A thorough comparison of some day trip ski resorts 1 hour away from the Tokyo Metropolitan Area! Gala Yuzawa vs. Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort

July 08, 2024
Among the ski resorts connected with WAmazing Snow, the most popular are Gala Yuzawa and Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort. Since both can be reached in about 1 hour from Tokyo, they’re known as the best locations for a casual day trip to the ski slopes. However, those planning a ski trip may find themselves wondering, “Ultimately, which one should I choose?” As such, we’d like to conduct a thorough comparison of the 2 ski resorts based on: ease of access, course fulfillment, scenery and weather, meals, and sightseeing! Be sure to continue reading if you’re thinking of a day trip to the ski slopes around Tokyo.

Access to the resort & quickest time to start skiing

Gala Yuzawa Ski Center
The fastest time to reach the Gala Yuzawa slope from Tokyo Station is 75 minutes. One of its greatest merits is that the station and the ski center are connected, so you can start skiing in no time.

The type of gear available for rental, the competence of the employees, and the completeness of the sightseeing facilities for checking out after skiing are all top class in convenience! For casual skiing, Gala Yuzawa cannot be beat.

Around Karuizawa Station
On the other hand, access for the Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort is also excellent. Karuizawa Station can be reached from Tokyo station in approximately 70 minutes. There’s a free shuttle bus that runs from the station, so you can be at the slope in about an additional 10 minutes.

It can’t beat Gala Yuzawa in terms of distance from the station, but the process from rental to skiing is very smooth and hassle-free.

Which has more course variations?

Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort’s slopes
There are a total of 17 courses at Gala Yuzawa that everyone from beginners to advanced skiers can enjoy. It’s known for having a lot of course variations, even among the ski resorts of the Yuzawa area.

There are plenty of courses that beginners can enjoy - however they can get narrow and congested in certain areas.

The Shimoyama Course, which runs from the central area to the ski center, is a popular 2,000 meter long run course! Intermediate level skiers will surely enjoy this one, so be sure to try it on the way home.

If you buy the Shared 3 Mountain Ticket, you can also use it to visit the neighboring Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort and the Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort. This allows you to visit another ski resort for a pleasant ski experience and avoid the crowds.

This is a nice perk that can be experienced at Gala Yuzawa due to its ideal location among the expansive Yuzawa mountains.

Karuizawa Ski Resort slopes
At the Karuizawa slopes, the scale is smaller and there are many shorter courses, but its slopes are known to have a variety rapid changes, meaning skiers won’t be left feeling bored.

There are a total of 10 courses. It’s highly regarded for having a comprehensive variety of courses despite it being compact, as there are a lot of inclines with extreme pace changes, large variations of mogul slopes, and places to do jumps.

There are plenty of courses geared towards beginners, but there are hardly any difficult courses that advanced skiers can sink their teeth into. It’s great for beginners getting used to the snow, but it’s not a ski resort for advanced skiers looking to improve their skills.

Which has the most enjoyable scenery?

Scenery viewed around the Gala Yuzawa summit
Located at a high altitude, the Gala Yuzawa slopes have the best powder snow in the Echigo-Yuzawa area. As there’s snowfall during the peak season, you can enjoy skiing on snow that’s always in good condition.

As the courses are made by natural snowfall, the weather around the summit is often rough. There’s poor visibility and cold temperatures during periods of snowfall, so be thoroughly prepared to protect yourself against the cold.

Although the weather tends to be rough, one of its characteristics is that the snow condition is stable.

The scenery that can be seen around the summit is particularly recommended! When the skies are clear, the clear scenery extends all the way into the nooks and crannies of the city.

View from the Karuizawa Ski Resort
As the Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort is in a region where snow rarely falls, during the season there’s a 90% clear weather rate! On a clear day you can go all out on these gorgeous courses, which makes for a very exhilarating ski experience.

There are those who worry about the quality of snow that comes from snowmaking machines, but as this slope is made using almost 200 snowmaking machines, it’s not a problem. You can enjoy skiing in conditions that are virtually the same as a slope made from natural snow.

That being said, it’s true that artificial snow is prone to collapse during times when there's many people, and during weekend congestion times. You'll have to accept that, compared to natural snow, there will be areas where artificial snow is lacking.

What about the restaurants nearby the resort?

Famous Niigata dishes
There’s a large scale food court at Gala Yuzawa, so you can enjoy a varied selection of meals.

If you want to experience regional Niigata cuisine, getting off at Gala Yuzawa Station is one option. You can enjoy exquisite cuisine using delicious rice and fresh seafood in the Yuzawa area, which also has many guesthouses.

Also, you can check out Ponshu-kan at Echigo-Yuzawa Station, next to Gala Yuzawa Station, which has more than 100 types of sake, and many elegant Niigata dishes. In addition to the plentiful variation in meal options, it also comes with a souvenir corner and a sake tasting corner. It’s a spot we definitely recommend stopping by in on the way home.

Restaurant meal near Karuizawa Station
Given that this ski resort is affiliated with the Prince Hotel, an organization known for running highly successful snow resorts, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of unique restaurants lined up in the area around the slope.

Since there's a large scale restaurant area near the shopping mall, we recommend that you finish skiing early and enjoy a late lunch! There are plenty of meal variations for you to enjoy, including sushi, grilled meat, Italian, Chinese, and sweets.

Quality of sightseeing spots near the resort

Echigo-Yuzawa Onsen
The most noteworthy aspect of Gala Yuzawa is, without question, the large ski center that's directly linked to the station. There’s an assortment of everything, from onsen, gourmet cuisine, and shopping, and access to each facility is excellent.

Upon getting off at the station, you can also go to the Yuzawa onsen district. As it’s an abundant area of onsen perfect for day trips - you can casually make the rounds through different open air baths! There are many drinking establishments in the guesthouse district that give off an old-fashioned vibe, so you can enjoy having a drink after your bath.

Karuizawa Shopping Mall
Karuizawa is one of the leading resort areas in Japan that can be enjoyed regardless of the season. There are many places where you can enjoy a quiet and elegant time with many famous tourist attractions.

The shopping mall adjacent to Karuizawa Station is open until 7pm, so one idea is to go shopping after a day of skiing, and then ride the Shinkansen.

Although the ski resort facilities are mid-scale, you can fully enjoy dining and shopping if you come to the station area.

The best slope for day trip skiing

Slope scenery
So that about does it for our comparison of the various elements of Gala Yuzawa and the Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort. Did you learn anything new?

Given that they are both popular ski resorts with WAmazing Snow, both resorts are impressive in terms of the size of the slope, service quality, sightseeing opportunities, and more.

For those who place their emphasis on leisure and want to fully enjoy skiing in the best conditions, we recommend Gala Yuzawa due to its superior snow quality and assortment of varied activities.

However, for those who want to enjoy an elegant ski trip while also enjoying shopping and sightseeing in the surrounding area, then one of the leading resort areas in Japan, Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort, is the choice for you.

Both are wonderful ski resorts that are easily accessible from the metropolitan area. Be sure to consider them if you’d like to enjoy skiing during your travel in Japan!

Pricing information and schedule may not be up to date and are subject to change without notice. Please check before your trip.

Related ski resorts
Nov. 1st to Mar. 31st
Longest run distance1,519 m
Maximum gradient31 °
Longest run1,519 m
Maximum31 °

Adult 2 people1 night

USD 176.70〜 (JPY 27,981〜)
No. 4 Ski Resort

Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort Niigata Prefecture

No. 4 Ski Resort
Dec. 20th to May 6th
Longest run distance2,500 m
Maximum gradient33 °
Longest run2,500 m
Maximum33 °

Adult 2 people1 night

USD 83.81〜 (JPY 13,272〜)