We've had a few questions recently about coming to the snow during the holidays in mid-December. Which resorts are easy to get to from Tokyo? Where to stay? Where to ski?
It's fair to say that the main start to the season is mid- to late-December. Some places get going early December or even late November, but most resorts open closer to Christmas. (I remember one freak year when there was almost no snow until a huge snowfall on the day after Christmas opened everything up.)
Yuzawa is probably the easiest place to get to due to the bullet train coming to Echigo-Yuzawa Station. Other areas may open up some slopes in early December (i.e. Nozawa Onsen) but they probably require extra time, cost and effort to access.
Be aware that not every slope at a resort will be open. Kagura is the first resort around here to open up every year in November. They have snowmaking facilities so can open even if the first snows have been light. At the very worst, it will be one narrow run of man-made snow. With early snowfalls it could be several more than that. By mid-December a few other lower resorts will also be hoping to open. Usually Naeba, Tashiro, Iwappara and Maiko are looking to start operating early to mid-December. Maiko just announced their planned opening day is December 12, 2015 so as long as there is snow we'll be there for ski lessons and snowboard lesson from that day.
The later you leave your trip, the more chance you have of finding good snow. The bottom line is that there will be snow somewhere mid-December. You might have to go quite high to find it, but it will be there. In a really good year there might be snow in the village, but this is not guaranteed. Most other resorts seem to be aiming for an opening around December 19, 2015 (GALA Yuzawa and NASPA have named this date.)
Usually snowshoeing and snowmobiling are available in this area, but there might not be enough snow mid-December.
For where to stay, our earlier blog advice still stands. Our recommendation would be to stay in the center of town. This will give you the flexibility to choose between the available options, especially if you are using the free shuttle offered by local rental shops which makes getting around easy.
Getting everything booked up well in advance for your trip offers peace of mind, but if you are willing to take a bit of a gamble you could leave your plans open. Get in touch with us closer to the time and we can let you know what the conditions are like up here. Finding accommodation in Yuzawa at short notice in mid-December should be no problem, or you could even come as a day trip. However, you choose to do it, we hope to see you this winter.