Skiing in Nagano: Togakushi Ski Resort (1300m-1800m)

For my last ski trip of the season, I headed to a place I hadn’t really considered until recently. While shopping for a ski mask, I picked up a brochure for the Togakushi Ski Resort (also called Togakushi Ski Field or Togakushi Snow World). I read online that it was an old-fashioned, smaller resort off the beaten track, and I decided to keep it in reserve. With the good February weather continuing, it’s number came up. Access was straightforward, since I had been to Togakushi highland many times before. I had even crossed a part of the resort when hiking Mt Iizuna a few years ago. The Alpico bus company even sold a combined bus roundtrip / ski pass for 5500 yen. I had to choose between leaving at 6am or 7am. The weather forecast was cloudy in the morning with sun and blue skies arriving around 2pm, so I opted for the later departure. If the Japanese Meteorological Agency was right, I would get to see what Togakushi Kogen looked like in the winter.

Early afternoon view

Late afternoon view

It was a shock to see that it was snowing lightly when I arrived at Nagano station . There wasn’t much I could do about it, but since I had half an hour before the bus left, I decided to change into my warmer ski clothes inside the station. It continued to snow during the entire bus ride, and I was starting to feel pessimistic about the day’s prospects. I arrived at the ski resort at 11am and decided to have an early lunch at Charmant restaurant. Afterwards, I would get my gear from the rental shop on the second floor or the Guest House, since starting from noon, the day prices were 1000 yen cheaper. I got the cheese burger and fries, filling but not too heavy; a good thing, since I had a full afternoon of skiing ahead of me.

View of the North Alps from the panorama slope

Dramatic view of Mt Togakushi

It was still snowing when I took my first chairlift at 12h30. I had planned to head to the highest point of the resort, Mt Menou (1748m), but it was still in the clouds. Instead, I headed to the top of Mt Kenashi (1549m – no relation to the one in Nozawa Onsen). Most people seemed to be skiing the black slopes on the West side. I was more interested in the “Sweet” slope, a red that zigzagged through the forest on the South side. It felt like a blue, except for the hairpin curves – I had to be careful not to ski straight into the forest!

Skiing the Shakunage slope

A view you might get in the Swiss Alps

I then decided to try the black “panorama” slope, also on the south side. I found out why few people were skiing it – the top layer was frozen snow, and instead of biting into the slope, my skis skidded over them helplessly. Although it was still snowing gently, the weather was slowly improving, and I could now see the northern part of the North Alps ahead. I decided that it was about time to move to the other side of the resort.

View from the top of Mt Menou

Skiing the Menou slope

The sun was shining by the time I reached the top of Mt Menou. Opposite, I could see the jagged summit ridge of Mt Togakushi. To the right was the peak of Mt Takatsuma, a hundred famous mountain, its highest point popping through the clouds. I had climbed this peak twice, once in bad weather and once in good weather. As I skied down the “shakunage” slope (meaning rhododendron), I was awed by the dramatic views of the Togakushi mountains – it reminded me of skiing in the Swiss Alps.

The views were also great at the bottom of the resort

The black slopes of Mt Kenashi

The weather kept steadily improving during the afternoon, and eventually all the clouds disappeared from the surrounding mountains. Looking north, I could also see Mt Kurohime, with Mt Myoko visible just behind, Mt Hiuchi and Mt Yake. After enjoying the “shakunage” run a few more times, I made my way back to the base of the resort to return my skis. At 5pm I was back on the bus for Nagano station, and by 6h30 I was speeding back to Tokyo on the shinkansen.

See the views of the Togakushi Ski Resort

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