Nozawa Onsen is a huge resort with more a dozen lifts, two gondolas, and some of the best terrain in Japan for all levels of skier and snowboarder. Beginners will appreciate plenty of wide open slopes and interesting trails whilst those with more experience will love the powder and amazing tree skiing.
There are plenty of restaurants up on the mountain, most where you can get a very hearty meal for around ¥1000. The resort offers childcare and ski lessons, based out of the Hikage Information centre.
The Fire Festival
On January 15 every year, Nozawa Onsen plays host to the Dosojin Hi-Matsuri (Dosojin Fire Festival. This spectacular event attracts camera crews from around Japan and visitors from all over the planet. The Fire Festival participants are villagers in there “Yakudoshi” (Unlucky years) and the fire festival helps them get over it.
The fire festival is held over three days, and there are several events held in the lead up to the night of the 15th. The fire festival would probably be more aptly named “sake fuelled fire fight” – whatever way you call it, it’s highly entertaining and well worth the trip.
Nozawa Onsen is a very snowy place. The average maximum base on the Yamabiko area is 3.75m. The average snowfall is well over 10 metres per year. The season starts at the end of November, however there is no snowmaking at Nozawa so the opening date cannot be gauranteed. Usually by Christmas all lifts and most of the terrain is up and running and peak season is January and February. Spring skiing can be good, the entire resort usually stays open for all of March with better weather and empty slopes. The last few seasons have even seen powder days right into April.
Nozawa Onsen is an old hotspring village, which has been renown for centuries for it’s excellent mineral rich onsens. The feudal lord of Nagano used Oyu (the grand old wooden onsen in the middle of town) as his personal getaway, and once that was opened up to the public tourism really kicked off. Resort Inn Toemu has 3 free public onsens within very close walking distance. Nozawa Onsen has been at the forefront of Japanese skiing since early last century, when Hannes Schneider visited Nozawa to teach. Nozawa Onsen subsequently started a sister town relationship with St. Anton, and named one of the best runs on the resort after Schneider.
The skiing at Nozawa is top class and so is the village. The town has a great atmosphere and it’s not hard to imagine the Japan of old as you walk down the cobbled streets. There are many restaurants to choose from and a few great bars as well. It is a very convenient village, once you are in town there is no need to take a shuttle bus to get around – everything is walking distance. Resort Inn Toemu is in a great location to take advantage of it all, between the slopes and the main street of the village just above the post office.