Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort

By on February 8, 2016
by Sofie Scott

We had often heard that doing a day trip skiing from Tokyo was possible. We were a little pessimistic as to exactly how reachable the resorts were from Tokyo, and how kiddy friendly they would be. Language barriers and truckloads of gear lugging were also a fear. That was of course, until we discovered Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort.

Gala Yuzawa embodies everything that we love about Japan. It is convenient, well organized and overstaffed. It also 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.
Gala is situated in the Niigata Prefecture, renown for great snow, and is best reached by Shinkansen in an easy 80 minutes from Tokyo Station. From the Shinkansen platform you take an escalator directly into the main ski terminal, named “Cowabunga” Ski Center. From there, it is just a short gondola ride to the mountaintop. It would be impossible to make this any easier unless the Shinkansen itself stopped at the top of the mountain! Train tickets must be pre-booked 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.
get-attachment-8The 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.

get-attachment-9Exhausted 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.
How to get there

Address: Yuzawa 2403-3, Niigata

Phone: 025-785-6543

By train: Closest Station: Gala Yuzawa
Line(s): Shinkansen

By car: Highway/road name: Kanetsu Expressway
Exit name/#: Yuzawa IC to Route 17
Parking Available: Yes


Ski and Snowboard lessons

Rental rates

Hours: 8:00am to 5:00pm or 6:00pm

Tip:  If you want to purchase gear before you go, the best place to go in winter is the sports district on Yasukuni Dori between Shin-Ochanomizu station and Jimbocho station in Kanda (3 minutes from the Imperial Palace).

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