There are great views down to the Chikuma River valley from up on the mountain at Togari Onsen Ski Fields
Last weekend my wife and I went skiing with a couple of Japanese friends at Togari Onsen ski fields. Being new to skiing in Nagano, we have been trying out various ski fields and comparing their strengths and weaknesses. We liked Togari Onsen ski fields for a number of reasons. First, it was good value. The day lift pass is 4000 yen for adults (and only 2500 yen for over 50’s – show some ID to prove your seniority). In addition to the lift pass, you get a free entry to one of the two local hot springs (worth 500 yen), plus a 100 yen discount coupon to use in one of the restaurants. You also get “repeater” tickets and when you have collected five of them, you can get further discounts. The other good value aspect was the Sky Top (スカイトップ) restaurant at the base of the Casseopea lifts. It had udon, curry rice and so on for 600 yen, compared to 1000 yen or so at the Kogen Warabi restaurant next door.
Second, we liked the fact that the ski fields were not too crowded. Our friends had been to Togari years before, and they describe it as a “local” ski field. By this they mean that it is relatively unknown. Certainly it did not have the long lines for the lifts that you find at Nozawa Onsen or Hakuba. It is often the case that the cheaper the lift pass, the slower the lifts, or the less variety in the slopes. But at Togari the quad lifts in particular were fast enough, and there is plenty of variety in the slopes. The slopes were relatively uncluttered, so I didn’t feel that it was just a snowy version of Tokyo’s legendarily crowded Shinjuku crossing.
There are two main parking areas at Togari. The one to the south is at the base of the set of runs known as Pegasus, while to the north is the Orion side. Further up the mountain, the two sides are joined by the Casseopea runs. There is a total of over 11kms of runs, with more than 4kms for beginners, 5kms of intermediate level, and 2kms for advanced skiers. Intermediate level skiers have access to all parts of the mountain, unlike some resorts where you have to be an advanced skier to ski at the top of the mountain. The beginner runs are relatively easy compared to beginner runs at other places I have been skiing, while there is quite a bit of variation in the difficulty level of the intermediate runs.
The snow conditions were quite good the day we visited, especially in the morning. Because the resort is not as high as say Shiga Kogen, there is a tendency for the lower slopes to get a bit icy later in the day. But up on the Casseopia runs the snow stayed good and powdery all day.
After skiing, you can choose between Akatsuki Onsen, near Pegasus, and Nozomi Onsen, near Orion, to soothe your muscles. My “Nagano Onsen Guide: The Top 100 Day-Use Onsens” (if you are interested, you can get it on amazon.com) recommends Nozomi Onsen because of its superior outdoor bath view, landscaping and environment. It is right across the road from the car park at Orion.
Togari Onsen Ski Fields are located in Iiyama City, about 45km by car from downtown Nagano City. You can find a location map for Togari onsen at the English language Snow Japan site http://www.snowjapan.com/e/resorts/resort_map.php?resortNo=41 – the marker on the map is positioned at the Pegasus car park.