It’s November, and you know what that means.
Ski resorts all over the Northern Hemisphere start getting plenty of snowfall. They post photos on Facebook, which give you intense FOMO. You haven’t booked a trip for the upcoming season, but your friends are all bragging about their own plans, and dreams of cutting lines through fresh powder slopes begin to haunt you at night.
This is when you need to reach for your wallet, give a little prayer to the credit card gods, and find the best deal still to be found out there – like visiting Nozawa Onsen, particularly in the spring time.
Nozawa Onsen is commonly believed to be the birth place of Japanese skiing, with skiing introduced to them by Austrian skier Theodor von Lerch all the way back in 1912, leading to the mountain opening in 1924. It was the first place in Japan to install ski lifts and the first place where locals really became enthusiastic about the whole sliding-down-a-mountain-with-weird-planks-on-your-feet thing.
These days, it’s insanely popular with international tourists in the months of January and February (for good reason) – but by March, all have disappeared and gone home, leaving mounds of powder behind and plenty of good times to be found.
Plenty of powder (and a serious base)
Nozawa Onsen receives over 10 metres of snow every season and stays open into May – so you know that you’re still going to get some decent dumps during a stay in March or April. You’re also more likely to see some sunny days, which are always welcome if you’re planning on taking kids (bonus – Nozawa is very kid-friendly with English-speaking ski schools).
With the snow typically being the best around the end of February or beginning of March, you’ll also reap the benefits of a great base of over three metres. Perfect for exploring the 297 hectares of terrain to be found here with over 1000m of vertical and about 50km of ski trails, all serviced by 25 lifts.
Not bad, not bad at all.
You’ll have the slopes to yourself during the day and, by night, you can wander the beautifully traditional village and have your pick of the delicious soba noodles, or okonomiyaki, or gyoza, or whatever takes your fancy.
Look forward to a plethora of alleys and avenues paved in stone and lined with sweet izakayas, restaurants and even the town’s famed ‘foot onsens’ on the side of the streets.
All up, Nozawa offers 13 public hot spring baths, known as ‘sotoyu’, all of which are free of charge and also blissfully uncrowded in the spring time.
They’re fed by over 30 natural springs and, beyond foot onsens, offer everything from outdoor onsen experiences to cool cave onsens.
Planning a visit for later in the season means it’s also the perfect time to catch the best of other parts of Japan while, helpfully, not freezing. The days are warmer and if you’re lucky, you may even be able to catch some cherry blossoms while exploring – the season usually kicks off from about mid-March onwards, with 2020 forecast to be approximately March 18 to May 7.
The Toumyo Matsuri Winter Lantern Festival is held annually in March, and is the best possible way to celebrate a Japanese holiday with the locals while sampling free sake and ice cream. Plus live music, fireworks and all the lanterns your dreams could possibly conjure up.
It’s cheaper. Of course.
The resort offers up cheaper lift tickets in the spring time, and there is cheaper accommodation to be found, leaving you more cash to spend on ramen, sushi magnet souvenirs and the activities in Nozawa. Like visiting the Japanese ski museum, or braving the zip line – one of the longest in Japan – which will get you flying at up to 70km/h as you glide over the snow.
How about the following with Nozawa Holidays…
- 15% off all bookings before December 20 or after March 15
- 20% off all bookings after April 7
Need an idea for how much a family package might set you back? You can nab a seven night stay in a Japanese-style tatami Room with a share bathroom, including six days of lift passes, healthy daily breakfast and use of all hot springs from just 67,650 yen per adult, and children from just 32,825 yen.
That’s a total of 200,950 Yen – about $2680 AUD.