Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort is a sprawling ski area covering the north-western slopes of Mt. Kenashi in Japan’s Nagano prefecture. Cross-country skiing fans may already be familiar with the name...
A great all-round resort
Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort is a sprawling ski area covering the north-western slopes of Mt. Kenashi in Japan’s Nagano prefecture. Cross-country skiing fans may already be familiar with the name after the resort hosted the biathlon events at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. The area’s other notable claim to fame is its traditional Fire Festival on the 15th of January every year – considered to be one of the top three fire festivals in Japan, attracting scores of visitors to the area every year.
A sleepy town with a famous partner
The ski area is named after the village of the same name which straddles the base of the mountain. Clocking in with just around 3,500 residents, the village is pretty small yet makes a thriving impression in winter thanks to its seasonal tourism. The town is served by bus routes from Nagano and Iiyama, both of which are key rail hubs in Japan’s high speed network. As a result, Nozawa Onsen is only some three hours’ travel from Tokyo. Interestingly, Nozawa Onsen has been a partner city to another notable international ski resort since 1971 – St. Anton am Arlberg.
The ski resort boasts some 50 km of groomed runs and over 1,000 metres of vertical difference, both of which are pretty impressive marks by Japanese standards. Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort has three main entry points at the Hikage Station, Nagasaka Station and Karasawa Trail. The former two stations form the main hubs of the ski area and are home to the base stations for the two main gondolas up the mountain. Higher up, the top lifts link up to the Yamabiko zone which, although offering several intermediate groomers, is a designated ungroomed “bowl-style” area, where visitors can pick their own lines through the groves of highland trees. Given the terrain park and good infrastructure for kids, it’s safe to say that Nozawa Onsen is a pretty good all-round ski destination.