A Perfect Shigakogen Ski Stay – “We came back!”

Who: We’re an Australian couple in our early 30s looking for a no-fuss ski holiday in Japan. Having skied and stayed here before, we knew all we had to do for this holiday was to get to the hotel and everything else would be taken care of.

What’s new in Shigakogen? Compared to 2 years ago, the ski slopes are still beautiful powder snow with very little crowds..amazes us each time. We usually have no wait at lifts or a maximum of 2-3 people/groups per lift in front of us. It still also feels very local, so you are not surrounded by other tourists. Again we skied for 5 days, and its such a huge area that we did not get bored, nor were we able to cover all the slopes. This time round, we enjoyed exploring from the Maruike lifts (the one closest to the hotel) to the Yakebitaiyama area which has lovely views and slopes. On our skis it took about 1.5h each way (intermediate skier slowing down an expert). Note that this ski area has no night skiing, centralised entertainment area, party scene etc. just wholesome local skiing.

Location: We took a shinkansen from the Tokyo area and then a Nagaden Express Bus from bus stop 23 of Nagano East Exit (bus trip is about 1h). You can buy your bus ticket at the bus stop/on the bus and it costs 1700 yen one way. The Hasuike bus stop is only about 2mins walk from the hotel (the bus stop has moved to across the road, it used to be just behind the hotel in the carpark). We love the location of this hotel – its next to the Hasuike bus stop which is a major bus terminal in the area, so easy to get to/from the big cities, and its practically ski in/out. We walk across the carpark at the back of the hotel which takes about 1-2mins and ski down to the Maruike ski lifts, and ski back to where we started at the end of the day.

Rooms: We requested a room on the 5th floor because they include an amazing massage chair. This is compensation for the fact that the lifts stop on level 4 and you have to carry your luggage up the extra floor..totally worth it! We stayed in a Western style twin room which included 2 single beds, a private bathroom/toilet, sitting area, TV, mini fridge, tea making facilities, safe, wardrobe, yukata, towels, toiletries and fast free WIFI. Very comfortable and clean. Serviced daily.

Facilities: Check in/out was quick and straightforward. Payment is made at check-out and will include accommodation costs, spa tax (incurred at all properties with onsen), and any rentals/lift coupons/drinks you have during your stay. The lobby has a luggage storage area, a library corner, a small store (selling snacks, alcohol, drinks, souvenirs, ski gloves etc at comparable prices to other shops in the city despite its captive audience) and coin exchanger. The onsen was wonderful. There are large separate ones for men and women (an indoor and outdoor onsen in each) and 2 private onsen you could access without booking, as long as it was free. My husband and I enjoyed the private onsen every night for 6 nights, and never had a problem with it being occupied. I also enjoyed the women’s onsen one night and there were only 2 other women there at the time. The onsens include shampoo/conditioner/face wash/shaving cream and hair dryer. We also made use of the coin laundry/dryer before we left. There is laundry detergent provided. There’s also a table tennis room on the first floor which we never tried, surprisingly that was often occupied, and massage chairs in the lobbies on each floor.

Ski Rental: Ski gear is kept in the basement of the hotel. Its very big. We rented skis, stocks, helmet for about 2300 yen per day/person. The ski gear is good and my husband’s boots were only 1-2 years old. We also bought the lift coupons (1 or 2 day passes) which averaged about 4200 yen a day/person, representing a saving of about 20% compared to purchasing from the ski fields. Fitting was efficient and took about 10mins. There are free to use lockers and a dry room. They also offer a small shelf of ski gear you can borrow including gloves, scarves, small backpacks and sunscreen.

Meals: Breakfast and dinner are included in the accommodation cost. There is no centralised town/entertainment area in Shigakogen, so guests generally half board when they visit. The meals here are hearty and healthy. A typical breakfast would consist of a few small side dishes like salad, scrambled eggs, soup, grilled fish, rice and can be supplemented with toast and yogurt at a self serve table. Dinner would be a hot pot as a main with many sides including salads, sashimi, soup, fish and small dessert. For a 50kg Asian woman, I was very full at each meal and would often ski and skip lunch, for my 75kg half Caucasian husband the meals were satisfactory but he would have to have lunch. Overall, the food was tasty. However, fish and vegetables are over represented which might not suit everyones tastes, and my husband longed for more of their tasty desserts which came out in small portions.

What are the downsides? This place is perfect for us. Its comfortable, convenient and lovingly managed. For others, it might not be a grand luxurious modern hotel with elaborate meals.

Overall: We love coming back here and have made it our local ski haunt in Japan. The staff are wonderful and the hotel feels warm and personal. It has so many thoughtful touches and makes for a care-free trip.

From Australia
Jan. ’19
Stayed at Hotel Shirakabaso, Shiga Kogen, Nagano