Suggestion Hakuba Valley solo trip 19th - 22nd December, 18

Discussion in 'Japan' started by fosphenytoin, Aug 5, 2018.

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  1. fosphenytoin

    fosphenytoin Early Days

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    Hello:
    I have been lurking this website for a while and signed up today because I am looking for some suggestions on skiing in Hakuba Valley (HV), Japan. I read several thread discussions about Hakuba on this website but I have trouble finding specific info. I am looking for. Hence I decided to create this thread.

    Little bit about me and my travel plan: I am originally from Hong Kong and currently living in Washington D.C. I plan to go home for 2 wks during X'mas holiday, tentative dates: 19th Dec - 1st Jan.2019. I have always wanted to ski in Japan and thought this would be a good opportunity to do so before heading back to Hong Kong. I plan to arrive to Narita before 3 pm on Wednesday (19th Dec.), I shall be able to catch Narita Express, Shinkansen Asama, then Highway Bus and reach HV in late evening, ski Thursday - Saturday (20th - 22nd Dec.), catch 22nd night flight from NRT to HKG.

    My skiing ability: I considered myself as an intermediate. For the past few years, I have skied in Aspen 4, Taos, and Alta in the U.S.; Whistler/Blackcomb, Lake Louise, and Sunshine Village in Banff, Canada; Val D'Isere in France. I am comfortable on blue trials, have dabbled to Black diamonds, and have done some off piste in Alta.

    What I a looking for:
    1) Lodging: Traditional Japanese lodging (I like sleeping on tatami mat)
    2) Skiing: On piste only. I like gullies and it'd be great if HV has some.
    3) Resorts with intermediate trails, +/- easy blacks. Not interested in off piste, tree skiing.

    Questions:
    1) Resorts:
    Since I only plan for 3 days in Japan, I think HV would be the most sensible option. With that said, I see there are 9 resorts in HV, which resorts would you suggest I try? I will be utilizing public transportation, therefore I'd prefer to hit resorts with easy access to buses/trains and minimum transfers.

    2) Location:
    Where'd be a convenient place to use as a base for 3-day stay? Again, I'd like traditional Japanese style lodging with tatami mat. I tried Booking.com and only found one traditional Japanese Style hotel (Maruni Ryokan, 399-9301 Nagano, Hakuba, Hokujo 5013, Japan). I am sure there is more. It'd be great if I can have some names or email contacts.

    3) Rental:
    I will be renting skis. Any shop recommendation? My current ski is Rossi Temp 80 160cm, I'd like to use something similar. Do you suggest I bring my own helmet or rent? I will be bringing my own boots.

    5) Lift tickets:
    What is the most convenient way to get lift ticket(s)? Purchase it in advance (via internet)? If so, website address?

    Thanks in advance for your help.
     
  2. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    Try Rakuten for more traditional Japanese accommodation.
     
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  3. Hunter

    Hunter Part of the Furniture
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    Early in the season, open terrain likely to be limited unless you are lucky to strike big early snowfalls
     
  4. chrisj

    chrisj Hard Yards
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    Highly recommend Araya Ryokan in Happo-One for traditional accommodation. It's a short walk from the bus terminal, from where you can get shuttle buses to all the other Hakuba resorts (assuming the shuttles have commenced that early in the season).
     
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  5. Hyst

    Hyst One of Us
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    Like skichanger says Rakuten.co.jp (pc- version).
    And as you might read kanji easy for you, if not Google translate does the job.

    But I would look at Nozawa onsen if you want more "traditional" wipe.
     
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  6. willsnow

    willsnow Hard Yards

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    If you're flying from DC to Narita, chances are you'll be very tired and jet-lagged from the flight. Catching the Shinkansen + bus to Hakuba valley will be a very long day (~4 hours). If this is your first time in Japan, you might have to 'condition' yourself adapting to the Japanese surrounding and way of life, which might 'stress' you even further, E.g:
    - Buying/Exchanging Shinkansen tickets
    - Finding ATM
    - Buying SIM Card for your phone data
    - Navigating Tokyo station to catch Shinkansen at peak hour (you'll get to Tokyo Station at around 5 PM if you arrive at Narita at 3 PM and don't muck around too much)

    Personally, I feel at most 2.5 skiing days at Hakuba is not worth all that travel that you have to do to get there. It will feel rushed and you won't get the time to enjoy all that Hakuba has to offer. Worst yet you might get sick from all the travel you have to do and you won't be enjoying great holiday season.

    Why don't you go to a resort closer to Tokyo and save Hakuba for next time when you can afford to spend about 1 week there?

    And as others said, there's always the risk of limited snow as it's early in the season, and hence it's better to just buy lift tickets at the resort.
     
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  7. Nozawaman

    Nozawaman A Local
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    Too much travelling for 3 days , you will feel like shit after that flight then you want to ski for 3 days ,and VERY early in the season .
    Good luck .
     
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  8. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    Read the first few posts in this thread:
    https://www.ski.com.au/xf/threads/japan-general-tips-for-when-and-where-to-go-for-snow.69888/

    - I think that spending all that time traveling to get to Hakuba, and only skiing 3 days & 3 mountains out of 8/9 mountains, with jet lag, is not a great idea.
    - About 50% the time, you will not be able to ski top to bottom from 19th December(at the tallest mountains with gondolas). Suggestion: Go straight to Hong Kong on 19th, fly to Japan on the 27th, and ski Hakuba(or other) on 28th/29th/30th/31st, then back to Washington DC on the 1st.(no Jetlag coming from Hong Kong) The likelihood of top to bottom snow is about 85% then. You could then ski Happo, Goryu/47, Iwatake and Tsugaike.
     
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  9. Hyst

    Hyst One of Us
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    Hi 93390-81-9

    May be you should change your occupation: "drug dealer" ( even when licensed - pharmacologist?), does not sound that good traveling in many countries - big brother might watch you.

    Welcome:evil:
     
  10. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    Sorry, but I have no idea what you're talking about..... :doh:
     
  11. Hyst

    Hyst One of Us
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    And you are always so nice.

    edit (seems I addressed the wrong person, sorry, 93390-81-9 will understand)
     
  12. Marty_McSly

    Marty_McSly Backwards to the future!
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    He's talking to the OP. Must have hit the Reply button on the wrong post.

    He's looked at the humour on her profile page.
     
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  13. Marty_McSly

    Marty_McSly Backwards to the future!
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    I can vouch for the OP BTW. I met her at the Epicski/Pugski Gathering in Whistler last year.

    Welcome aboard @fosphenytoin. :thumbs:
     
  14. fosphenytoin

    fosphenytoin Early Days

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    Thanks @Marty_McSly for the welcome. Good memory!

    Thanks everyone for your quick and very informative response on lodging, as well as your valuable comment on my itinerary. Very practical advice and much appreciated.

    @Sandy : I did think about going to HK first, then HV before my return to the U.S. However, I am concerned about crowds b/w x'mas and new year. Here in the U.S. ski resorts are like the zoo that week. Does the same thing happen in Japan? Will lodging be difficult to book that week?
    @willsnow: I've been to Japan twice, I know the rush hours can be a bit chaotic and I experienced it few times myself while traveling in Tokyo.
    What are the resorts closer to Tokyo that I can consider? When I started looking into skiing in Japan, I first looked at Niseko in Hokkaido, but realized it'd be too far out for the detour. Therefore, I settled with HV. But I am open to other suggestions.

    As I mentioned, I've always wanted to ski in Japan. It's higher on my list than the Alps. Since I live in the east coast in U.S., making my way to Japan takes longer travel time and $$ than to Europe. Therefore, I feel this opportunity would be hard to pass up.

    Is there a weblink about the "Highway Bus" to HV? I am looking for the time schedule and stops. Do I just take taxi to my hotel after I get off this bus?

    Can someone comment on ski rental?

    Thanks again.
     
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  15. MarzNC

    MarzNC Hard Yards

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    Seems as if you are thinking of the OP's plans only as a ski trip to Japan from Washington DC. It's more of a side trip on a visit home for someone who has a lot of international traveling experience. As long as there are some groomers open, the skiing portion of the trip will be considered a success. The idea is to get a taste in order to be able to make better informed decisions about where to go in the new few decades.

    I met the OP thru another ski forum and we have skied together a few times, including at Alta during late season. I've lost count as to how many ski areas the OP has explored in the last 4-5 years. It's impressive for someone who is working full-time, doesn't live near big mountains, and isn't an advanced skier . . . but will be in another season or two.
     
  16. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    Japan is Shinto and Buddhist. Xmas day is not a public holiday. Usually, it's only the 1st and 2nd Jan that's an issue. But this coming season is different, Mon 31st Dec + Wed 2nd & Thu 3rd are national holidays, so it's likely that people will ski from Sat 29th, take off Friday 4th, so that would be a bad time.
    I'd change the plan completely, fly 3 days earlier on 16th to HK, then to Japan on Mon 24th, then ski Hakuba 25th,26th,27th,28th, fly back to DC on 29th.
     
  17. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    Not much use skiing from the 19th Dec, if there's no or few groomers open.
     
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  18. Nozawaman

    Nozawaman A Local
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    She is coming off a 14 hour flight to ski 3 days of likely marginal conditions ..... A waste of time if you ask me .
    I wasn't questioning her committment , but I feel she is letting her ambitions get in the way of common sense .
     
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  19. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local
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    Would a resort around Yuzawa be better because of less travel time from Tokyo?
     
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  20. Marty_McSly

    Marty_McSly Backwards to the future!
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    Were you looking at ground transport from Tokyo or flights into New Chitose airport (CTS)? Can you fly direct in and out of CTS?

    Just thinking that Hokkaido may have better coverage early in the season.
     
    #20 Marty_McSly, Aug 6, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2018
  21. Zimbooo

    Zimbooo One of Us

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    I would 2nd this as a good idea for someone with very limited time. Shink from Tokyo to GALA Yuzawa in 75 mins. (Ski resort has it's own Shink station), rental gear, lockers etc, all within same building. Ski there, then maybe get the bus from Yuzawa to have a look at Naeba / Kagura (higher elevation), or if plenty of snow around to lower levels no need to leave Yuzawa as there are other hills close by using free shuttles . Don't ski GALA on the weekend - very very crowded!!!!!!!
    If you can go to HK first that would be better for snow and energy levels. IMO
    The JR East " Tokyo Wide Pass" would suit OP (as it includes GALA Yuzawa).
    https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/tokyowidepass/
     
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  22. willsnow

    willsnow Hard Yards

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    This. I'm hesitant to name it in the first place as I don't know how the snow level is like in Yuzawa during that period or whether the area around Yuzawa would have the traditional Japanese village accommodation (tatami) option which the OP seems to prefer. I'll leave this to the more experienced members to answer.

    Renting ski helmet or not is your personal choice. Obviously, the main tradeoff is the amount of space in the luggage that it'll take. Renting helmets for 3 days in Japan will not break your bank. Your choice of ski will depend on the range of the rental shop you're going to hire from, and the rental shop recommendation will depend on which resort you're going to visit. Worry about it once you know where to go.
     
  23. Zimbooo

    Zimbooo One of Us

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    Yuzawa is a Onsen / Resort Town with Ryokan's everywhere.
    https://www.japanican.com/en/hotel/...gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CM39kf-n19wCFUV8vQodrdMO4A
     
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  24. fosphenytoin

    fosphenytoin Early Days

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    You are right on. With 3 days, I know I won't have time to get a full appreciation of the skiing experience, but I really want to explore and lay the grounds for my next Japan trip.

    Also, thanks for the recommendation to this website. I know I've came to the right forum after getting many knowledgeable and informative responses with this thread.

    I have no ambition, I just wanna have fun.....
    On a serious note: whenever I go home (HK), I bring empty suitcases and then come back with full suitcases of "stuff", like snacks, stuff only available in HK. With that said, it will be less of an issue of hauling empty suitcases through the subway and Shinkansen in peak hours, it will be a real hassle to haul full suitcases around, possibility of pulling a muscle or two.... Therefore, my common sense pointed me to ski in Japan before HK.
    But you guys do have a valid point about jet lag. Trans-pacific flight + 3 more legs of transfer to HV, it can be intense.

    Question: does NRT have storage facility or lockers to store suitcases? I know not every airport has it.

    Few of you mention it's better to skip Japan altogether consider it's an early season and snow condition is unreliable. Looking at airfare, cost of a RT flight from DC to HK is the same as multi-city flights: DC -> NRT-> HK -> DC (or DC ->HK ->NRT ->DC) So I consider the NRT portion is a bonus, all I need to pay is the train + lodging + lift tickets.

    I did look at that, no direct flights. The travel time from DC to NRT is ~16 hours, DC to CTS with 2 stops is 36 hours. That's why I decided not to visit Niseko (even though I have a mountain collective pass) and settle with HV.... But as suggested by @Froff Life and @Zimbooo , I will now look into Yuzawa.

    In the U.S. many ski resorts use snowguns (if temp and humidity permits), esp. during the holiday season, they jack up the guns and run it nonstop. Does Japan do snowmaking? Is there such a thing there? Please educate me, my knowledge on ski in Japan is minimum and like to learn more.
     
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  25. fosphenytoin

    fosphenytoin Early Days

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    Thanks for the note. So Japan is like mainland China, 25th December is not a holiday. Good to know. In HK, x'mas and boxing day are official holidays.

    I appreciated your proposed travel dates. However the tricky part is the work situation. At work, the "unspoken" rule is, either you take off the entire week off b/w x'mas and new year, or you don't. Returning to DC 29th December, I suppose I can take the rest of the days off and stay home. But I am stingy about vacation days. Skiing is a very "time consuming" hobby because I live in the flat land and have to travel to ski..... so my strategy is always, maximize vacation days while minimize the # of hours I need to take off from work.
     
  26. Zimbooo

    Zimbooo One of Us

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    Also, I forgot to mention............in winter JR East train company also add on Gala Yuzawa ski deals to the Tokyo Wide pass.
    You will see them on the JR East website closer to winter. For about Y1,000 more on top of the train pass they include a days skiing at GALA Yuzawa. Good Deal!!!
     
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  27. MarzNC

    MarzNC Hard Yards

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    Just so I understand, that one week difference usually is significant, correct? Like the OP, I have no experience in Japan. But can understand how iffy the situation can be the last half of December in a region where snowstorms may not start up until January. At my home mountain, the last week of December is an important holiday period but there have been a few years when the slopes were barely open because it was too warm for substantial snowmaking the week before.
     
  28. Hermannator

    Hermannator One of Us
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    @fosphenytoin Yuzawa is a solid suggestion but I agree with others' assertion that snow-surety could be questionable. If you still want to pursue that path, the JR ski-ski promotions are your friend.

    IMO you're better off using the JAL/ANA promotional domestic fares or Jetstar Japan and connecting to CTS the day of your NRT arrival. That gives you access to snow-sure Sapporo (like Nagano it also hosted the winter olympics) and a number of resorts for which hotel shuttles run daily... Then you fly CTS-HKG when you're done.
     
  29. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    Yuzawa is a lot lower, and even if there's snow falling around central Japan, the resorts right at Yuzawa won't generally have much snow because of low elevation around that time
    Your best bet near there is Kagura.
     
  30. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    In an "average" season, the first big winter dumps to low levels kick in between 15th and 20th December in central Japan. But the last 5 years seems to be even more variable
     
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  31. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    There is storage at Narita airport.

    There is snowmaking in a few places, but it's not extensive like the US. Plus it needs to be cold enough early season to be able to do it.
     
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  32. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local
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    There will (95% likely) be snow to ski on at Hakuba/Yuzawa for that week before Christmas, but I think everyone in this thread is just worried you won't get the best possible experience and get to see the infamous powder snow Japan is famous for.

    If you're set on those dates, and just happy to be sliding on some snow then Hakuba or Yuzawa will suffice, and you might even get lucky with great conidtions. If you want to increase the possibility of scoring some powder look into flying up to Hokkaido.
     
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  33. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    14th December 2017 @chaletmadarao Late December is fine for on piste but not really for off piste.
     
    #33 skichanger, Aug 6, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2018
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  34. Nozawaman

    Nozawaman A Local
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    IF !!!!! we get snow . Yes the past few years has delivered , but with no snowmaking , you really can't say it will be fine .
     
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  35. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    Sorry that should have been "late December". Fixed it.

    so it seems if I am still madly preparing it snows early. so do you all want me to be super disorganized so it snows super early? Murphy's law type thing.
     
  36. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    No, you need to trick it!!! ;)
    You need to get super organised for everything, except for one obvious thing....
     
  37. Nozawaman

    Nozawaman A Local
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    You just did a Donald LOLLOLLOLLOL
     
  38. Donzah

    Donzah Part of the Furniture
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    I'd go.
    DC to HK.
    Then HK to CTS. Spend three days in furano.
    CTS to NRT to DC.

    Furano is a groomer paradise. Won't be as affected by nye crowds. Will also have great snow.
     
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  39. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    I'm human!
     
  40. fosphenytoin

    fosphenytoin Early Days

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    Thanks for the suggestion. Based on the suggested itinerary, it'd be one way airfare for the entire trip. I checked google flight this morning, it's gonna add additional $1000 airfare. My wallet seemed to disapprove. :(
    If I take the Shink, it will be one travel day to Sapporo. I guess I am back to HV and Yuzawa.

    I think I will take @Sandy 's advice. Go to HK first and head to Japan before returning to the U.S. I just have to keep my suitcase small and light this time. Alternatively, I can store the suitcases at NRT airport and travel light.

    So, looking at my dates, modified dates will be: ski in Japan 28th or 29th December TO 31st Dec or 1st Jan.
    I know I will hit the crowd but it will be OK. I enjoy people watching, curious to see how Japanese skiers are like? If lack of snow or no snow, I can always find something else to do, eating, window shopping and more eating (fatty tuna, soba noodles, yakitori, ramen noodles, the list goes on.) :p
     
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  41. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local
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    Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen, Shiga Kogen, Naeba, Zao Onsen...

    The list of options for you is big! I'd still be leaning toward staying in Yuzawa city, skiing the resorts in that area (+7) and if the snow/crowds get too much you can explore the city and do some shopping, eating and onsening :)
     
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  42. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    Since you want to ski on piste you should be fine for snow.

    Crowded in Japan is rarely like crowded in Aus.
     
  43. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    Personally, I wouldn't head to the Yuzawa area at that time, unless it was Kagura/Naeba. Most of the resorts right near Yuzawa Town have bottom elevations between 250-450m, and tops only up to 1000-1100m.
    Naeba is 900m-1789m, and Kagura is 620m-1845m (with the bottom 200m not usually ridden because the ropeway (aerial tram) is more just access from Mitsumata)
    Plus they are linked with a 5.5km gondola (if it's running at that time)
     
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  44. fosphenytoin

    fosphenytoin Early Days

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    Thanks. I have never skied in Australia / New Zealand, so I have no context. ;)

    This list...... looking at Hakuba Valley website, none of these names show up, so I assume the above mentioned list is not part of the 9 resorts in HV, correct?

    Which resort(s) in HV or Yuzawa are popular with locals (i.e. less touristy)? My limitation is, I won't have a rental car, so I can only hit places that are accessible by buses / trains. Basically, what I am looking for is: the less western, the more Japanese, the better..... I won't mind going to smaller hills to ski if that's what it takes.....

    Is there any skiing, or slope etiquette in Japan one needs to observe / follow? If so, is there any discussion about this on this forum? Can I have the link?
     
  45. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local
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    Sorry my previous post was confusing. I listed above all different resorts you could visit. If you're looking for a proper Japanese town with culture then Nozawa Onsen or Zao Onsen would suit. Both have beautiful onsens scattered throughout the town, as well as many bars and restaurants. Zao is about 3 hours north of Tokyo, Nozawa 3.5 hours west.

    Start having a look for accommodation as that period is a busy one!
     
  46. fosphenytoin

    fosphenytoin Early Days

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    Thanks for the tips. I need more "hand-holding" on planning this short trip, few more questions:
    1) Nozawa Onsen or Zao Onsen - I can get to these 2 places from Narita by Shink?
    2) Which ski slopes I can visit from Nozawa Onsen or Zao Onsen?
    3) Is there shuttle / buses from these towns to the ski slopes? Again, I won't have a car, so I am relying 100% on public transportation.
     
  47. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    Those travel times are not accurate.
    Zao Onsen: 251 minutes + transfers
    Nozawa Onsen: 101 minutes + transfers
     
  48. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local
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    For all train travel in Japan, use this website called Hyperdia. You put in your departure and arrival points and it works out the best way via train to get there.

    Read up on Nozawa Onsen and Zao Onsen, they are both mid-sized ski mountains with lovely traditional villages at the bottom. When staying in either town you can walk from your accommodation to the ski lifts.
     
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  49. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local
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    Beg your pardon, meant from Narita. Nozawa is quicker to get to than Zao , but I prefer Zao as it's less touristy
     
  50. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local
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    Zao Onsen
    [​IMG]

    Nozawa Onsen
    [​IMG]
     
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