Visit Snow Resorts in Niigata For a Quintessential Japanese Winter Experience! Introducing Ski Resorts, Accommodations, and Culinary Delicacies

Niigata Prefecture is located north of Tokyo, facing the Sea of Japan. In winter, it's home to many ski resorts and is famous for its heavy snowfall. Although Niigata Prefecture is close enough to the Tokyo metropolitan area that a day trip is possible, we recommend staying overnight to fully enjoy the ski resorts, hot springs, and delicious food. In this article, we will focus on the Yuzawa and Minamiuonuma areas, which are easily accessible by bullet train, introduce ski resorts that snow lovers and avid skiers can enjoy, and hands-on activities where you can meet and interact with the locals.

Discover Japan's Beautiful Winter in Niigata

Hoshitoge Rice Terraces / Snowy Landscape
Niigata Prefecture is a region blessed with the natural bounty of the sea, mountains, and rivers, and four distinct seasons. The winter scenery is particularly spectacular, with snow falling several meters high. Walking through the snow piled up taller than your height or watching the clearing of snow is an experience only possible in areas with heavy snowfall.

Snow Piled High
More than 50 ski resorts open one after another from late November to December, and the surrounding area becomes lively with visitors. In Niigata, where there are many famous hot spring resorts, one of the best things to do after a day of fun is to enjoy an open-air bath with beautiful snowy scenery. In addition to local specialties such as Uonuma Koshihikari rice and seafood from the Sea of Japan, sake lovers can taste and compare the different types of sake from Niigata, which boasts the largest number of sake breweries in Japan.

For those who wish to enjoy an extraordinary experience while also taking a peek into Niigata's local lifestyle and culture, there are plenty of hands-on activities to choose from. Enjoy a memorable, one-of-a-kind trip while learning about delicacies and the local wisdom that comes from living in such high snowfall areas.

[A Must for Snow Activity Lovers] Enjoy Activities, Food, and Events! A Ski Resort That Even Non-skiers Can Enjoy!

Snow Terrace at Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort
Some people want to visit ski resorts but are not interested in skiing or snowboarding. You might think things like "The preparation is too much of a hassle," “Ski resorts are not suitable for those with small children," or “I’m fine just going in the snow for a little bit.” There are many ski resorts in Niigata that are great for people that don’t want to ski or snowboard. They offer plenty of activities, such as snowshoeing and snowmobiling, not to mention Kids' Parks where children can play in the snow and go sledding.

There are ski resorts equipped with a rest area, nursing room, and kids' room, so it is safe to visit with elderly family members or small children. If you want to avoid traveling from the ski resort to the hotel or hot spring resort, we recommend staying at a hotel situated right next to the slopes. Among the many ski resorts in Niigata, we will introduce three ski resorts with excellent services and facilities that are a must-see for snow activity enthusiasts.

Many Ways to Have Fun! “Naeba Ski Resort” Offers Spectacular Panoramic Views

Naeba Ski Resort’s Panoramic View
"Naeba Ski Resort," located in Yuzawa Town, Niigata Prefecture, is a snow resort with easy access from the Tokyo metropolitan area and is directly connected to the hotel. It is only one bus ride from Echigo-Yuzawa Station and can be reached by highway bus from the Tokyo area.

There are three gondolas at the ski resort, and the "Naeba Dragondola," which takes you to Kagura Ski Resort, is the longest in Japan. Visitors can also enjoy a 5.5-km aerial walk. The 22 slopes offered are popular not only for skiing and snowboarding but also for other snow activities.

Snow Rafting
"Waku-Waku Family Snow Land" is an area where children who cannot ski can enjoy snow tubing and sledding. For children who want to try skiing, "Pandaruman Kids Ski School" offers ski lessons starting at age 3.

Various hands-on activities are held daily, such as indoor craft activities and snowshoe tours. The most popular is the snowmobile tour at "Kappa Snowmobile Land." In addition to snowmobile tours that can be ridden alone by those 16 years of age and older, there are also tandem tours that parents and children can enjoy together. You do not need to have experience driving a car or a moped to try this. Snowmobiling is only available in limited locations in Japan, so make sure to give it a try.

The Ski Center is equipped with a hot spring, "Hiuchi no Yu" with an open-air bath, a free rest area, rental rooms, a nursing room, and a kids' room. The restaurant also offers children's menus and chairs, making it a comfortable place for families with small children.

Click here if you are interested in Naeba Ski Resort!

Naeba Prince Hotel Building No. 2 Freefloat
After plenty of fun, head to the "Naeba Prince Hotel," which is directly connected to the slopes of the Naeba Ski Resort. The hotel has approximately 1,200 guest rooms in four buildings. You can choose from various rooms with different sizes and types to suit your needs.

In addition to "Naeba no Yu," a hot spring exclusively for guests, there are different eateries, including Western, Japanese, and teppanyaki restaurants. There are also cafés, bars, and izakayas (Japanese-style pubs), so you can choose a meal according to your needs, whether you want to savor a full course meal or just enjoy a few appetizers.

Fireworks Launched From the Slopes
Naeba Ski Resort holds a fireworks display on the slopes mainly on Saturday nights. Around 8:45 p.m., after night skiing ends, the slopes are fantastically decorated with colorful fireworks. If you encounter the fireworks, it will surely add extra excitement to your trip.

Click here for more information about Naeba Prince Hotel

Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort is Known for its Fluffy, Snow-Mountain Pancakes

Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort’s Panoramic View
"Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort" is located approximately 20 minutes by free shuttle bus from Echigo-Yuzawa Station. The magnificent snow scenery with views of the Uonuma Plain and the Echigo Sanzan (Three Mountains of Echigo) is the best part of this resort. A wide variety of lift passes are available, including family tickets for parents and children, and lift-pass packages with lunch and school discounts included so that those who want to sightsee on the snowy mountains and avid skiers can both enjoy the resort.

Domed Tent
For those who want to relax and admire the snowy landscape, we recommend the "Snow Garden," which features domed tents and snow terraces in the middle of the slopes. The transparent domed tents are heated, and Wi-Fi is available, making them perfect for searching for travel information and passing the time. Couples, friends, and families can enjoy a luxurious getaway.

Snow-Mountain Pancakes
If you want a little treat at Snow Garden, head to the adjacent café-restaurant, "Austria Snow House." Among the many dishes on the menu, the fluffy "Snow-Mountain Pancakes" are reputed to be excellent.

Toppings include not only fruit and ice cream but also prosciutto and cheese, so you can enjoy it as a snack/dessert or as a meal or appetizer. You can get it as takeout and eat it in the domed tents, snow terrace, café space on the 2nd floor where there is a bonfire, or on the observation floor on the 3rd floor, depending on your mood.

Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort has 24 restaurants ranging from light meals such as hamburgers to local delicacies, authentic Western-style restaurants, and yakiniku restaurants! You can enjoy a great selection as if you were walking through a hot spring resort.

Click here if you are interested in Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort!

Enjoy Japan's first snow night buggy tour at "NASPA Ski Garden”

NASPA Ski Garden
Located approximately 3 minutes by shuttle bus from Echigo-Yuzawa Station, NASPA Ski Garden is one of the few ski resorts in Japan dedicated exclusively to skiers; snowboarding is not available. No matter which course you ski, the course layout will lead you back to the front of the hotel, so there is no need to worry about getting lost. There is a debut area for beginners. There is also a dedicated sledding course and a "Pingu Kids Garden" where children can play in the snow playground, so even young children who are not yet ready for their skiing debut will not get bored.

Snow Mega Buggy
An essential part of the NASPA Ski Garden is hands-on activities such as snowmobiling and snow rafting. Children as young as 11 years old can ride a snowmobile by themselves, so they will be very excited! There is also a snow night buggy tour that takes you to the summit in a mega snow buggy, the first of its kind in Japan. Tours led by experienced tour guides are available for children as young as 3 years old and can accommodate up to 5 people, making it the perfect way to create memories as a family.

Click here if you are interested in NASPA Ski Garden!

The most popular plan for after skiing is to go to NASPA New Otani, which is directly connected to the slopes. The hotel offers facilities typical of a resort hotel, including a natural hot spring complete with an open-air bath and private baths where you can enjoy the natural beauty of Echigo-Yuzawa, and a heated swimming pool with an herbal mist sauna and Jacuzzi.

Junior Suite
Various guest rooms are available in different sizes and types, including standard twin rooms, Japanese-style rooms, and Royal Japanese-style Suites. At this well known first-class hotel, you can also enjoy sumptuous dishes such as the New Otani’s famous roast beef and multi-course meals that make use of Niigata's seasonal ingredients. Recommended for those who want to spend a quiet and luxurious night on the ski slopes.

Click here for more information about NASPA New Otani

[For Avid Skiers] The Perfect Ski Resort for Devoted Skiers Staying Consecutive Nights & Great Ticket Deals

Lotte Arai Resort
Niigata's ski resorts have plenty of areas that even advanced skiers can enjoy, such as an ungroomed snow course that runs through plenty of snow and a freeride zone that takes advantage of the natural terrain. The exhilaration of skiing through freshly-fallen snow is an addictive experience! Here are some ski resorts that advanced skiers and snowboarders can visit. Some of the ski resorts we will introduce have gentle slopes, so beginner and intermediate-level skiers can step up and gradually work their way up to higher levels.

“Lotte Arai Resort,” with its Superb Powder Snow

Lotte Arai Resort’s Panoramic View
Myoko City, where "Lotte Arai Resort'' is located, was once recognized as the world's best area for snowfall, with over 2 meters of snow falling daily. The area is famous for having particularly heavy snowfall in Niigata. To get there, take a 2-hour Hokuriku bullet train ride from Tokyo to Joetsumyoko Station and a 30-minute free shuttle bus ride, which the hotel operates. It feels far compared to the Yuzawa area, but you can enjoy a relaxing stay at a luxurious hotel.

With various restaurants, lounges, pubs, and cafés, as well as natural hot springs, swimming pools, kids' rooms, and workstations, you will never get bored, even on an extended stay.

Lotte Arai Resort's Foothills
Usually open from mid-December to mid-May, the ski resort has a total area of 2.14 million square meters, with an elevation difference of 951 meters and a maximum run distance of approximately 7km. Although most of the 14 courses are suitable for intermediate and advanced skiers, beginners can also enjoy the 2,300-meter long run at "Myoko Long Run."

Lotte Arai Resort
The most notable feature of Lotte Arai Resort is its freeriding zone with ungroomed snow. It is a popular zone where advanced and ultra-advanced skiers come from all over the country, as you can experience skiing in areas with heavy snowfall and powder snow. At "Benzaku," you can enjoy tree-run courses, and "Mamushi" is a specialty course where international freeride competitions have been held. There are courses that even intermediate-level skiers can try, so be sure to experience its impressive scale.

Click here if you are interested in Lotte Arai Resort!

Kagura Ski Resort is top-class in Niigata for snow quality, size, and elevation.

Panoramic View of Kagura Ski Resort
The Naeba Dragondola, which is the longest gondola in Japan, connects Kagura Ski Resort to Naeba Ski Resort, mentioned previously. You can ski on both slopes if you have a multi-resort lift ticket.

Every year, Kagura Ski Resort is open from late November to late May, giving guests a full six months to enjoy winter activities. Being one of the biggest ski slopes in Yuzawa, it comprises three areas: Kagura, Mitsumata, and Tashiro, with a combined run length of 28,797 meters.

Course at Kagura
Of the three areas, the Kagura area is located at the highest altitude and has the most powder snow. Only experienced skiers who can use the forest trails with ungroomed snow have the privilege of skiing down from the mountain's peak level of 1,845 meters.

While the Mitsumata and Tashiro areas generally feature more beginner and intermediate courses, the majority of the courses in the Kagura area are for intermediate to experienced skiers. The Tashiro area, which is closest to the Naeba Dragondola, provides a large selection of beginner to advanced courses, including the spacious Tashiro Ladies’ Trail, which is excellent for getting acclimated to the terrain.

There are also snow parks in each area, such as Tashiro Beginner’s Park, Mitsumata Area51s Park, and Kagura Park, that you can choose based on your level. It is such a big area that it would take days to ski all the slopes.

Click here if you are interested in Kagura Ski Resort!

Use ELEVEN+ to tour the ski resorts in Yuzawa Town and Minamiuonuma

ELEVEN+ is a lift ticket valid at 17 different ski areas (11 ski resorts in Yuzawa Town and 6 in Minamiuonuma). One ticket is a multiple-ticket that can be used up to 20 times, and the other is a ticket that can be exchanged for a one-day to three-day ski pass at any of the 17 ski resorts.

The appeal of this multi-resort lift ticket is that you can freely choose the ski resort you want to use depending on if you want to enjoy snow activities or do some serious skiing. It includes the Naeba Ski Resort, Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Area, NASPA Ski Garden, and Kagura Ski Resort we introduced earlier in this article. You can easily travel between ski resorts if you have a multiple-ticket by using the "Eleven Shuttle," a shuttle bus that is reserved only for ELEVEN+ ticket holders.

Both types are on sale now for a limited time and in limited quantities! We recommend purchasing as soon as possible, as they may sell out quickly.

Click here for more information on the ELEVEN+ Multiple-ticket

[A Must-see for gourmet lovers and experience enthusiasts] See, touch and experience the specialties and local delicacies of Niigata, famous for its rice

Meals at Ryugon
Niigata offers more winter activities than skiing and snow activities. There are numerous fine delicacies to sample, like Koshihikari rice made in Uonuma and other types of Japanese sake. In addition to having a delightful experience, learning how to prepare local delicacies from the locals will also allow you to socialize with them, killing two birds with one stone! A natural refrigerator containing about 1,000 tons of snow can be found at a sake brewery, and you can learn many remarkable life lessons. Try all the activities you're interested in, like making fruit wine and sasadango (sweet bamboo leaf dumplings).

“Ryugon,” a manor house hotel where guests can experience making local cuisine with locals

Guest room with an open-air bath
“Ryugon,” about a 30-minute drive from Echigo Yuzawa Station, is a manor house hotel perfect for those who want an experience unique to Japan’s snow country. The hotel was built using an old farmer's house and has kept the strong pillars and beams that gave the original Japanese house its dignified and rustic wooden charm.

Rooms range from simple Japanese-style rooms with tatami mats that can easily accommodate a solo traveler to suites that have been used by the imperial family, villa suites with open-air baths, and even a manor house with a garden for rent. For meals, you can enjoy a full-course dinner of regional specialties to be savored with locally brewed sake and freshly cooked rice prepared from Koshihikari rice cultivated in Uonuma.

Cooking on a “doma” (earthen floor)
It is recommended to check out "Doma Cooking," where you can prepare regional cuisine. Using a kamado (stove), local women will teach you how to prepare Kenchin Jiru, a Japanese vegetable soup, for lunch. Even if you don't know the language, you can pick up life lessons and cooking tips from making the soup together, such as how to cut vegetables and what goes where. You can also participate in many cultural experiences, such as making traditional fruit wine on a quaint doma (earthen floor), or baking thin rice crackers made from Niigata's glutinous rice in a hearth.

For those outdoors enthusiasts, we suggest climbing Mt. Sakado, about a 10 minute walk away. After around an hour of snowshoeing, you'll reach the peak and be able to take in a 360-degree panorama of the mountain. It is certain to be a memorable sight to see Minamiuonuma, where a white winter wonderland of snow covers the entire area.

Large Public Hot Springs Bath
After energizing your body in the snowy nature, try visiting the large public hot springs baths located in a building that was once used as a rice warehouse. You can refresh your mind by taking an outdoor bath here as you watch the snow fall and the quaint architecture. This is a great idea for those who want to stay the night and relax after engaging in outdoor activities.

Click here for more information about Ryugon

At "Uonuma no Sato," all guests can enjoy themselves whether they drink or not

Choosing Souvenirs
Hakkaisan is a mountain that has long been considered sacred. "Uonuma no Sato” is located at the base of the mountain, in a serene agricultural setting. Hakkaisan, a well-known sake brewery in the country, as well as distinctive eateries, sweet shops, and homegoods shops are all located here. Both those who are able to consume alcohol and those who don’t can take advantage of this popular establishment all year long.

Tour of the Snow Storage
The most popular tour here is the "Snow Storage Tour”. There is a huge block of snow where the sake storage tanks are! A temperature of roughly 4 degrees Celsius is maintained almost continuously throughout the year with the help of about 1,000 tons of snow. This is an application of the region's historic culture, in which snow was used as a natural refrigerator and covered with thatch and straw roofs. Prior to refrigerators becoming widely available, they were utilized in local households until about only 60 years ago.

This is one of the biggest snow storage facilities in Japan for sake storage, with a storage capacity of about 360,000 liters. It meets the requirements for sustained low-temperature storage, which has the added benefit of mellowing the sake. The room also has an air-conditioning function, and vegetables such as carrots and potatoes are also stored in the available space.

Tasting Counter
Go to the tasting counter to see the shochu storage section with oak barrels and memorial shochu after seeing the sake storage tanks and snow. Choose your favorite sake after sampling a few different varieties. You may purchase vegetables and sweets kept in the snow storage at the "Yukimuro Sennen Koujiya" store in addition to brand-name goods, so make sure to check it out.

Learn from local experts! Make handmade Sasa-dango (sweet bamboo leaf dumpling), a classic souvenir of Niigata

Handmade Sasa-dango Making Experience
One of the must-try specialties in Niigata is Sasa Dango, made with its famous rice. Your mouth will be filled with the flavor of sweet red bean paste and yomogi (Japanese mugwort) after just one bite of the dumpling wrapped in a bamboo leaf.

If you want to try sasa dango, you should try making one. Everyone of all ages, from children to adults, can enjoy making sasa-dango. A master chef will carefully teach you everything you need to know from how to knead to how to wrap the dumplings with bean paste. Freshly steamed sasa dango has an amazing flavor! Making the dumplings yourself will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience.

Fortune Doll “Chinkoro” Making
The company “homehome,” which organizes the “sasa-dango” (sweet bamboo leaf dumpling) making experience, also provides a variety of other interactive tours. These include picking fresh local ingredients to prepare traditional dishes, taking a town tour to learn about the history and culture of Tokamachi, which is well-known for its snow and kimonos, and creating Tokamachi's fortune doll "Chinkoro" (a traditional Japanese doll). Join us for an exciting experience in Niigata.

Niigata is easily accessible from the Kanto area! Budget-friendly with a convenient pass!

Joetsu Shinkansen
The Shinkansen is an easy way to travel from Tokyo to the Niigata region. Many ski resorts and hot spring resorts are located near Echigo Yuzawa Station, which is about one hour and twenty minutes away, and Niigata Station is about two hours and ten minutes, both via the Joetsu Shinkansen. We recommend the “JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area),” a travel pass for international tourists if you intend to take a train from the Tokyo metropolitan area to the Niigata area. This is a great ticket that can be used from the Narita and Haneda airports and entitles you to a reserved seat on a Shinkansen or limited express train at no additional cost.

Click here for more information about the JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata Area)

A day trip isn't enough to fully experience the region! Take a luxurious winter trip in Niigata!

Fireworks over the slopes
In Niigata, visitors can fully enjoy the allure of Japan’s snow country through snow activities, skiing, and activity experiences. Due to its easy access location you can go as a day trip, but we strongly recommend staying overnight to fully appreciate the snow activities, fine dining, hot springs, and other attractions. You can only witness the changing beauty, such as the magical twilight slopes and the snow-covered mountains with the morning sun beaming through if you stay overnight.

Niigata offers a wide range of entertainment alternatives, allowing you to customize your trip to your tastes. Plan a winter getaway that will fulfill your fantasies by taking advantage of great deals on transportation tickets and ski resort free passes.

[Note] Japanese law prohibits the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages to persons under 20 years of age, regardless of the person's country or citizenship.

[Note] Pricing information and schedule is correct at the time of writing and are subject to change without notice. Please check the official website before your trip.

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