We have kids and would like to see the snow monkeys and bring the kids for a ski experience.
Do you have a suggested itinerary and would it be advisable to rent a car and drive as we are will arrive in Nagano from Osaka/Kyoto and might be staying near Zenko-ji temple?
Thanks for contacting us with your question about Nagano.
Snow conditions vary in early December, so many ski resorts may not be fully open during your visit. Most snow activities such as snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and sledding begin in late December/early January. The earliest ski resort to open in Nagano is the Karuizawa Prince Ski Resort since it makes its own snow.
One place you should definitely be able to see snow up close during early December is Senjojiki Cirque, located in southern Nagano. It is a beautiful highland area over 2,600 meters high, and you can enjoy the views of the cirque and the distant southern Japanese Alps. For a closer look at Senjojiki, see this Go! Nagano blog post from early spring 2019.
Driving may be worthwhile as public transportation is not so convenient in southern Nagano. Your itinerary may look like this:
Travel from Osaka to Komagane by Car
Stay in Hayataro Onsen
I hope this helps you with your planning. Let me know if you have any other questions.