One thing I miss about Canada would be a big ski hill in Banff, Alberta. I started skiing in the first year of my undergraduate. Since the ski resort is located in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, it was always great to enjoy the landscape of magnificent mountains at the peak of the hill.
When I just started living in Japan, I intuitively knew there should be a way to ski without spending a lot of money though, it was quite difficult to understand the booking procedure or where to book due to lack of language skills. Especially as a graduate student, I had to consider the time and my budget. In this post, I would like to introduce a cost- and time-efficient plan to enjoy skiing in Japan.
There are multiple spots for skiing in Japan. In general, the length of the slopes may be short, but the quality of the powder is competitive to other resorts in the rest of the world. Among them, Niigata (Yuzawa) provides an advantage in terms of the distance from Tokyo. Although it is displaced from Tokyo by 200 km, it takes only ~70 minutes by Shinkansen bullet train. So, if you leave early in the morning, you can make it to the ski resort at least by noon and enjoy skiing for the rest of the day.
In addition, there might be reasonable deals provided by the train company. For example, I often use a package deal that includes the both-way train ticket and the all-day-long lift ticket. This package deal could be found on a website called “Ekinet” and only costs around 11000 yen (~100 USD). However, please note that such package deals are only available during the ski season. Therefore, it is important to keep your eyes on the updates on the package deals if you miss skiing or snowboarding in Japan.
Here are some photos I took when I visited the Gala-Yuzawa ski resort in Niigata with my brother. Gala-Yuzawa ski resort is one of the largest ski areas in Japan. There are more than 15 courses and well-distributed by the level of the course. So, no matter if you and your friend are a beginner or a pro, you can enjoy the ski resort with your friends as well. The best part of the ski resort is the deep and soft powder and the magnificent landscape of the mountains you can only see at the top of mountains.
The resort is easy to access from Tokyo. I left early in the morning and took the Shinkansen at the Tokyo station and took off at the Echigo-Yuzawa station. Once you get out of the station, there will be a free shuttle bus waiting for you to escort you to the ski resort.
I also recommend taking some rest at a hot spring after skiing near Yuzawa. Hot springs in Yuzawa have a long history, and you can experience the atmosphere of Japanese traditional hot-spring. The admission fee for an adult is very cheap (500-600 yen) so, there is no reason to skip this if you have some time after skiing.
I highly recommend you to experience this Japanese-style ski trip (Ski come along with the hot spring) while you staying at Tokyo Tech.
● Information about Banff: