There’s nothing more exhilarating than standing on the top of a slope, the pure white snow stretching out below you, or that moment when you lean forward and the wind begins to rush around your face as you start down the mountain in graceful arcs to the bottom.
Yes, the first snow has fallen, which means that winter sports are here. While many people head to the Japanese Alps of Nagano, or up north to Hokkaido, whether it be ski or snowboard, there are plenty of places to hit the snow closer to home.
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, 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. (map)
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. It can get busy, but if you are driving, the slopes empty quite early on with day trippers returning, so you can often have the last hour or two to yourselves.
Getting there: For day-trippers, the bus leaves Nagoya at 7:30, arriving at Dynaland around 10:00 and beginning the journey back at 17:30. The bus 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. (map)
On the eastern slopes of Mt. Dainichi, Takasu Snow Park is connected to Dynaland at the top of the mountain, and you can get a pass that covers both sites giving you access to 32 courses and 43km of ski courses. For snowboarders, there is a Snow Park with kickers, table tops, boxes, and rails, and there is a lovely long black/green slope that flows right from the top to the bottom of the hill. There are even some new ‘tree run’ courses opening for the 2017-2018 season. Due to its popularity, it can get pretty busy, so if you can make it on weekdays, it’s advisable.
Getting there: The Snow Park is 15 min by car from Takasu IC on the Tokai Hokuriku Expressway. There is a shuttle bus from the Dynaland resort, and you can take the bus from Nagoya on similar deals to Dynaland. (map)
If you want something that is a little closer to Nagoya than Dynaland/Takasu, or you want to hit another set of slopes on the way home, Winghills Shirotori Resort, on pretty much the same route to Mt Dainichi, is the most accessible, big field ski resort in the area. The resort has a long season with natural snow and even opens in the summer with snowmats. There is a snow park for snowboarders, and on weekends it opens at 5 am, meaning you can get a full day on the slopes, and then some.
Getting there: While drivers should have no problems, access without a car is pretty tough. By car, the park is less than 6 km from the Takasu IC on the Tokai Hokuriku Expressway and a little over 18 km from the Shirotori IC on the Tokai Hokuriku Expressway. (map)
Although there are seven routes for all ability levels, with the longest run at 1.5km, Hirugano Kogen in Gujo is mainly 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 are prohibited, as well as 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. (map)
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. (map)
Washigakate – known by the locals as ‘Washi’ – starts with a 400m wide main trail. Many of the 13 trails are intermediate level and excellent for easy skiing and snowboarding. There is a park for both boarders and skiers of all ability levels.
Getting there: Pretty straightforward from Nagoya by car, the resort is just 5 km from the Takasu IC on the Tokai Hokuriku Expressway (map)
White Pia Takasu is a small ski resort with just five ski lifts, but it does have a pretty decent 430 meters of vertical descent as well as 13 pistes. It is probably best suited for intermediate skiers and snowboarders, but there is also plenty of terrain for beginners and experts too. If you find it is a little small for your tastes you can make your way over to the nearby Washigakate slopes with which it shares a lift pass,
Getting there: Getting off the Takasu IC on the Tokai Hokuriku Expressway, it is just a couple of kilometers pat the Washigakate resort. (map)
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 make the trip worthwhile. And while mountain peaks tend to be the reserve of those with advanced skiing ability, even beginners can 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. (map)
Snow Wave Park Shiratori Kogen is a resort for skiers and snowboarders who want to take things a little more off-road. With north facing slopes at an altitude of 1,276m, it claims to be a bit wilder than your average resort, incorporating the nature into the runs to give it more of an off-piste feeling. There is also a free kids’ park and one day lift passes for kids up to elementary school year six are free.
Getting there: Take the Shirotori IC on the Tokai Hokuriku Expressway, and then 17km along the 156 and 314 (map)
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 that you can ski with Hello Kitty herself. Heavens Sonohara is a skiing only resort, so no snowboarders, unfortunately.
Getting the: 1km from the Sonohara exit on the Chuo Expressway, so you can drive there without snow tires or chains. (map)
For information on heading further afield, check out our page on Skiing in Japan.
By Mark Guthrie