It is Mountain Day here in Japan today, a new national holiday that allows people "to get familiar with mountains and appreciate blessings from mountains." Lots of people are in and around Snow Country today enjoying said mountains. We'd thoroughly recommend a trip up to this region to enjoy them, but we prefer them in the winter months. If you fancy a day trip to the snow, or a day return ski or snowboard trip, here are a few tips on coming up to Yuzawa.
There are lots of places peddling day return snow trips from Tokyo but these packages can be a bit pricey. If you already have a JR East Pass or a Tokyo Wide Pass you have the bullet train ticket already. If you need to buy tickets a quick trip to one of the View Plaza travel agents in the main stations should enable you to find out about day return train tickets with lift passes included. Jump on the Joetsu Shinkansen and ride the bullet train up to Echigo-Yuzawa Station.
Lots of visitors head to GALA Yuzawa as it has a bullet train station in the base building of the resort. It is certainly one option but not always the best for everybody. Narrow runs, expensive rental gear (even with package discounts), and crowds (both in the rental shop, and on the slopes) could put a dampener on your day.
There are several small rental shops in town that include a free shuttle service when you rent from them. They will pick you up from Echigo-Yuzawa Station, take you to their shop to get kitted up, and then drop you at the resort of your choice. At the end of the day they pick you up again, and once you are changed, drop you back at the station. It is a great service which makes getting around really easy, the equipment is good value, and they will also store your luggage for you. The shuttle service opens up the option several different resorts, not just GALA Yuzawa, so there is a good chance you can enjoy more room on the slopes. If you are not skiing and snowboarding, and just want to come for a play in the snow they also rent snow wear, boots, and sledges. (There are also shuttle buses running to most resorts if you prefer. Taxis are an option too, or there are rental car shops next to Echigo-Yuzawa Station.)
If you are coming to learn to ski and snowboard on a day trip we have experienced multilingual instructors who will make sure you get the most of your day on the snow. We teach at all resorts in the region, but some of our favorite locations for day trippers on their first time ski or snowboard trip are Iwappara, Maiko, and the Family Gelende (ski only) at Yuzawa Kogen. They all have slopes that allow you to learn the basics safely, and then work on your technique to improve. If you are more experienced and looking for a large area to explore the Kagura/Tashiro/Naeba area, and the 3 Mountains area of GALA/Yuzawa Kogen/Ishiuchi are both good choices.
If you have a little bit of time before you need to head back to the bullet train for the return leg of your day trip, an onsen is a great way to finish your day. There are plenty you can try, including one in Echigo-Yuzawa Station. Dinner in Yuzawa is another great option with many good restaurants serving all kinds of food. The local rice is some of the most famous in Japan. Wash it down with locally brewed sake for a warm feeling after your day in the snow. If you need some souvenirs of your day in Snow Country there are some quaint shops in town, and inside Echigo-Yuzawa Station there are lots of little souvenir stalls.
If you have questions about day trips to Yuzawa, need advice on ski resort choices, would like to know more about ski or snowboard lessons with Snow Country Instructors, or need help to contact one of the local rental shops, please let us know.
Come up to Snow Country and "appreciate blessings from mountains" with us!