What do ski lifts do in the Green Season? Just sit around waiting for the snow to fall to bring skiiers? Not here in Nagano. Many snow resorts operate lifts in the summer, too, providing access to alpine wonderlands usually not easily reached. The lifts can give you a break from the stifling summer heat by taking you up to mountain tops where it’s several degrees cooler than down below.
Some mountain resorts attract guests by planting fields of flowers on the ski runs, such as lilies in Hakuba’s Iwatake, and cosmos flowers at Kurohime (in bloom from mid-July to mid-October).
Lilies at the top of Hakuba's Iwatake lift -- Even prettier on a sunny day
Our family recently rode the lift at Hijiri Kogen. There the attraction wasn’t the flowers, it was the 360-degree panorama view (as well as the slider ride on the way back down). Hijiri Kogen is best reached by car (approx. 25 min.) from Omi IC on the Nagano Expressway.
Panorama View from Top of Hijiri Kogen Lift
Riding the Lift Up
Riding the Slider Down
Shiga Kogen Heights offer alpine trekking easily reached by a series of lifts and even escalators (at Yokoteyama). One such route is described here.
As Nagano transitions from summer to fall, the greens are replaced by golden yellows, browns and reds as the fall foliage comes on. Even more reason to ride Nagano’s ski lifts in skiing’s off-season!
Last week, I took part in Hakuba’s premier green season event: “Hana San-Mi”. There are 11 areas in the village, from flower-lined streams in town to alpine flowers at 2000-meters, reachable by a special shuttle bus and/or ski lifts that operate in the summer. Our group got to see 2 of the areas. The “Seseragi-no-Sato” is in town. It’s a little rock-lined stream with quaint bridges over it and flower pots all over and bushes and bushes of brilliantly blooming hydrangeas. The scene just begs to be photographed.
After that, we moved to the Iwateke area and rode the lift to the Iwatake Lily Garden. 500,000 lilies are planted around the 1289-meter peak. The colorful flowers with the Hakuba Valley below and the massive Hakuba peaks above makes for a dynamic scene. The day we were there it was cloudy — on a clear day the view must be even more impressive. This summer, there have been an unusually few amount of clear days. That also means fewer tourists, so you can have the nature to yourself.
For lunch, we stopped at Shouya Maruhachi, a feudal merchant’s house that has recently been renovated to bring back its original Edo-era glory. It is located along the Seseragi-no-Sato. I was really pleased to get to see the residence, because when Shouya Maruhachi’s brochure was made last winter, I was the one tapped to write the English. It was great to see it in person. I realized, though, that my words didn’t do justice to the workmanship that went into the residence. If you get a chance, check it out.
白馬村観光局・花三味 Hakuba Tourism Commission / Hana San-Mi
Lodging: Ski Japan Holidays; JHN Travel