Bookings are coming in for our winter season 2017/2018. One of the common questions at this time of year is "What will the snow be like in Japan in early December?" Unfortunately we don't have the answer to that question, but if you are debating an early December trip to Yuzawa for skiing or snowboarding here are a few thoughts.
The first resort in this area to open is Kagura which usually aims to be open to some extent by late November. This could mean with natural snow, man-made snow, snow mat, or a combination of all three. It really varies from year to year. For a look at snow data from previous years SnowJapan's Yuzawa Now page has plenty of statistics from previous winters (at the very bottom.)
Some other resorts aim to open as early in December as the snow allows - (Iwappara and Joetsu Kokusai both posted very early opening dates for last season), though these resorts rely on early natural snowfall to open so may miss their planned openings. These tend to be better choices for first timers and beginners if they are open. If they are not available, our experienced team of instructors will do their very best with you on the terrain that is available at Kagura or other resorts.
If you are unsure about where to stay this early in the winter season in Yuzawa we would suggest that the center of town is probably the best bet. You are then free to pick the resort with the best snow conditions on that day, whether it be Kagura or a different resort that has managed to open. There are rental shops that will drive you around between accommodation and resort so transportation is not too much of an issue.
If you are not sure that you want to book here in Yuzawa then it is possible to stay in Tokyo, Takasaki, Niigata or anywhere else close to a Joetsu Line Bullet Train Station and come up to Yuzawa on a day trip. That way you can lock in your hotel reservations, and should it be a mild winter with not much snow, you can spend the day elsewhere. (There are also some great side trips from Yuzawa if you decide you don't want to ski while you are here.) We expect that Echigo-Yuzawa Station will be on the Tokyo Wide Rail Pass again this year so if you are staying in Tokyo or Takasaki the train trip will be good value too. Echigo-Yuzawa Station is only about 80 minutes from Tokyo or Ueno Stations by bullet train so it is easy to do as a day return trip.
Other options around Japan could be Karuizawa, the top of Nozawa Onsen, or the resorts up in Hokkaido. The weather is very hard to pick at that time of year so it is fingers crossed and hope for the best. As we get into autumn and the start of winter gets closer we can certainly tell you how things are looking up here in the mountains.