5. Nozawa Onsen, Honshu

Nozawa Onsen, in Nagano Prefecture, is a place where Japanese families have skied from one season to the next with standing lodge reservations for generations. It boasts a huge ski area, one of the largest in Japan. The vertical descent is 1,085 meters (3559 feet) which is a whole lot for Japan, even though it might seem small compared to Europe or North America. At the same time, you can’t find Japanese powder in Europe or North America. The snow, like everywhere else in Japan, comes in large quantities and is a fair bit heavier than what is generally found in Hokkaido.

nozawa-backcountry-skiing
Although becoming increasingly popular, Nozawa Onsen offers a massive area for ski touring and 3500 feet of vertical descent — a lot for Japan. Photo: Tracy Lenard Collection

Skiing for all styles

Nozawa Onsen used to be a hidden gem, but has become increasingly more popular with the addition of the Iiyama Shinkansen station. The influx of people means the fresh powder might not stay untracked for long. The resort allows for short hikes to some powder bowls and long tours. It truly has something for all styles of skiing.

While the powder and the skiing is amazing, one of the other highlights is the town itself. Since it hasn’t been turned into a huge international resort, the town offers a more traditional Japanese experience. It is known for its 13 free public hot baths, or sotoyu, so much so that while walking down the street you will be surrounded by steam.

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