Winter in Japan can be more bone-chilling than a Hitchcock blockbuster, so it's no wonder then that when peak ski season hits, Tokyoites capitalise on their nifty proximity to a slew of nearby slopes. If you’re passing through the Nippon capital with a day to spare, check-out this round-up of the top out-of-town ski destinations to help you get your quicksticks powder fix.
Just 80 mins from Tokyo – and easily accessible via the Joetsu Shinkansen Line to Niigata – Gala Yuzawa is a one-stop spot for day trippers, with a snow park that boasts a total of 17 trails across three distinct areas; from novice to advanced. The Central Area is tops for families, comprising of well-groomed slopes handily positioned next to the dedicated sledding area; the Southern Area draws adrenaline junkies in search of more challenging, offbeat trails, while the Northern Area packs in terrain for all levels of expertise. The latter is also home to convivial eatery Ole for those looking to kick back while taking in the awe-inspiring panoramas. Visitors can nab tickets and get kitted out at Cowabunga Ski Center, which is connected to the train station.
Snow bunnies looking for prime ski and snowboarding conditions also head to Kawaba, located just two hours from the city centre on the southern slopes of Mt Hotaka. Its soaring situ – with a summit of 1,870 metres – affords enviable powder across 11 forested trails of varying difficulty. Among the many attractions is a dedicated Kids Park where budding Vonnabes can perfect their snow ploughs, as well as an artificial mogul trail for technical types, which is counted as one of the best in the Kanto region. Equipment hire and Japanese eateries can be found in Kawaba City at the base of the resort.
Arguably the most impressive of Tokyo’s nearby alpine retreats, ritzy Naeba is home to a state-of-the-art snow park 80 mins from Tokyo, which pulls in local and international visitors alike. Make the Naeba Prince Hotel complex at the foot your base, namely for its A-grade lineup of over 20 dining outlets, equipment rental, shopping and an outdoor hot spring, perfect for soothing icy joints.
While more discerning skiers and snowboarders may seek out one of Naeba’s rivals for better powder conditions, those looking to experience the resort’s top-notch infrastructure and facilities can still enjoy 22 manicured pistes, an array of terrain parks, a snowcross course, a kiddie snow park and indoor ski area, as well as fun-for-all-the-fam Snowland.
Gala Yuzawa / 1039-2 Yuzawa-machi / Minamiuonuma-gun / Niigata / +81 25 785 6543 / 16 Dec, 2017-6 May, 2018 / gala.co.jp
Kawaba / 2755-2 Kawaba Village / Katashina-mura / Tone-gun / Gunma / + 81 278 52 3345 / 2 Dec, 2017-15 Apr, 2018 / kawaba.co.jp
Naeba / 949-6292 Mikuni / Yuzawa-machi / Minamiuonuma-gun / Niigata / + 81 25 789 2211 / 9 Dec, 2017-6 May, 2018 / princehotels.com