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Question Snow walking in Nozawa and Zao

Discussion in 'Japan' started by fennekeg, Oct 3, 2018.

  1. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    We'll be going on a winter tour of Hokkaido and Tohoku in the second half of February 2019 (by train). We'll also be in Nozawa and Zao for a few days each. However, we won't be skiing (I know, best snow in the world... but husband has a bad back).

    When we go on winter holiday in Europe (Austria, Switzerland, France, Germany) we always go snow walking on prepped or semi-prepped 'winterwanderwege' (walking paths with max 30cm high snow), equipped with hiking boots, gaiters and walking sticks.

    Are there any options for snow walking like that in Nozawa and Zao? I noticed on the Nozawa ski map that large areas are off-limits for skiing, does that also apply to walking? Could we go up with a gondola and walk back down (not over ski routes)?

    If not we might look into snowshoeing but we've never done that before. Any tips for that?
     
  2. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    If husband has a bad back that is so bad he can’t ski I’d be a little concerned about up/downhill snowshoeing. On the flat or gentle hills should be ok.

    There are guided snowshoe walks in Rusutsu, Hanazono, Kiroro and to half moon lake at the base of Yotei for a start (you said you’re in Hokkaido as well) Likely quite a lot of others (but I don’t know of any in Zao or Nozawa - not familiar with the areas). These type of snowshoe walks through forest would be better for you guys than up and down ski resorts.
     
  3. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Well the bad back might be just an excuse not to learn it ;) He's had lower back surgery years ago but we've been snow walking down (lower) mountains for years (going up by ski lift). But I don't know whether snowshoeing is more taxing than walking.

    Yotei area looks reasonably accessible by train, thanks! I had dismissed Niseko as being purely skiing and nothing else but I'll look into that.
     
  4. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    I’ve done the Half Moon Lake night snowshoe walk, I really enjoyed it.

    And due to the commercialisation of Niseko (and Rusutsu and Kiroro, and likely other locations) they offer non skiing activities because the demand is there.
    Fat wheel bikes
    Snowmobile tours
    High ropes courses
    Snowshoeing
    Cross country skiing
    Dog sledding (limited)
    More
     
  5. Hyst

    Hyst Enjoyer Ski Pass: Gold

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    Long time ago? (not that I want to be rude :oops:) By guide or DIY?
     
  6. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    ow night snow shoe walk! that must be wonderful
     
  7. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    No.
    Not that long ago. Why?
    It was the season before last.

    We went on a guided walk.
     
  8. Ramenman

    Ramenman One of Us

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    Speaking of Zao in February, it's the best season to see Juhyo in that Juhyo becomes the biggest. Actually, Zao Onsen is getting popular among tourists from Asia and they come to Zao for snow walking around Juhyo, not skiing. Going up to the peak of the mountain in this ropeway, they walk in Juhyo forest.
    [​IMG]
     
  9. skichanger

    skichanger A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Um I have some serious concerns about people walking about in the snow in Japan. Step off the packed down path and you can almost disappear. And believe me, from 1st hand experience, extricating someone is not an easy task.

    That said, some of the golf courses would make good snow shoe trails. I am pretty sure they do this at some of them around Mt Myoko. Not sure about other places though. And we see a lot of people walking along the side of the road. Not sure I would do this or recommend it though. When there is 3 metres of snow beside you there is no where to go when a bus comes a long. I see the poor little trapped squirrels in panic trying to escape when they get stuck on the road.
     
  10. Hyst

    Hyst Enjoyer Ski Pass: Gold

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    Was Cesar your guide? He was with NAC for some time.
     
  11. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Yes walking along the side of the road is not my favourite way to go about. I was thinking more about forest trails. Usually (in Europe) we walk based on GPS maps, often the forest paths on the map turn out to be cleared or doable. Not sure if this is a thing in Japan though.
     
  12. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Yes that's also the reason we go there :) but that's snow walking with snowshoes I presume, or is regular snow walking also doable?
     
  13. Nozawaman

    Nozawaman A Local

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  14. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    I'm a bit puzzled by this. If you aren't going skiing why are you going in winter? I know Austria for example has lots of great wanderwege but they are so much nicer in spring & summer when much of the snow has gone. In Japan does get quite deep and I don't know how well prepared tracks are, but they would be much better later in the year. I guess winter for Zao or also Hakkoda if you want to see the Juhyo, but those are still there in Hakkoda in April.
     
  15. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    You also mentioned going to Nozawa & Zao by train. Note that they are in different JR East zones, so one pass doesn't cover both. Just stick to Tohoku or else get a single ticket to Nozawa.
     
  16. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    We went with NAC
    But not Cesar, I cant recall the mans name but it was not one I’d remember (id remember Cesar).
     
  17. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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  18. Ramenman

    Ramenman One of Us

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    If you only walk around the top ropeway station, you don't need snowshoes. You see, they are not wearing snowshoes. But if you want to walk in Juhyo forest for more than 300m, with snowshoes is better.
    [​IMG]

    During Juhyo season, the ropeway is running at night too.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    You don't need snowshoes if you use a CAT tour. The tour shows you around Juhyo, and you only need very short walks around the CAT. With snowshoes is better, though.
    [​IMG]
     
    #18 Ramenman, Oct 4, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
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  19. Sandy

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

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    This is a good point. And on flat areas, the snow can be hiding creeks, if you go off the beaten track.
    Plus, if you snowshoe and the snow is deep and powdery, it will be bad for your back, trying lift your feet and legs out of it.

    Two points.
    - The snow is often too deep to walk in just hiking boots and gaiters, unless prepped trails. Japan can get 30cm+ just in 4-5 hours. So at least CARRY snow shoes.
    - If you are thinking about walking "no skiing areas", don't do it for a few reasons:
    a. The snow can be DEEP. We're talking waist to chest deep or more.
    b. Terrain traps. Gullies and creeks where it's deeper, and you can get stuck at the lowest point and spend an hour moving just 30m. or fall through into the creek. Some flat areas are actually frozen ponds.
    c. Avalanche. The primary reason for having off limits areas for skiing is because of potential avalanches, which are common in risky areas.
     
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  20. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    My point again - why winter?
    Deep powder is great for skiing, but not walking.
     
  21. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Agreed that it is a bit weird to go 'snow walking' in Japan, in the middle of winter...
    But if that's your thing than Zao should be top of your list! The snow monsters are a glorious sight to behold, and a bit spooky when lit up at night. Plus the traditional onsen town is lovely with nice restaurants and a couple of bars.
     
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  22. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    You can go up the ropeway in Hakkoda in April and get Juhyo. Not quite as impressive as mid winter but the weather will be much nicer.
    [​IMG]
     
  23. Ramenman

    Ramenman One of Us

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    I think hotels like Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryuu Hotel are ideal for people like you because Oirase Keiryuu Hotel offer international tourists a lot of activities in English, including some different snow walking tours, not only one. And Oirase Keiryuu Hotel have even tours to Mt.Hakkoda, where you can see Juhyo.

    Visit this page : https://www.oirase-keiryuu.jp/en/stay_winter/

    And this page : https://www.oirase-keiryuu.jp/en/


    This video was filmed in green season, but winter is great as well.
     
    #23 Ramenman, Oct 4, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
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  24. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Yes, I found that one :) but because we've never snowshoed before I was wondering if there were also some prepped trails. I guess the answer is no. Time to learn snowshoeing!
     
  25. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Good points, our skiing friends also wonder about this from time to time.

    Why winter? Because this will be my fifth time in Japan but I've never seen it in snow, except for some snowy drizzle in Sasebo (Kyushu) that freaked out the local railways so much that they had a 20min delay that even made the newspapers.

    Why deep powder? Well that's why I was asking, I didn't know how deep the powder would be and figured I asked you guys.

    We won't only be going to ski areas, also to Ginzan Onsen which is prettiest in deep snow, and Yamadera, and the snow monkeys (which we've already seen in summer but as we're there in winter we surely can't miss them), and a steam engine in Hokkaido that only runs in January and February. Zao indeed for the Juhyo, we've already seen similar in Germany (Harz) but there you could actually walk around them without snowshoes, so I was wondering if that would be the same in Zao (the answer is no, so that's good to know). And Nozawa because apparently it's a nice winter village, and we were planning on some snowwalking there after all those days in the train (we're taking the countrywide JR pass by the way, done the math and it pays off with going up to Hokkaido by shinkansen and all the other routes). But, it appears snowwalking with just boots is not really a thing in Japan, good thing I wondered about that beforehand and asked around, instead of just assuming and being disappointed :) So... we'll be doing some snowshoeing this winter! There's a first for everything I guess.

    yamagata-ginzan-onsen-in-winter-24058.jpg
     
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  26. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Oh but they are lovely in winter too! I've been to Austria in summer quite a few times, but in winter the forest is at least as pretty. Last year we went to Oetz and walked there for a week, had a great time.
    some pics:
     
  27. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Thanks good points! In Europe with all the prepped trails there never even is a reason to go off-trail. Good to keep in mind that we shouldn't try it in Japan either, even when there are no trails. I had hoped since the Japanese can be quite fond of hiking they would have some prepped trails as well, but I guess when the snow's that good all you want to do is ski ;)
     
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  28. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Oh this is exactly the kind of thing we're looking for! (well almost in the sense that we rather do things on our own instead of a tour, but still). Thanks! And the early bird rate is even affordable. Perhaps I should look more into these kind of resorts then.
     
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  29. Nozawaman

    Nozawaman A Local

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    They do have dedicated prepared trails .
     
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  30. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    nice, but when I go for a walk I prefer it not to be in snow. Spring in Sölden just up the Ötztal.
    [​IMG]
     
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  31. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Basically what I am suggesting is, go in April. There will still be plenty of snow around if that is what you want, but it wont be as deep. As I posted earlier Juhyo will still be around the top of Hakkoda (not sure about Zao). The ski areas will be closing, hence quiet and so accommodation will be easy to find. Weather will be milder. You can choose to walk in snow or else stay in the valleys below it. And if you time it right you will be in Sakura season as well.

    I love March/April in Austria - best of both worlds, green in the valleys, pleasant weather, but still great skiing in the mountains especially above 2000m and lots of mountain huts to sit outside for lunch. Japan should be similar (though without the huts).
     
  32. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    I totally get it fennekeg!
    I’ve come to love walking in winter, snowshoeing or boot packing. WAY prefer that over dust and getting sunburnt.

    Ohhh I saw that last season and got all excited thinking it would be a lovely activity for when my parents came to visit us - but they were coming in March :(
    Please come back to us after your holiday and let us know how it all went. Highlights, lowlights and in particular I’d love to hear about the Steam Train and whether you thought that was worth doing.

    I’m sure you’ll love it and be hooked!
    If you’re going to be doing a lot of it, on and off, I’d recommend buying a pair of snowshoes. Few reasons...
    1. If you’re charged a hire fee each time it’ll add up pretty quickly, may as well have your own.
    2. You’ll get used to them and be comfortable in them. Instead of changing it up each different place for different snowshoes.
    3. You’ll have them forever and can go snowshoeing back in Europe - or you can sell them secondhand if you think you’ll never use them again.

    I have Tubbs (the ones on the right of the picture) - they’re excellent snowshoes.
     
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  33. skichanger

    skichanger A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    You are not the only non-skier/snowboarders who come in the middle of winter. We had some guests last season who just enjoyed the winter environment. They are coming back next season. Whilst it may seem strange to many just do what works for you.
     
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  34. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Did they come on their own or together with skiers?
    If I visited on my own as a non-skier (hypothetical of course - not likely), I would do so in spring rather than winter.
     
  35. Hyst

    Hyst Enjoyer Ski Pass: Gold

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    There a lots of yamagoyas in Japan closed in winter though.
     
  36. skichanger

    skichanger A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    By themselves. We were a bit worried when they made the booking but it worked for them. They have constraints about when they can take holidays so spring is out.
     
  37. silva

    silva One of Us

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    Wow - that resort looks amazing. I think I want to go and check it out just for the food and sculptures.
     
  38. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    I sure will!

    Yes we've been discussing this, but we weren't sure if it was worth the hassle dragging them along in the train to all the non-snowwalking places we'll be visiting. And as we've never done it before we thought we try it out there, and then if we like it we will buy them afterwards back home. Can't wait to try it though :)
     
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  39. Ramenman

    Ramenman One of Us

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    By the way, how long do you want to enjoy snow-walking per day?.
     
  40. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    See, I knew it ;) Though do you know what they did all day? Snowshoeing? Visiting villages and temples? One of the reasons I wanted to go was temples and old houses in the snow, that must be so pretty. If we ever go again in winter (and we might, I already found more things to do than we can fit in 2.5 weeks) I also want to go to Shirakawago, with the ancient houses in the snow.
    Also another reason we come in the dead of winter is that my husband is simply mad about snow, ice and everything cold ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ so why not combine that with my love for Japan.
     
  41. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    That depends a bit on whether how strenuous it is, I don't know if it's comparable to walking in 20~30cm snow? But I'd think 2 to 3 hours max, or maybe 2 hours in the morning and 2~3 in the afternoon, but then with a long lunch break inbetween.
     
  42. Ramenman

    Ramenman One of Us

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    I highly recommend Oirase Keiryu. I've been to only in green season, and never been to in winter, though.
     
    #42 Ramenman, Oct 6, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  43. Ramenman

    Ramenman One of Us

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    It has to be a ski resort?. I think most popular / famous Japanese ski resorts are too snowy without snowshoes. If your husband is mad about snow, ice and everything cold, he might like lake Chuzenji area in Nikko. Lake Chuzenji is about 1,300m above sea level, so the altitude is higher than most ski resorts in Japan, and the temperature drops down to - 10C in mid winter. It snows there, but a lot less compared to most Japanese ski resorts, so snow walking without snowshoes is a lot easier. There are many walking / hiking courses in lake Chuzenji area, and it's very popular during green season, especially autumn for autumn color, but some enjoy snow waking there. There are a lot of hotels around the lake, and you can walk to the Nikko's famous water fall too. This is the one.
    [​IMG]

    Hoshino Resorts has a hotel by lake Chuzenji, and the hotel is very good. It's one of the most expensive hotels in Nikko area, though. There are a lot of reasonable hotels in the region. It's less snowy but as cold, and if your husband and you are interested in Japanese traditional culture, Nikko might be good.

    Kai Nikko = The hotel by Lake Chuzenji that Hoshino Resorts own : https://kai-ryokan.jp/en/nikko/
     
    #43 Ramenman, Oct 6, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  44. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Togakushi is another option.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  45. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Oh thanks!! No it doesn't have to be a ski resort, that's just what we're used to. Thanks a lot, I will look into this!
     
  46. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Thanks! That one's actually on my list already, for if (when) we go another time, when I want to rent a car and tour the Alps. This time we're bound to trains
     
  47. 2ESki

    2ESki Addicted

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  48. skichanger

    skichanger A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    They did a range of things. Some time out in the snow, some time walking up and around the village, a few day trips to Joetsu and Kanazawa. And a lot of sitting around doing not a lot cause they were on holidays.
     
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  49. Ramenman

    Ramenman One of Us

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    Urabandai Highlands have many 2 - 3 hours snow walking courses. Urabandai Highlands have several ski resorts, and this is snow walking map of one of those ski resorts. 片道 means one way, so 片道40分 means one way = 40mins. So 40 + 60 = 100 mins, 40 + 80 = 120 mins and 60 + 80 = 140 mins. So, they are about 2 hours. イエローフォール means Yellow water fall. Most people walk to the frozen yellow water fall, and come back.
    [​IMG]
    This is a picture taken in the walking course. Most people wear snowshoes, but as you can see, it's flat, so it's not taxing much. Urabandai Highlands are surrounded by mountains such as Mt.Bandai and many beautiful lakes, so it's popular for walking / hiking all year around, including winter.
    [​IMG]



    Some hotels in Urabandai Highlands have shuttle bus services between Tokyo Station, so it's accessible too.
    [​IMG]
     
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