Mikuni Cat Ski Trip

Yesterday we went to try the Mikuni Cat Ski operation up at Naeba and had a huge amount of fun.

The Mikuni Cat - Edited.jpg

It is billed as "backcountry for everyone", and would be a great introduction to skiers and boarders wanting to try riding outside the resort, but is equally good for the more experienced looking for a great day out.

We met at Naeba Ski Resort and were driven from there to the nearby base. Once everyone is assembled and the gear loaded, it is off to the cat, which is a groomer with a heated box on the back. A short drive takes you to the base of what used to be Mikuni Ski Resort. The lifts have been removed years ago but the empty slopes look inviting above you. A little bit of avalanche beacon explanation and training, and then it is back onboard, and the drive uphill begins.

Cat Ski Run.jpg

After that it is run after run, led by the experienced guiding team. Some runs are down the abandoned slopes, other through the trees, and old access roads. We went on a clear. blue sky day (though snow began by the final runs) and there were still untouched fields of snow to play in.

There is no lunch break but food and drinks are snacked on in the cat on the way back up between runs in order to maximise skiing time. I lost count of the number of runs we did but by the end of the day, as we skied several kilometres back down the access road all the way to the car park, it felt like enough!

The Mikuni Cat Ski team make a point of not overselling the level of the backcountry experience, but we think anyone would happy with a day out here. What is not to like? Lots of runs down your own private ski resort with a taxi waiting for you at the bottom to drive you back up to do it all again and again. Great fun and highly recommended.

Let us know if you have any questions, or want to fine tune your technique before heading out on the Mikuni Cat for yourself.


On the road

January is typically a quieter time for us - a bit of a lull between the busy periods of Christmas/New Year, and Lunar New Year. One of the joys of winter in Japan is that there are so many resorts all over the country, and as our customers spread out and start to explore they often invite us to come along and coach them in new locations. This is great fun for us, and a chance for our instructors to visit other areas of Japan. This week alone we have instructors up in Niseko, Nozawa Onsen, Hakuba, Zao, and Karuizawa. Minakami resorts, and Shiga Kogen are also frequently requested locations for us.

If you are heading somewhere out of the Snow Country region and would like to see if one of our Snow Country Instructors is available to teach you skiing or snowboarding, please drop us a line.

Zao Ski Lessons with SCI.jpg

Snowmobile Land in Yuzawa

We do lots of lessons in Iwappara and find that it is one of the best resorts for learning skiing and snowboarding in the Yuzawa area. Every time we head out that way we drive past Snowmobile Land which makes its home in the park close to the summer Aurora Leisure Pools.

If you are looking for a break from the slopes and some serious fun, this is well worth checking out. There are a whole range of courses but their recommended program for English speakers is the 30 minute or 60 minute trial course. You get to whizz around on one of their snowmobiles during that time and it is seriously exhilarating. Highly recommended.

It is best to let them know that you are coming. The Snow Country Tourism info office outside the West Exit of Echigo-Yuzawa Station can help you book, and then you'll just have to make your own way there. Let us know if you need any further information on snowmobiling in Yuzawa.

Snowmobile Land Yuzawa Iwappara.jpg



Snow Country Festivals

We are half way through January 2018 already and it has turned into a very busy winter with lots of visitors coming to Yuzawa and Snow Country to enjoy the great Japanese snow. Our ski and snowboard coaches are working hard on the slopes making sure people have a fantastic time during their winter snow trips, but there is also plenty to do off the ski resorts too. Snow Country has a long history, an interesting food culture, and plenty of fun festivals.

Today we are off to the Matsunoyama Bridegroom Throwing Festival, when newly weds are thrown down a snowbank for good look.

Bridegroom throwing in Matsunoyama Onsen.jpg

If you are in the area and there is a festival going on, it is well worth the effort to check it out. Here are some of the upcoming events for 2018

January 20 & 25 - Traditional Chinkoro Market in Tokamachi

February 3 - Koide Snow Carnival

February 4 - Koide International Snowball Battle

February 10 & 11 - Minami Uonuma Snow Carnival

February 11 - Dousing bridegrooms in icy water in Horinouchi 

February 16-18 - Tokamachi Snow Festival

February 17 - Shiozawa Snowcountry Festival

February 17 - April 3 - Display of traditional dolls on Bokushi Street in Shiozawa

February 24 - March 11 - SNOWART at the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale

February 24 - Kagura/Mitsumata Fireworks

March 3 - Naked Man Festival in Urasa

March 3 - Yakushi Snow Carnival

March 3 & 4 - Kawanishi Snow Festival

March 3 - Echigo Tsumari Snow Fireworks

March 3 - Echigo Yuzawa Onsen Snow Festival

There are many more festival through the rest of March so we will update on those closer to the date. Make sure you head out around Snow Country to enjoy some of these events, and if you have any questions on anything, please let us know

If you are looking for ski or snowboard lessons with experienced, highly qualified English speaking coaches we have a whole team of dedicated instructors working in all resorts in the region. 

Christmas Night Skiing at Ishiuchi

If you are up for a fully festive weekend then you need to take yourself along to nightskiing at Ishiuchi Maruyama on 23rd & 24th December. Head up the second lift and you will emerge into a Christmas Wonderland on the plateau at the top. Food stalls, local sake, illuminations, and rumour has it Santa might be flying in to put in an appearance.

The Ishiuchi Maruyama Christmas Night event will run from 5pm - 8pm on both Saturday and Sunday. For those of you heading to the Hiiragi Restaurant Christmas dinner at 1830 on 23rd this would be a good little warm-up! 

Ishiuchi Maruyama Christmas Night - Edited.png

Enjoy the great views, crisp mountain air, tasty sake, and delicious snacks, but don't forget you still have to ski down afterwards! Anyone up for our "ski down the hill without spilling a drop of your Christmas sake" challenge?


Weekend 16/17 December in Yuzawa

Another winter week has ticked past in Snow Country. Very much a case of "Be careful what you wish for." Everyone was keen for more snow, and then a big storm comes through and drops half a meter of snow on the whole town. Hours of shovelling to get to your buried car and fresh snow doesn't seem that fun anymore!

Due to that big snowfall conditions are great at the moment so hopefully you are coming to the snow in Yuzawa or Minami Uonuma this weekend. Kagura and Tashiro are open. Naeba has managed to open up the long course from the top of the No. 2 gondola back to the base. Maiko opened today and are running the gondola and the lifts at the top. Yuzawa Kogen, Nakazato, and GALA Yuzawa are also opening tomorrow. It promises to be a great weekend. Unfortunately Iwappara are waiting a little longer and will reassess after seeing how much snow falls over the weekend.

It is a good time to grab a lesson. The snow is in great condition right now and the cold temperatures should keep it that way. The beginner slopes in most resorts are starting to open so there are some gentle options for those that are just learning to ski or snowboard. There are sure to be lots of people coming up to enjoy the snow on Saturday and Sunday but with more resorts open everyone should spread out a bit this weekend. And it is still early season so resorts are emptier now than they will be during the holidays in Japan.

Our instructors have been out and about all over the slopes of Snow Country already and are available for lessons throughout the weekend for both ski and snowboard. Time for a quick refresher before winter gets into its stride. Drop us a line if you would like to make a booking.

Snow Country Instructor Naeba Filip - Edited.jpg

Cat Skiing in Naeba

Once you have mastered your technique on the groomed slope, you might start testing yourself in the soft snow at the side of the run. One of the joys of skiing and snowboarding in Japan is the huge amount of snow the resorts receive every year. Powder skiing or powder boarding are the holy grail of snowsports, with riders going to great lengths to access fresh snow that no one else has ridden.

Mikuni Cat Skiing in Naeba.png

Hiking up to untouched powder is one option, or if you are lucky enough, jumping in a helicopter to get dropped at the top of a difficult to reach peak. Out the back of Naeba Ski Resort is an abandoned ski area called Mikuni, and this year there will be a cat skiing operation using it for backcountry tours - Mikuni Cat Skiing. Climb in the back of a snowcat and let it drive you to the top of some of the unused runs. From there you will get the chance to carve your own lines into the untracked snow. It is a great way to get some experience in a backcountry environment accompanied by trained professionals and is suitable for upper level skiers and snowboarders who are looking to take their first turns in the deep snow of Japan. Or if you are an expert rider looking for a fun experience up at Naeba and of course, a great day out.

If you are not sure whether you are ready for cat skiing we'd be happy to take you out for a powder lesson and fine tune your technique in the soft snow. We can also book the Mikuni Cat skiing for you too if you require.

The cat skiing tours will run this winter from December 27th 2017 until March 4th 2018. The tour fee is 35,000 yen per person, with a limited number of spots per day. Full details can be found on the Mikuni Cat Skiing page

Weekend 9/10 December in Yuzawa

The weekend is drawing closer and there seem to be plenty of people planning to hit the slopes of Yuzawa in the near future. We are getting lots of emails about current conditions, so we thought an update before the weekend would be helpful.

Main slope at Kagura on Thursday December 7th 2017

Main slope at Kagura on Thursday December 7th 2017

Mitsumata/Kagura Ski Area is open. The snow mats in Mitsumata were mostly uncovered until the snowfall of a couple of days ago. They are now mostly covered apart from a few patches, and there is more snow on the way. The top slopes of Kagura are good hardpack at the moment. The queue for the Mitsumata ropeway early in the morning last weekend were pretty impressive, but with Tashiro area opening up on Saturday 9th, that should help to spread people out.

Mitsumata on Thursday December 7th 2017

Mitsumata on Thursday December 7th 2017

Naeba is going to open on Saturday 9th too, but it is likely only the beginner slope at the bottom of the mountain. Hopefully the predicted snow will come in, and more runs will open up shortly.

Iwappara were hoping to open on Saturday but are not going to do so due to lack of snow. They will be monitoring conditions and hope to open to some extent as soon as possible.

Okutadami Maruyama is also open.

Conditions are pretty good for early December and with more snow due Friday we think conditions will be fun for this weekend. We have plenty of ski instructors and snowboard instructors in Yuzawa right now who are ready and waiting to put their experience to good use and help you get more out of your time on the snow, whichever Yuzawa snow resorts you decide to use.

Get up here and start sliding!

Okutadami Maruyama Ski Resort for early season

The season is officially underway here in Snow Country. Kagura opened on schedule with a nice layer of natural snow. Things have been a bit milder since opening day but there was another sprinkling of fresh snow overnight.

For those looking to get some early turns in, Kagura is a great choice. There are also runs open in Karuizawa, Nozawa Onsen, Hakuba resorts, and Shika Kogen. An often overlooked option up here is Okutadami Maruyama. It's up in Uonuma and close to a big dam and lake that is well known for its great scenery and pleasure cruises.

The drive up there is impressive as much of the final stretch is through tunnels. The resort opens early season, and then shuts during the snowiest parts of winter. It opens up again in spring, which is a great time to check out the stunning views from the resort. Okutadami Maruyama tends to have a great terrain park too.

We do a few lessons up there every year and are always keen to send our coaches up there.

The closest bullet train station is Urasa Station.

If you are interested in a day out at Okutadami Maruyama this winter, please let us know.

Okutadami Maruyama Ski Area.png

New Rental Shop in Yuzawa

We were a bit surprised the other day to be walking down the main Onsen Street in Yuzawa, and see a new sign for a ski and snowboard rental business going up over one of the unused shopfronts. It seems that they will have Chinese speaking staff, and will also offer resort shuttles like the other town rental shops.

Chenda Rental Yuzawa Chinese.jpg


The website for Chenda Rental seems to be a work in progress at the time of writing but we will update with any details that we discover.

Chenda Rental Yuzawa.jpg

Discount Lift Tickets in Yuzawa

We've had snow for the last few days and the whole town a little dusting of white over it at the moment. (You can check out some photos on our Instagram page.) Things are looking good for the opening day of Kagura Ski Area on Thursday 23rd November.

We are getting a few emails from people coming to Yuzawa for their winter snow trip asking about discount lift tickets. This region is yet to have a really good option for lift tickets but you can pick up discount vouchers for most resorts. Have a look in your hotel, rental shop or in some of the tourist information offices around the area. Most discount voucher are for 500 yen off.

The rental shop that we usually recommend also have some discount tickets available for some resorts though these are of a limited number so may or may not be available when you arrive in Yuzawa for your ski lesson or snowboard lesson with one of our international instructors.

If you are heading to Mitsumata/Kagura/Tashiro at any point in the season there is a coupon that includes lift ticket + a 1,000JPY lunch/shopping voucher that can be used in most places in the resorts, that will get you a bit of a discount. Either print it out or show it to the ticket office on the screen of your smartphone.

The first turns of the 2017/18 Winter Season in this region of Japan are just days away!

First Snow in Yuzawa Town

We had our first snow flurries of Winter 2017/18 in Yuzawa town yesterday, and even though it is mid-November the region is starting to get that winter feeling. Later in the day we were driving back from Minakami and as we came out of long tunnel under the mountain to the Yuzawa side there were signs warning of snow. Sure enough as we emerged, there were large flakes falling and what could be seen of the mountain sides under the clouds was dusted in white. We managed to grab a quick shot to put on our Instagram page.

Our team of experienced international ski and snowboard coaches are drifting into town, ready to give lessons in all resorts in the Yuzawa area and Minami Uonuma area. Kagura have announced that they are definitely opening on November 23rd on schedule, and checking their webcams is become a bit of an obsession. We are ready and waiting to give lessons as soon as that first lift opens. The water pipes that keep the snow off the roads are being tested, and the snow clearing machines are getting a cleaning and a spin round town. The last few years we have had very mild Novembers so it is good to have some cold weather this year, and fingers crossed for all resorts opening on schedule. You can find the list of opening dates on this post.

As always Christmas & New Year, and Chinese New Year are looking busy so if you are planning on being in any of the areas we cover, and are looking for English-speaking ski or snowboard lessons (or Chinese-speaking ski or snowboard lessons) please get in touch sooner rather than later. If you need further information on any aspect of your Japan snow trip, or have any questions about ski lessons or snowboard lessons in Yuzawa, please feel free to contact us.

Hotel & Lift Ticket Package 2017-18

Suberi-meguri is a plan arranged by the local tourist office that offers an accommodation and lift ticket package for those coming to Yuzawa. It tends to be a really good value package and is a yearly offering by the Echigo Yuzawa Onsen Tourist Association (Snow Country Tourism) and local hotels. This year's leaflet is hot off the press so if you are planning your winter snow trip to Japan, this could be just the thing for you.

The lift ticket comes as two half day tickets which can be used however you like - either two half days at different resorts (on the same or different days), a full day at one resort, or exchanged for a gift voucher that can be used locally. The lift tickets are valid for 8 of the resorts in Yuzawa - Yuzawa Nakazato, Yuzawa Park Ski Area, Iwappara, Kandatsu Kogen Ski Resort, NASPA Ski Garden, Ipponsugi, Yuzawa Kogen, or GALA Yuzawa, and you get two half day tickets with each night of accommodation.

The accommodation comes at two different levels: ryokan/hotel, and minshuku. 

Ryokan/Hotel accommodations are the upper end of what is available in Yuzawa. The participating places are Nakaya, Honjin Sakuratei, Yuzawa New Otani, Takahan, Inamoto, Otowaya Ryokan, Taki no yu, Yuzawa Grand Hotel, Hotel Futaba, NASPA New Otani, Kagetsu, HATAGO Isen, KKR Yuzawa Yukiguni, and Yuimakura. There are about 4 different price levels depending which standard of accommodation you stay at, and varying prices per person, with supplements if staying on a holiday. The prices are for one night of accommodation with dinner and breakfast included (as well as the lift tickets.) The cheapest offering in this class for two adults sharing on a weekday would be 15,300JPY per person. With 4 adults sharing it would be 12,000JPY per person.

Suberi meguri ryokan hotel price.jpg

The Minshuku level offering is available at 34 different lodges around the town, (so we won't be listing them all here!) You can choose to stay room only (8,000 yen per adult per night), with breakfast included (9,000 yen per adult per night), or with dinner and breakfast included (10,000 yen per person per night. All these prices include the lift ticket offer for each night of your stay. The tickets can be upgraded for an additional charge to one which covers Yuzawa Kogen, GALA Yuzawa, and Ishiuchi Maruyama.

With lift tickets, accommodation and meals included, whichever level you decide to go for, it is a pretty good package. There are quite a few options available, so if you need help with anything, please feel free to let us know.

Yuzawa Suberi Meguri Value Packages.jpg










  如果您玩的很开心 – 微笑起来。因为微笑不会让你跌倒不是。(还是跌倒了再停止微笑




  一些家庭跟我们说一家人一起学习滑雪绝对是最开心的时刻 –「度过了一段愉快的时光,

Index of Useful Posts

We try to keep our main site clean and simple while updating the blog with other information. We haven't done a very good job of organising the information on our blog I'm afraid. There is a search box, index, tag cloud, and category list in the side bar (or at the bottom on mobile) but it is getting quite hard to find all that information! Hopefully this post will group together much of the more useful posts for those of you who are planning, or already on, your Yuzawa/Minami Uonuma/Snow Country winter trip. So here goes...

Many people coming to Yuzawa are here to see snow for the first time. Not sure what to look for in a beginner resort? Looking for some tips for your very first ski or snowboard lesson? Or wondering whether Yuzawa is a good choice for your first snow destination? We've got you covered, and are always happy to answer any questions you may have.

One of the great joys of Yuzawa is its easy accessibility from Tokyo - getting here is simple, via train, bus, or car (but please don't go to Yuzawa Station which is in Yuzawa City in Akita Prefecture!) Don't forget that both Echigo-Yuzawa Station and GALA Yuzawa Station are covered by the Tokyo Wide Pass which is one of the best value ways to get up here if you are on a short trip.

Day trips from Tokyo to the snow in Yuzawa are easy, or there are plenty of accommodation options.

You might be bringing your own ski or snowboard equipment, you might be looking to buy winter sports gear in Tokyo, or to rent while you are here. You might just be looking for some wide powder skis for that infamously deep Japanese snow

Kagura has the longest season, usually running from late November to late May -here is an overview of the winter is the region as a whole. Or if you are looking for more details on snow fall in the Yuzawa area....

Snow Country Instructors have an awesome team of fun and friendly coaches to help you get the best out of your time on the snow. We teach ski and snowboard lessons in all resorts in the region and are happy to suggest which of those might be a good fit for your needs. If you are starting out on skis, a resort with a magic carpet lift is often the best. We have a quick overview of many of the more popular resorts too: Maiko Snow Resort, Ishiuchi Maruyama, Iwappara, NASPA Ski Garden, GALA Yuzawa, Yuzawa Nakazato, Yuzawa Kogen, Mitsumata/Kagura, Joetsu Kokusai, Kandatsu Kogen, Hakkaisan.

Getting around is easy either by resort shuttle bus or with the free service provided by some rental shops in Yuzawa. You might also be interested in driving yourself around (need help with directions?), or catching a taxi.

Many people are here for the skiing and snowboarding, but there is also plenty to do for non-skiers, people just looking to play in the snow (not just kids either!) or people looking to try other activities while in the Snow Country Tourism Zone in Japan.

And never forget the fun to be had off the slopes: food, onsen, restaurants, parties, and festivals!

There is not much in the way of money changing at hotels in Yuzawa but a couple of banks can help out with major currencies. If you are looking to use your international bank card then there are a couple of ATMs in Yuzawa that can keep you stocked up with Japanese yen.

We hope that helps...? Should you need further information on anything we are in Yuzawa year round and happy to be of assistance, or answer any questions.

一个学习滑雪的完美目的地。作为初学者的您应该注意些什么 ?





  魔毯 – 我们之前提到过魔毯电梯。就像是传送带一样,可以带您前往滑道的顶部。如果没有魔毯的帮助,您很快就会在爬山过程中消耗掉大量的体能。配有魔毯的滑雪场可以让您的学习体验变得更加愉快。

  不要太拥挤 – 不必多说,作为初学者的您要时刻都能控制住任何可能发生情况。让您的周围时刻都有一些空间,以便发生任何情况的时候能有更多的处理余地,同时也会让您感到更加轻松。有些滑雪场在周末或假日的时候会变得非常拥挤。如果一条滑道上人太多,您会发现练习起来非常费力。所以我们建议您最好前往人较少的滑雪场地,这样能够帮助您更好地练习,享受滑雪带来的快乐。

Iwappara Ski Lessons Yuzawa.jpg

     多种适合初学者的滑道选择 – 当您在平坦雪地上练习的游刃有余,可以控制自己的速度和刹车,甚至可以做一些简单的转弯动作后,下一步就是前往山顶开始您的初学者实践练习。您需要缓慢起步,这样才能给您增加信心同时还能提高水平。如果您练习的是单板滑雪,您可能需要选择一个更加陡峭的滑道。无论您学习的是哪种滑法,刚开始就上到比较陡峭的滑道必然在一些方面会削弱您的信心,让后续的学习变得非常困难。

  温馨的休息区域 – 如果运用了正确的技巧,滑雪看起来会非常轻松、毫不费力。但是,如果您是第一次滑雪或者已经很久都没有锻炼了,您的身体各项机能可能会消耗的非常快。这时,能够在一个安全温暖的休息区域,补充一点食物和饮料,就显得非常重要了,这也对您的身体能量恢复非常有帮助。不过还好,目前大部分滑雪场都配有非常不错的休息区域和各项配套设施。

  能讲您语言的教练 – 坚实的基础知识是一切的关键。因此,一名经验丰富、素质过硬的教练会让您的学习过程更加愉快并有成效。而且,在滑板上的初次体验好坏会直接决定在未来几年您对体育运动的热情与态度。所以,以开心的方式起步,培养自己的运动兴趣。我们的团队成员都有着多年的实操经验,并且都前往过世界各地旅行,非常善于帮助别人提高运动、爱上运动。


Unbiased Advice from Snow Country Instructors

We are always happy to answer questions about the Yuzawa area, Minami Uonuma area, Snow Country Region, or skiing and snowboarding in Japan in general. Often when we are dealing with enquiries from clients about their winter snow trip to Japan, we look at their plan and make a few suggestions. We would just like to make clear that those suggestions are based on our opinion of what would fit their needs the best. We don't make commission from our clients using restaurants/rental shops/hotels/resorts.

All our coaches and instructors here in Yuzawa love snow. They want everyone that they teach to share that feeling and to come skiing or snowboarding again. It doesn't have to be here, or with us; but we are trying to create fellow fans of these sports. So making sure you have the best time possible in the Japanese snow is our goal.

RENTAL EQUIPMENT - We tend to recommend the rental shops in town because they offer good value and also a free shuttle service to and from the resorts each day which makes moving around really convenient. No waiting for that resort bus in the snow. You may be able to get a good deal renting from your accommodation, or you might prefer the newer equipment available at most rental shops at the resort. If you are looking for top of the range powder skis then the Moment Demo Center in Yuzawa might be a better choice.

RESORTS - There are many different reasons for choosing a resort, but the most well-known resorts may not be the best for your requirements. If we know a little about what you are trying to achieve we can help you choose. Especially for beginners and lower level skiers and snowboarders, having the most suitable slopes to practice on is really important. Of course we can and do teach anywhere, so if you are set on your choice of resort we will make the best of the slopes available on that day.

ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTORS - We frequently suggest adding an extra instructor to your group or family. This is not us trying to sell you more lessons for the sake of it but is to make your experience better and your progress faster. For a family, children and adults learn in different ways and are often better off with separate instructors. This applies too to children of vastly different ages due to difference in muscle development, attention, and coordination. Very young children require lots of hands-on attention and require 1-on-1 assistance. For a group, having a large number of participants with one instructor is cheaper, but not cost-effective. While one person is performing and receiving help from the instructor everyone else is watching and waiting. The group can only move at the pace of the slowest learner so if there is one person unable to master a certain task it will slow the progress for everyone, and this is no fun for anybody.

TAKING LESSONS WITH SNOW COUNTRY INSTRUCTORS - OK, so this one might have a little bit of bias! We genuinely believe that we have the best instructors out of any international ski school in the region. There are other English speaking coaches and instructors around if you go to Naeba, Gala Yuzawa, or NASPA Ski Garden for your lessons though we would hope you would choose our team for their quality and great value. We go out of our way to recruit awesome coaches who have been in the industry for many years. Experienced coaches who are great with people will ensure that you have fun in the Japanese snow. We don't just have English speaking ski coaches here in Yuzawa but try to have a broad selection of languages available.

Feel free to ignore any suggestions we make :) but please remember that we have your best experience in mind, and are offering advice from our many years of experience teaching skiing and snowboarding in resorts in Yuzawa and the rest of the region.

As always, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions on anything, or need any advice. We look forward to seeing you in the ski resorts of Yuzawa when then snow comes.

2018 Winter Season Resort Opening Dates in Yuzawa and Minami Uonuma

Resort Opening Dates 2017/18 in & around Yuzawa

It is a sure sign of impending winter - long dormant ski resort websites get a refresh, pre-season discount lift ticket sales, and most importantly, opening dates for the coming season. (These dates are the planned opening dates and for almost all resorts will depend on the amount of snow that has fallen.)

Kagura/Mitsumata - 23 November 2017

Tashiro, Naeba, Iwappara, Joetsu Kokusai - 9th December 2017

Yuzawa Park Resort, Maiko Snow Resort - 15th December 2017

GALA Yuzawa, Yuzawa Kogen, Yuzawa-Nakazato, Kandatsu - 16th December 2017

Ishiuchi Maruyama - 21st December 2017

NASPA Ski Garden - 22nd December 2017

Hakkai-san - 23rd December 2017

We've still got a few resorts to get dates for, but hopefully this gives you enough information to plan your ski trips for this coming winter for Japan. Snow Country Instructors cover all the above resorts so if you are looking for ski lessons or snowboarding lessons around the Snow Country Region, do let us know. We'll also travel if our schedule allows and often pop up in Nozawa Onsen, Karuizawa, Shiga Kogen, and Myoko resorts. We're looking forward to the opening of Lotte Arai Resort on December 16 too.

Time to start counting the days...


Winter Season 2017/18 in Yuzawa

The summer heat and humidity seems to have passed for another year and autumn is setting in.  Long sleeves are coming out and the thicker blankets are back on the bed again. The rice harvest is underway and there are whole bunch of harvest festivals coming up. Winter is still a way off but definitely getting closer.

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As we hit September a bunch of resorts start their pre-season sales of discount lift tickets. Gala Yuzawa, Iwappara, and Kandatsu have all got offers running at the moment. 

Kagura/Mitsumata will be the first resort opening in this area on Thursday 23rd November, which just happens to be a National Holiday. We'll update on other resort opening dates in this region. So far we have Tashiro on December 9th, and GALA Yuzawa on December 16th. Our ski and snowboard lessons will be available every day of the winter at all resorts in the region from when Kagura opens at the end of November until it closes at the end of May.

Booking are starting to come in, and as usual it looks like Christmas/New Year, and Chinese New Year are going to be very busy. If you are coming at these times and are going to be having ski or snowboard lessons, it would be a good idea to get your bookings in early.

If you are heading to different areas other than Yuzawa, do let us know. We often hit the road to help clients who are keen to keep consistency with instructors. Last winter we could be found at Karuizawa, Shiga Kogen, Nozawa Onsen, as well as resorts in Myoko and Hakuba. We even did a trip to Niseko, Furano, and Rusutsu. We are also very excited for the reopening of Arai, or as it is now known Lotte Arai Resort.

We have a great team of experienced instructors coming out this winter.  The quality of our team is what sets us apart. We go to great lengths to find ski and snowboard coaches with exceptional people skills and a love of teaching. They've been in the industry for a long time, and have top level qualifications. They are dedicated to making sure you have very best time possible while in Yuzawa or on your ski holiday in Japan.

Finally, we are keeping our prices the same as the previous two seasons so lessons with Snow Country Instructors will still be the same great value.

We look forward to seeing you on the snow this winter.

Coming to Yuzawa? Some suggestions....

So of all the great places to visit the snow in Japan this winter, you have opted for Yuzawa. Good choice. We have a few suggestions of what to check out to make the most of your trip!


The 'yu' in Yuzawa stands for hot water, and the town itself grew up around the discovery of a hot spring source in the mountains where a traveller was looking for ingredients for medicine. (That hot spring is still gushing out hot water and feeds the onsen at Takahan Hotel and Yama-no-yu.) A soak in an onsen is an absolute must while you are in Yuzawa. If you have been out in the snow all day you will feel yourself heated up and refreshed in no time. There are lots of different types of onsen (including one with sake in it inside Echigo-Yuzawa Station!) so if you get a taste for this very Japanese way of bathing you have lots of exploring to do.

If you are unsure what you are supposed to be doing, check out this explanation from The Japanese Ryokan Association, who have a whole bunch on useful information if you are looking at staying at a ryokan.


Japanese food is amazing wherever you go in the country. Yuzawa is no exception with an abundance of great restaurants and a food culture that has been influenced by long winters buried under the snow. Pickles and preserved foods are a speciality, as is the hearty, warming Kenchin soup. The area is famous for rice, growing some of the most well known Koshihikari rice in the whole of Japan. As a result the sake produced here is also highly regarded. There are lots of restaurants in the town serving many different styles of cuisine (though they can get busy on the weekends and Japanese holidays) so plenty of choice. Indulge, and burn it off on the slopes!

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Try a different resort

We often get emails asking us about the same two or three well-known resorts in the Yuzawa area. They are certainly great places to spend a day but be aware that there are plenty of different resorts here and some that may suit your needs better. Exploring new resorts is always fun, and you may well find a new favourite, as well as skip the crowds at a more well-known neighbouring ski area. Travel a little bit further up the valley or over the hill and there are even more places to discover. Be adventurous! Have a look on the Snow Japan Yuzawa Resort page, as well as the Minamiuonuma Resort page for a full list of the options.

Experience the local culture

Yuzawa has a little culture museum (Yukiguni-kan [Japanese]) in the main street that has a traditional room from a house in the area from days gone by. There is also a collection of memorabilia from life throughout the four seasons. It is an interesting look at the history of the town and how people used to cope with the snow. Another section of the museum deals with the novel Snow Country whose author, Yasunari Kawabata, stayed in the town and drew inspiration from the area. If you are interested in the book there is also a walk around Yuzawa that calls in at areas that feature in the book, and there is the room where the author stayed as well as another small museum at Takahan.


If you are lucky, or plan it right, your trip to Yuzawa this winter could coincide with one of the festivals, either in the town, or close by. The Yuzawa Winter Festival sees a torchlight parade down a local mountain, a portable shrine carried around the town, and impressive fireworks. Other festivals in the region see semi-naked men jostle to gain entrance to a temple (Urasa Naked Man Festival), or recently married men thrown off a snowbank (Matsunoyama Onsen Bridegroom Tossing [which happens to be on the same day as the Nozawa Onsen Dosojin Fire Festival]). There is also an awesome firework and light snow which is an art project linked to the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field.

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Take a day trip

If you fancy a day off the slopes while you are staying in Yuzawa there are lots of other things to do. Niigata City is within easy reach by bullet train, and Sado Island is a popular draw off the coast - check out the introduction to Niigata and Sado on Undiscovered Japan.

Closer to home the Snow Country Tourist Office offer a whole range of tours throughout the region. Yuzawa is part of the Snow Country Region which is made up of several different towns which have all been influenced by the heavy snow. There is an abundance of history and culture around the region and a day tour is a great way to check some of it out. Snowshoeing through hidden valleys, touring works of art at the Echigo Tsumari Art Field, visiting Akiyamago - a remote area deep in the mountains that experiences a different kind of winter to the resort towns, or riding along in one of the giant snowclearing machines that keep the roads passable. There is lots on offer and sure to be something to interest most people. These tours have been specially designed to highlight the best of the region.

Get a lesson

If you are looking to make the most of your time on the snow then a ski lesson or snowboard lesson is the perfect solution. No matter what level you are at with your skiing or snowboarding there is plenty of fun to be had and progress to be made. If you are just starting out, some work on your technique is going to boost your technique and enjoyment. If you are getting more comfortable it could be time to challenge yourself on some different kinds of terrain - steeper slopes, deeper snow, bumpier pitches, or even some basic park skills. Or how about trying a different discipline? Skiing, snowboarding, or telemarking. If you are accompanying people of a different ability level, trying a new sport is a great way to keep things interesting, and also a great reminder of how steep everything can look when you are just beginning with snowsports.

What ever you do, have fun!