Nozawa Onsen – Honshu, Japan – The Definitive Guide

September 23rd, 2015

Words don’t do justice to the quality of Japanese pow, especially not in Nozawa Onsen. Image:: Andrew Fawcett

Transfer | Words by Richie Carroll

It’s safe to say that the average Aussie or Kiwi snowboarder is well and truly acquainted with Hokkaido and its offerings. These days, droves of antipodean tourists flock there year after year – crowds are actually beginning to turn some people off. As a result, many riders who travel to Japan are keen to explore destinations that have remained relatively under-the-radar up until now.

Check out the third in a four part series covering our pick of the best resorts in Nagano and Niigata prefectures.

Nozawa Onsen is known around Japan for its network of free onsens, there’s even an onsen for tired ski feet. Image:: Andrew Fawcett

Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen is one of the most beautiful ski resort villages in Japan. It’s famous for its abundance of hot springs that were discovered in the 8th century. The steam rises up throughout the town from the used Onsen water that escapes downhill. Nozawa Onsen has a quiet nature, offering a very peaceful and relaxing vibe. Unlike Shiga Kogen, Nozawa Onsen is made up of the one ski resort but is quite large, offering 300 hectares of terrain and a big-for-japan 1,085 meters in vertical drop. This place is the powder-hound’s dream. It receives over ten meters of snow each season.

The village offers a very traditional old-world Japan feel. Image:: Andrew Fawcett

Nozawa Onsen is located 46km northeast of the city of Nagano and 249km northwest of Tokyo.

How To Get There
The best option to get to Nozawa Onsen from Narita Airport is to get a shuttle from the airport straight to Nozawa. If you’re looking to get there on the cheapest budget possible you can get a bullet train from Tokyo Narita Airport to Iiyama, and catch a bus from there to the resort.

Where to Stay
The best thing about Nozawa Onsen is that the high-rise ski hotels you see in most resort towns are non-existent here. The best accommodation options are the Ryokans, or Japanese style inns. This way you can really immerse yourself in the Nozawa Onsen culture. However, there are many western-styled rooms available with English speaking staff, but where’s the excitement in that?

Where to Party
Nozawa Onsen is one of the livelier Japanese resort towns. The town has several bars to keep you entertained and enough karaoke to silence your vocal chords for a week. Check out the Stay Bar, it’s always playing good tunes and has local bands come and play on weekends. If you really wanna party, be there on January 15th for the annual Fire Festival. The entire village comes out and drinks sake as men aged 42 and 25 battle it out in a ceremony to ward off evil spirits in front of a large wooden shrine that’s set alight at the conclusion of the festivities.

Clint Allan soars high above the Nozawa roadside avy barriers. Image:: Andrew Fawcett

Pow Rating
Nozawa Onsen scored itself a 7/10 on the pow rating. It cops heaps of powder and offers a combo of reasonably steep terrain, tree runs and a heap of wave-shaped gullies, Nozawa Onsen is definitely a resort that every powder hound needs to experience.

Insider Tips
Don’t be afraid to get into the gullies on a good day, the flow from wall to wall with knee deep powder is bound to keep a smile on your face from top to bottom. Also be prepared to come with an open mind and be ready to experience an amazing display of traditional Japanese culture at the footstep of one of the best ski resorts in Honshu.

Coordinates: 36.9167° N, 138.4333° E
Island: Honshu
Closest City: Nagano
Population: 4,437
Resorts: 1
Elevation: 1,650m
Vertical Drop: 1,085m
Ski Patrol / Mountain Safety: Yes
Avalanche Control: Yes
Terrain: Freeride
Parks: 2
Touring: Yes
Pow Rating: 4/5
Other Activities: Nozawa has some of the hottest Onsen water anywhere in Japan. There are about 30 free onsens dotted throughout the village