HEADING ONWARDS FROM NOZAWA ONSEN
4th October 2019 | James Cove, Nozawa Onsen, Japan
We’re deep in the Japanese Alps checking out a few ski areas ahead of winter. Next up its Ryuoo and Madarao near Nozawa Onsen.
We’re basing ourselves in the largest single ski resort in Japan, Nozawa Onsen.
See here for our full report from the resort.
Technically speaking the ski area of Niseko in Hokkaido that we visited earlier is larger.
But Niseko is actually made up of four separate resorts and, even though they are linked, they are technically separate as they are under four different owners.
So, Nozawa Onsen claims the crown as the largest in Japan.
And what Nozawa Onsen also offers is some superb day trips to other ski areas that are under an hour away.
Kind of making the accessible ski area even larger.
And I’m visiting a couple today.
First up it Ryuoo.
It’s claim to fame is the largest cable car in the world, or ropeway as they are called in this neck of the woods.
It’s certainly a big beast with room for 166 people.
And a good platform to see some of the ski area.
Across the valley are two more resorts, Takaifuji and Yomase.
There are about 20 ski resorts within an hour or so.
Imagine this in powder.
And it takes you 800m up from the resort to 1,770m.
The views from the top across the Nagano Valley are pretty special.
I’m told this is the steepest black run in the resort and for experts only.
I look forward to heading off the terrace next winter.
And these are some of the routes down.
The restaurant at the top, is also pretty special.
It wouldn’t look out of place in Courchevel, St Anton, Aspen or Verbier.
And some of the accommodation is right up there too.
Here is the recently refurbished T Hotel, with 77-rooms.
It’s where I stopped for lunch.
Lets just say I have loved Japanese food, as you will have seen from some of my earlier blogs if you are a regular reader.
But I had a craving for something more, er, western.
A knife and fork to start with.
The rooms here in the T Hotel are sumptuous and Japanese.
And this would be pretty special after a day in the powder.
An onsen could wait.
The snow should be falling next month and the piste bashers are out having some last minute repairs and maintenance.
With an annual snowfall of more than 5 metres they should be pretty busy over the coming few months.
Next up and just across the valley from Nozawa Onsen is the resort of Madarao.
Many people make day trips over here as it has some of the best tree skiing in Japan.
It has 13 official tree ski runs – more than any other resort in Japan.
60% are ungroomed – think powder.
It is on private land rather than a national park, so the resort authorities are less constrained on what they can do.
Some of the tree areas have been gladed, thus allowing greater space between the trees.
And this what it looks like in winter.
There is a daily shuttle bus in the winter from Nozawa Onsen.
The resort is linked to Mt Buller in Australia and, like Niseko in Hokkaido that we visited earlier, is on the IKON Pass.
For a longer stay the main hotel in town is the Madarao Kongen Hotel and judging but what I have seen and heard it would be worth more than a day trip and this is the place to stay.
The hotel has the authentic Japanese feel and is ski in/ski out.
So, what of the famous backcountry skiing here?
Earlier I met a Japanese Olympian in Nozawa Onsen, Mikio Katagiri, and here in Madarao is one of the country’s recent World Cup ski stars.
Ari competed in ski cross for his country and now runs the Madarao Sports Academy.
“The backcountry here is out of this world and if you are adventurous with a few short hikes you can get waist deep powder,” Ari told me.
“Some of the longer runs off the back go a long way, up to 35kms, and you’ll need to get a taxi to pick you up after a day in the powder as we get away from ski civilisation. Powder days here are super special.”
“Come back when there is some snow, you’ll love it!”
“Er, try keeping me away!” I responded.
Now we don’t usually write that much about hotels and places to stay on the web site – we are PlanetSKI not PlanetHOTEL.
However you may have noticed I have mentioned a few places in this article as I have been sent a few messages from readers asking what the accomodation is like.
And so what about where I am staying in Nozawa Onsen?
Step forward the Nozawa Grand Hotel.
The greeting in reception showed me I was the only westerner arriving today.
I therefore dressed for dinner accordingly.
And what a dinner it was.
This was just the starter.
Now I have been mentioning the onsens, natural hot springs, in this and other articles.
I have thoroughly enjoyed bathing in their mineral-rich waters that come bubbling up from Mother Earth.
The Nozawa Grand Hotel also offers other bathing options in its rooms – with bubbles.
The hotel is on offer from Inghams and full details can be found at the end of this article.
Inghams also offers other hotels in town:
As well as day trips to other resorts there are other must-do adventures in the area.
A visit to the snow monkeys in nearby Jigokudani Yaen Koen and a tour of a sake distillery in Liyama with some tasting.
And let’s not forget mushrooms.
Pardon? More of that later.
And then the temples and gardens of Kanazawa.
They are next on the itinerary as my Japanese journey continues.
Do check back later for more on this fascinating part of the Japan…
Inghams offers a five-night trip to Tokyo and Nozawa Onsen from £1,952 per person based on two sharing.
Price includes return flights (direct from London Heathrow), coach transfers, accommodation with ensuite facilities (including the Nozawa Grand Hotel), four breakfasts and a three-day lift pass.
The package is valid for travel departing on 29th February 2020.
To book, visit this section of the Ingham’s web site.
Inghams in Japan: