, though, and you can put them in the marked boxes outside the bathhouses. Note that these baths are known to run quite hot, around 48 degrees, so if that’s too hot for you to handle Furusato no yu is a cooler, 40 degree option that costs ¥500 for entry.
Never visited a Japanese bathhouse before? Check out our bathing etiquette primer before taking the plunge.
We highly recommend going in mid-January if at all possible, as that is when you can experience the Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival, one of the biggest fire festivals in Japan. The event honors a type of deity known as dōsojin and is held to celebrate boys born in the past year, to dispel evil spirits, and to pray for happy marriages.
Important note: The festival takes place every January 15. However, due to COVID-19 measures, many events have been canceled. Always check the official site for full details regarding the 2022 event.
The Hokuriku Shinkansen’s Hakutaka service is the only bullet train to go from Tokyo to Iiyama, the closest station to Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort and town. It’s a little under 2 hours and around ¥8,580 one-way. From there, you can take the Nozawa Onsen Liner Bus for ¥600 (about 25 minutes). There is also a taxi service available which would cost around ¥7,000 for a taxi that can fit up to four people.
If you’d prefer to drive, it will take around 3 hours from Tokyo using toll roads. There are a few parking lots that have free day parking available (Car park 2 in the Karasawa area and car park 3 in the Nanbara area, for example), while other parking lots charge from ¥100 per hour or ¥500 to ¥1,000 for day parking of a standard vehicle. The types of facilities available, the opening hours and the availability of things like overnight parking all vary depending on the parking lot, so check carefully.
Since Nozawa Onsen town is quite compact, you’ll be able to get around easily enough on foot. To get to the resort, you can take a free shuttle bus from Chuo Terminal in the centre of town to the Nagasaka gondola station. Alternatively, you could take the Yu-Road escalator to the Hikage gondola area or the Shinyu pair lift up to the Hikage area.
Where to stay
There are a number of very decent hotels and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) in Nozawa Onsen Town. Check out what’s availablehere.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Last updated in November 2022 by Maria Danuco.
- 3.5 km from Kamisakai Station Iiyama Line