There’s nothing more exhilarating than standing on the top of a slope, the pure white snow stretching out below you, that moment when you lean forward and the wind begins to rush around your face and you head in graceful arcs to the bottom.
Yes, the first snow has fallen, which means that the season of winter sports is here. While many people head to the Japanese alps of Nagano, or up north to Hokkaido, whether it be ski or snowboard, there are in fact plenty of places to hit the snow closer to home.
Chuasuyama Kogen Ski Area
The only slope in Aichi prefecture, Chausuyama Kogen is ideally suited for intermediate or beginner enthusiasts. It is situated on the highest mountain in the prefecture and is set within a national park. There are three slopes, the longest of which is 1km.
Getting there: If you are taking the train go to Toeie on the Iida line, then bus, or you can go by Car to Toyokawa IC on the Tomei expressway then via route 151
Dynaland Ski Area
For those living in Nagoya, Dynaland is probably the biggest and best choice, particularly for day-trippers. There are eighteen routes of varying levels, with the more advanced routes further up the hill. For snowboarders there is a Snow Park with kickers, table tops, boxes and rails. Due to its popularity it can get pretty busy, so if you can make it on weekdays, it’s advisable.
Getting there: For day-trippers the bus leaves Nagoya at 7:30, arriving at Dynaland around 10:00 and leaving at 17:30 and costs between ¥5,800 and ¥6,900. By Train head to Mino-shirotori on the Nagaragawa railway, then bus. Drivers head for the Takasu IC on the Tokai Hokuriku expressway then 7km by local road
Hirugano Kogen Ski Area
Although there are seven routes for all ability levels, with the longest run at 1.5km, Hirugano Kogen in Gujo is particularly aimed at the family skiing experience. With easy slopes for children and beginners, there is also a Kid’s Land in which skiing and snowboarding is prohibited, a 250-meter sled course and a snow rafting ride.
Getting there: A quick 5-minute drive from Hirugano Kogen SA(Service Area) on the Toukai-Hokuriku Highway. A Meitetsu One Day Ski Bus Tour costs between ¥4,700 and ¥6,000. It leaves Nagoya at 7:30 and arrives at Hirugano Kogen at 10:40. The bus departs Hirugano Kogen at 16:50. If you’re taking the train go to Mino-shirotori on the Nagaragawa railway, then bus.
Meiho Ski Resort
Also in Gujo is the Meiho Ski Resort. There are four ski slopes and 12 trails, but it is the 360 degree panoramic view of the north alps that really make the trip worthwhile. And while mountain peaks tend to be the reserve of those with advanced skiing ability, even beginners are able to follow Meiho Ski Resort’s 5000m trail from the summit.
Getting there: Take the Nagaragawa railway to Gujo-hachiman, then bus 50 minutes. For drivers head to Gujo-hachiman IC on the Tokai Hokuriku expressway then 28km by route 472
Ciao Ontake Ski Resort
As the name suggests, the resort is located on the northern slopes of Gifu’s famous Mt. Ontake. There are a few courses suited for more advanced skiers as well as plenty for beginners and intermediate riders. There are three 2km trails, and the snow is a first rate, dry powder. There is also nearby Nigorigo Onsen, complete with mixed bathing, to help soothe those aches and pains of a long day on the slopes. Lift passes for kids and elementary schoolers are free.
Getting there: On the train head to Kisofukushima on the Chuo line, then bus. By car take Nakatsugawa IC on Chuo Expressway then about 1 hour on local roads
Heavens Sonohara Ski Area
Okay, so Heavens Sonohara may be a little out of remit as it is in Nagano prefecture, however, at around 1.5 hours from Nagoya it is still pretty accessible. There are courses for all ability levels as well as lessons using the Italian School method. In recent years they have teamed up with Sanrio, so you can ski with Hello Kitty herself. This is a skiing only resort, so no snowboarders unfortunately.
Getting there: Being just 1km from the Sonohara exit on the Chuo Expressway, you can drive there without snow tires or chains.
For information on heading further afield, check out our page on Skiing in Japan.
By Mark Guthrie
Image: flickr.com "five go skiing" by d e b u d a (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) – Modified