Nozawa Onsen is popular for being a ‘family friendly resort’ with international skiers. Travelling from our accommodation in Myoko to spend a day there what I discovered pleasantly surprised me.
My Mum Would Like This
As a general benchmark, if I ski at a resort with great gondolas, wide accessible slopes and plenty of shops I think of my mother. She’s a fair-weather skier, favouring the more commercial, consumer friendly resorts over smaller niche hard-core ski or snowboard resorts. I didn’t expect Nozawa Onsen to fit the large commercial category, due to reputation of being traditional and small, but as I boarded the gondola, then embarked only to board the next gondola I had to concede this resort was really QUITE MASSIVE. It went on and on in all directions as far as the eye could see, it was quite surprising.
Extensive Gondola Network
I got to ski Nozawa top-to-bottom accidentally because I had my husband’s wallet in my pocket, he was stuck in a burger shop at the bottom of the mountain while I was over on the other side near the car park. I headed up the gondola thinking, “How big could this place be? I’ll be there in 5 minutes”. The gondola system was extensive, splitting off into different directions it was a great visual guide, often there’s no way of knowing east from west without a trail map. It may have taken me 15-20 unites to get to the top though. All the while, there my husband stood in the shop, letting his burger go cold and salivating so I hot-footed it down as fast as my skis could take me! For what it’s worth, I noted that from the top of the Gondola station to the children’s playland area at the base the ski slopes were wide, reasonably flat and well populated with skiers and boarders.
One of the best things about Japan is how technologically advanced yet so traditional it can be at the same time, and Nozawa Onsen is no different. Like Beaver Creek in USA, Nozawa Onsen visitors can enjoy kilometres of horizontally moving pedestrian conveyor belt. You can literally step on down in the village, stand there without taking a step and arrive at the base of the ski mountain refreshed and ready to snap your skis on! A big logistical PLUS whether you’re a fair-weather skier or someone more than happy to walk for miles to get to a decent slope. Down in the ski base area snowlovers enjoy Japanese versions of hamburgers but can also choose from traditional Japanese food options.
Long before skiing came along, Nosawa Onsen was a traditional Japanese village, established in the 8th Century as a working onsen town (see my description of an Onsen town). As I walked around the town it felt a little like walking around Rome, minus the rubble. All the great ‘bones’ to make a working town are here, public bath houses, markets, a rabbit’s warren of walkways and tiny roads and a beautiful historic Shrine, still used by the locals as part of their ritual.