Family ski day trips

By on November 2, 2011
Yes, day trip skiing from Tokyo is possible. Don’t let language barriers stop you from enjoying a fun day. Go out and discover what there is to see and experience while you are in Japan.Gala Yuzawa is located in Niigata prefecture, around 200 kms away from Tokyo.  It is known for an abundant snowfall.  It has the extra bonus of being set up for English speakers with signage, rental forms, and well-identified English staff (both administrative and Ski Instructors) readily available.  Access has gotten much easier with its own bullet train station at the center of the resort.  It is best reached by Shinkansen in an easy 80 minutes ride from Tokyo Station. From the Shinkansen platform take an escalator directly into the main ski terminal, named “Cowabunga” Ski Center.  From there, it is just a short gondola ride to the mountain top.  Train tickets must be prebooked and may be purchased as a package deal with combinations of Rental Gear, Lift Tickets and other services.

In the main terminal there is a rental shop from which you can get a decent array of ski clothes, snowboard and skis, including smaller sizes for kids. They also have a Takyubin desk where you can send any of your own gear in advance, saving you from carrying the heavy, bulky items on the train. There is also a small shop which carries a limited range of easily forgotten items like gloves, beanies and goggles.

The ski field itself would be best described as beginner to intermediate, although there are a couple of black runs on the back side of the mountain for those seeking a little more of a challenge. There are 11 lifts in total with the longest run being 2350 meters. All  runs are on groomed surfaces, no off-piste.

The lifts directly at the top of the Gondola tend to get a little crowded (sometimes with a 5-10 minute wait), but we found the best way to get around this was to pop the kids in ski lessons so they could zoom on through to the front of the line, as well as learn to ski, of course. For the really small kids or very first timers there is a separate gentle toboggan slope where they can start their experience of downhill adventure.

Our plan of attack is usually to get there early have an hour or so free skiing followed by two hours of lessons. Our kid’s attention span is just about reached by this time, and lunch is the next item on the agenda. There is a large cafeteria-style restaurant at the top of the Gondola where you can purchase a range of international and Japanese foods.

Exhausted and well-fed, we catch the Gondola back to Cowabunga Ski Centre for the afternoon’s activities. They have a large indoor pool and outside spa for playing and relaxing. It’s a great way to break the day up and our kids enjoy the out-of-season swimming opportunity. There is also a traditional onsen to soothe any aching muscles.

A quick change and Takyubin drop off of our wet, bulky clothing and cumbersome boots and skis, before we head back down to the Shinkansen platform, for what is usually a quiet ride home. I think we have a 90% sleep rate for the kids on the way home.

Gala Yuzawa is a great place to take the kids on a Winter’s day. It’s extremely easy and English friendly.  Our kids have fun, while also learning a great sport, which is very satisfying to watch as a parent.


Lift Ticket Price: Adult: ¥4,500 (Full Day), child: ¥2,200 (Full Day)
Gondola:  ¥1,200(Adult), ¥600 (Child)
Preschool children can ride th ski lift for free
Senior prices apply to 55 years and above.

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