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Travel Life Keeping resorts 'secret'

Discussion in 'Japan' started by M_G, Oct 3, 2019.

  1. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    This argument rears it's head regularly on these threads.

    https://www.powderhounds.com/Japan/Gems.aspx

    I've personally seen Myoko turn in 20 years from almost my only little fiefdom into bogan paradise. That's good and bad. At the end of the day I know see a lot of local businesses growing and prospering whereas as before they would be holding on or closing down. In the end that has to be a good thing.

    Don't like being where the foreigners are? Hundreds more of little local resorts that would like to see you on their hill. I'm going to explore some of those in Toyama myself this season.
     
  2. blowfin

    blowfin One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Breathing life into struggling areas is a great thing.

    But it's diametrically opposed to the interests of powder chasers, who want to have an off the radar location to themselves. Those places that have become popularised work in the long term for those wanting an "easy" Japan ski trip, but become less attractive for the "serious" snow chaser. Ipso facto - Myoko turning into Bogan paradise or whatever you want to call it.

    Stuff complaining about a secret spot being "ruined" though, that strikes me as the wrong attitude to have. Part of the joy of visiting Japan for me is exploring new spots, and trying to find those hidden gems where I can experience amazing conditions without big crowds. I've only ever repeated a destination twice (for only a week) and that was mainly because of contacts there. I'll be going somewhere new again on the next trip.

    Funny thing is, I even found Hakuba to be relatively uncrowded when compared to Whistler Blackcomb of 10 years ago. The Yuzawa resorts were pretty busy around Chinese new years this year, but not many people had the same priorities as me.

    Long term I've been led to believe that the issue for these smaller hills is that their infrastructure is going to basically become unusable, as a lot of it was built for the skiiing bubble in the 80's and is due to fall to bits or be de-commissioned. So a lot of them are going to simply stop operating in the next decade or so.

    For the moment there seems to be plenty of options around though.
     
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  3. Chaeron

    Chaeron One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Toyama is awesome.
     
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  4. bluestick

    bluestick One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    If you don’t mind earning your turns abandoned ski resorts can provide some easy access secrets. Until a cat operation starts up! So it can be good from a selfish POV to keep places secret even if they eventually close. From a local economy perspective though it’s not good. Really sad to see a place like Kamoidake close if that is true. Still lots of places a bit off the radar though as per photo
     
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  5. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    It is a bit of a balance. I loved Niseko in the 90's when Japan wasn't a thing at all. Moved on Central Hokkaido and Asahidake became a new favourite. Then last 10 years have been spent exploring Tohoku finding some really nice places, but some that were so quiet you wondered how they would survive, so you wanted to let people know about them and keep them going but not giving too much away, hoping against the mass tourist invasion.

    Next year I am going back to one of my original locations in the 80's - Shiga Kogen and flying into Osaka and looking at places to drop in on the way and I am looking at a couple of options on the way including Takayama and as it happens around Toyama.
     
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  6. PMG

    PMG One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    No chance of almost meeting up with you next year Heinz. ;) We'll only be in Japan for about a week and most of that is at the end of February so probably no heading north for us either for the first time in five years even though there is one place we haven't been that we would really like to visit.
    Nothing planned yet for the end of Feb. No rush for that time of the season.
     
    #6 PMG, Oct 4, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2019
  7. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Keen to hopefully fit this one in if we can. Looks like a solid drive though from Tazawa-ko.
     
  8. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    I'm keen on exploring more around Takayama
     
  9. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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    Its an interesting conversation and as a year long resident in Hakuba who makes the majority of his income from ski based tourism its a double edged sword for me, particularly as the last 5 seasons I have had to be at work mid morning so only rode resort (with a few exceptions) so crowds impacted on my ability get to get max vert meters in a short period of time. Many lifts that were once very quiet are now very busy. Fortunately after a few years here now I have the valley and close by resorts reasonably dialed in and this year Im free until at least 3pm which is our earliest check in :)

    On the other side when asked by guests or other visitors in town where they should shred the next day I ask about their abilities, what they want and then offer advice based on that and wanting them to have a great day I send them to the resort which hopefully best fits their needs, even if in the past it was one I would have targeted. Now its rarely, if ever, the same place I will be riding the next day though or if so not the same zones. In that way our guests to Hakuba hopefully get some good advice and a few of us to get to ride without the crowd. When I do see car loads of gaijins at the uncrowded places I ride I ask they do not mention anywhere on social media about the place etc etc, when asked why I point out how few of us are there and lets keep it that way. Most oblige willingly. :)

    Whilst not perfect this is my own personal compromise with this issue. This year I will be doing a lot more road trips to a lot of the smaller places, of which there are many within 2 to 3 hours from here. There will also be a few multi day trips. Hoping to find some more uncrowded gems, some of which I will discuss publicly including on here and I imagine some I wont. :) As it is now there are a series of code names for resorts nearby here, based on other country names so if they are mentioned publicly, those over hearing it wont know where it is although I did have a guy ask me if I had actually ridden in North Korea ;)

    The harsh reality though is that without increased visitation many of those small skijos will close as so many other have already, including 4 in the Hakuba Valley (Highlands, Minekata, Aoki and Yanaba). Luckily that tide has turned and most resorts are now not losing money as I understand it.

    In the end everyone has to make there own decisions on how much info to share publicly as in IMHO there is no right and wrong.
     
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  10. ojisan

    ojisan station master Ski Pass: Gold

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    I've been to many Gifu resorts where I have not seen another gaijin at all... I think it's due to the difficulty getting there as the only way to get there is by road.
    Similarly, I spent a week up in Myoko at @M_G s shack and didn't even board at any of the Myoko's ski-jo's.
    I did visit Madaro on the first day, but every other day was spent at a off the radar for gaijin resort.
     
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  11. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    When at Hakuba, on powder days, I go to the places in the main valley, where others are not!! i.e. I never hit Cortina on a powder day.... there are just hoards of people (mostly Aussies) there.
    North Korea:



    South Korea:
     
  12. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    I do think there is a bit of a wanchor factor involved in wanting to be the one rejecting the popular resorts for some. Yes, we all like being the only one on the hill on a powder, and if you’re prepared to drive to a local hill and go without all fruit of an international resort, or earn your turns and hike for it, the you can get all that - and without all the “too many gaijin in the village” lamenting.

    As property owner in Niseko we base ourselves there in “busy central”, but there’s no point whinging about it. If you’re prepared to whack on some skins there’s any number of hills within a few minutes drive to get your powder paradise fix.
     
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  13. Hermannator

    Hermannator One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    At the end of the day, Japan has 504 ski resorts (snowjapan). Of those, how many are really worth visiting from a foreign tourist perspective (flight, accom etc)?
    To my mind, anything with less than 400m vert (i.e. Hotham's vert) is a waste of time - why would you make all that effort and cop the expense to cross the equator to ski a mole-hill?

    That leaves ~170 resorts with 400m or more vertical. Time will tell if they will see saturation anytime soon...
     
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  14. Budgiesmuggler

    Budgiesmuggler A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Skiing is by its nature a destination sport, except for those lucky enough to live local. That’s the reality. Yes we all want a quiet place but the fact is that resorts with good terrain + good snow will become popular.
     
  15. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    It depends how hardcore you are. If I get mellow powder runs on a quiet hill I'm just as happy to hit the onsen by 2 or 3 and chill.
     
  16. ojisan

    ojisan station master Ski Pass: Gold

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    powder
    powder
    and powder
     
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  17. Hermannator

    Hermannator One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Not as much fun if too short. Usually too short = too flat = powder swimmers...
     
  18. ojisan

    ojisan station master Ski Pass: Gold

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    It can be if you are able to find fresh tracks until last lifts
     
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  19. warhol

    warhol Hard Yards

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    I think I need to come and eat kimchi in Nth and South Korea. Looks seriously delicious.
     
  20. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    But there's still plenty of places out there that are not known, with good terrain & snow, and have still not become popular with Aussies.
    Naeba/ Kagura is a case in point. Lots of Chinese there last season, but not many other foreigners. And most of the Chinese riders were on the easy slopes, so you could ride powder within 200m of the Prince Hotel, which you could SEE from there.
     
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  21. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Marketing companies and websites seem to love promoting the 'over 500 ski resorts' statistic, but in reality how many are actually worth visiting? Herm you make a great point that anything with less than 400m vert is pretty tiny and maybe only really enjoyable on a deep fresh powder day.

    Resorts that are viable options completely depends on what you're after in a ski holiday. For a family looking for well equipped 'destination resorts', with lots of restaurants and an English speaking ski school, I'd say there are maybe a dozen actual options. However is you're a solo or small group that's just looking for fresh powder and no-crowds or night life the options are much more varied.

    In my experience, the harder a ski resort is to get to via public transport, the less gaijin around.
     
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  22. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    But I think that's an important point. If you have the means to get to it on the right day, it's totally enjoyable when there's only 10-20 people on the whole mountain, and the powder is deep!!!
    The photos I posted above have not a lot more than 450m vertical....
     
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  23. ojisan

    ojisan station master Ski Pass: Gold

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    many of the small hills in Gifu I've visited had only 400-500 of vert. (and some less)
    Winghills, for example has 480m vert.
    I visited there 2 days after a dump of 40-50 cents and a day after the whole top of the mountain was shut due to the wind.
    When I was there, I pretty much spent the day lapping the gondola and it was boot to knee deep freshness until I called it quits around 4ish.
    Didn't see another gaijin there.
     
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  24. blowfin

    blowfin One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Maybe true for Naeba, but this year we saw more westerners at Kagura in a day than we'd seen in 4 whole days at other resorts around Yuzawa. Plenty of competition, but we were there for some touring anyway.
     
  25. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Well, I'd believe that because most of the other Yuzawa resorts are well off the radar for gaijin. Which day of the week was that at Kagura? .... because, while not well known by gaijin outside of Japan, Kagura is very well known and frequented by expat Gaijin from Tokyo, particularly on weekends when they can get away from work.
     
  26. expatgm

    expatgm Addicted

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    That ski "resort" labelling is something of a misnomer many of those small areas are local government owned and operated paid for by the ratepayers of the community. It's the winter equivalent of the council swimming pool very much part of the community. They won't be closing any time soon.
     
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  27. blowfin

    blowfin One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    That was a Friday, a superb bluebird day after a couple of 30cm dumps. Definitely more of a tourist vibe about them than expats, got a few curious FOMO type looks as we headed out the gates and did the beacon check.
     
  28. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    I will often take a Friday or a Monday off if there's powder around, and travel from Yokohama.
     
  29. ojisan

    ojisan station master Ski Pass: Gold

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    No work on a powder day :cool:
     
  30. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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    One of the issues with the smaller resorts is not only limited vert but the lack of steep terrain. One of the ones mentioned above by Sandy is low key fun with 20 to 30cm but not so good with snowfall greater than that as overall its too flat, particularly when its low elevation and the snow is often heavier. Sometimes too much snow is not a good thing :)
     
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  31. Zimbooo

    Zimbooo One of Us

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    700m vert for 2,200 Yen a day for old codgers like me 55+.
    Where? It's a secret!!!
     
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  32. DidSurfNowSki

    DidSurfNowSki One of them Ski Pass: Gold

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    Variety is the spice of life. I've had some absolutely great ski days on those 'mole-hills'. Up there with the best.

    Boot deep powder is still ok ;)
     
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  33. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    The first two photos, there was 50cm+. You needed to be careful not to stop in flat areas, but that comes with experience. A skier to "break" the terrain helps. I'd say optimal would be about 35cm.
     
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  34. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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    Indeed and much better than no powder at all. :) :)
     
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  35. PMG

    PMG One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Not as secret as I would like it to be these days..
     
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  36. Tonester

    Tonester Lift Line Nazi Ski Pass: Gold

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    As mentioned previously, it's a double edged sword. Keep those hills secret or keep them viable? I'm not a fan of crowds so my solution the last few years is to explore by car. I've managed to find some gems along the way. This coming season I hope to do the same again, taking in a different route. Let's see what I can find next time around!
     
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  37. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    When the word gets out on your favourite place...
     
  38. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Not sure skiing under the chairs is a good thing.
     
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  39. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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    Always love seeing a double eject.
     
  40. Hermannator

    Hermannator One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    It's interesting that Yuzawa doesn't seem to see so much westerner gaijin... Can echo that sentiment after going there in Jan and getting 1st tracks (after not getting there super early either) on a pow day. It is a bit odd as one can Shink from Tokyo in 75min...

    As for Kagura, it too is relatively undiscovered. And if you know where to stay, you can get a 45min head start on a powder day...
     
  41. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Yes, it's like that there.... You can still hit powder late morning at Naeba, in full view of the Prince Hotel.
     
  42. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    There's also two good, steep spots for powder on the Tashiro side of Kagura (not too far from the Dragondola)
     
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  43. tot

    tot Hard Yards

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    ohhh getting rather excited... Thanks M_G!!
     
  44. blowfin

    blowfin One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Apparently the resorts just north of Yuzawa are even less busy. Joetsu Kokusai is the biggest of them, sounds like there's a little on offer at some of the smaller ones like Muica, Shiozawa, and Granview too. Probably not bad options for a weekend powder day if you're based in Yuzawa.
     
  45. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    A lot of those places are very low, so you need some cold temperatures blowing off the Sea of Japan.... Joetsu Kokusai is 200m at the bottom and 1017m at the top. Even Hakkaisan is only 355m at the bottom.
     
  46. blowfin

    blowfin One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    While the points about elevation are certainly true, I'm not sure how much of an impact it actually has mid winter. The valley seems to keep a solid snow base of 1-2m and from what I saw, it's usually a couple of degrees cooler there than further out towards the coast. Sure, don't go skiiing there when the conditions are marginal, but that's going to be the case for the majority of resorts in the area if the weather is warm. They are still potentially decent backup options on a powder day.
     
  47. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    The valley north of Yuzawa does get a good base when the snow falls, but the powder is heavier, it it gets slushy quickly and freezes up more than higher places,sso there's more thaw /freeze.
     
  48. Ecstatic

    Ecstatic Hard Yards

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    As someone that has used these forums to find hidden gems out in Tohoku and surrounds I don't think I've got any right to keep them to myself. I'm all for adventurous travelers exploring and finding new resorts, accommodation bases, back country spots etc.

    What I can't get behind is these "Ski package" companies that offer super cheap deals for accom, lift tickets, rail passes etc to unsuspecting punters for out of the way resorts. An ad came up on my FB feed this morning for a 6 night deal staying on mountain at Tazawako for 800 bucks. I think this does everyone a disservice given a) offer was only valid in March, high likelyhood of rain / poor snow for unsuspecting punters. b) The accom basically strands you at the resort without any transport options, c) The resort doesn't really look all that accommodating to first timers with regards to lessons in English variety in terrain / hire options other activities etc.

    So basically, someone's found cheap tickets and accom at a remote hill at an average time of the year, tied together some logistics of getting in and out of there and then takes the profit of said co-ordination out of country and away from the hill that we'd all like to see supported. I'd much rather these ventures were pioneered by the locals with all the profit margin supporting the people who are likely to invest in the area.
     
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  49. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    I've seen that same advert. I'm not sure who books those all inclusive packages without first doing a bit of their own research!
     
  50. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Interesting. From what I recall there isn't actually any on mountain accommodation at Tazawako. Mostly it is in Misuzawa Onsen a few mins away or further in the town of Tazawako. There is a local bus service from town to the ski area and Nyuto Onsen but you have to research it. The resort is good for terrain, but yes does lack for English in general, so not really a good option for first timers to Japan. I really liked Tazawako but did have to spend a bit of time researching, but for me that is part of the appeal.