Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, sledding and more: there are plenty of activities to enjoy in Nagano's snowy mountains!
The winters in Nagano, while cold, are picturesque. The mountains and valleys are covered in a carpet of snow, trees are frosted with ice, and fine diamond dust shimmers in the air. Japanese macaques warm themselves in steamy hot springs and solitary kamoshika (Japanese Serow) plow through the snowy woods foraging for food.
Most travelers flock to Nagano this time of year to enjoy its plentiful powder snow on the ski slopes, but there are plenty of activities for those interested in connecting with nature and playing in snow. See a new side of Nagano while snowshoeing through the woods or enjoy an exhilarating ride on a snowmobile. See our recommended winter activities below!
Snowshoeing in the Great Outdoors
Snowshoeing has a long history in Japan, going back as far as 15,000 years to the Jomon period. With the heavy snowfall in central and northern Japan, snowshoes were an important part of everyday life during winter. Now, they give us the opportunity to travel into the heart of Nagano’s wilderness, seeing otherwise inaccessible mountain views.
Walk on top of meter-high snow fields and enjoy an entirely new perspective of Nagano. Work up a sweat and finally appreciate the crisp, winter air. On a snowshoe tour, take a break with a hot cup of coffee or tea in the midst of nature. Snowshoeing is also a great way to observe local wildlife.
Snowshoeing rentals and tours are available throughout Nagano. Numerous ski resorts offer snowshoe rentals and courses at the top of the mountains, and many of Nagano’s highland areas have rentals and tours as well. Places that offer snowshoe activities include: Iwatake Snow Field in Hakuba, Togakushi (Nagano City), Nabekura Kogen (Iiyama City), and Norikura Kogen (Matsumoto).
Snowmobiling in Hakuba, Shigakogen, and More!
Wind blows through your hair and snow explodes at your back as you speed through open plains on a snowmobile. Enjoy an exhilarating ride while gazing at wonderful winter scenery. Perfect for families with young adults. Some snowmobiling tours also offer tandem rides where younger children can ride together with their parents.
Snowmobile tours are handled mainly by Hakuba Lion Adventures. They offer snowmobile tours at Hakuba 47 Winter Sports Park in Hakuba and the Yakebitai Ski Area in Shigakogen. Several ski resorts also offer shorter snowmobile tours as a break from skiing, such as Tangram Ski Resort and Kurohime Kogen.
Ice Skating in Olympic Arenas or Cozy Winter Woods
Most Nagano locals grow up on the ski slopes, but in eastern Nagano, ice skating is where it’s at. The snowfall isn’t as heavy in Ueda, Saku, and Karuizawa, but the weather is noticeably colder, so there are many frozen lakes and ponds on which to skate. We won’t recommend you to jump onto any frozen pond that you see, but there are many ice skating facilities to enjoy the winter atmosphere.
In Karuizawa, you can enjoy outdoor ice skating at the Kera-ike Skating Rink in the Hoshino area. The irregular shape of the rink surrounded by the warmly lit bar and frosty trees creates the perfect winter atmosphere. Hoshino is also known for its beautiful Christmas illuminations. Enjoy an ideal winter experience in Karuizawa!
In Nagano City, you can skate at the M-Wave arena from early October to mid-March. Once the competitive venue for the speed skating events of the 1998 Winter Olympics, it now holds exhibitions, offers ice skating, and has a museum dedicated to the 1998 Olympics on the premises.
Snowcat Tours around Nozawa or Utsukushigahara
Ever wondered what it’s like to ride in one of the red tanks you see parked along the ski resort? Take a Snowcat Tour and enjoy a bumpy yet scenic ride in one these beasts. You’ll travel off the beaten path and see parts of the ski resort that only the naughtiest of skiers get to see.
Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort offers a regular snowcat tour around Mt. Kenashi.
In Utsukushigahara, usually inaccessible during winter, guests at the Ougatou Hotel can enjoy snowcat tours as well. Actually, the only way to reach the hotel in winter is by snowcat!
At Sugadaira Kogen’s Okudavos ski resort, you can take a snowcat up the mountain and walk to the 2,207-meter-high peak of Mt. Nekodake.
Enjoying the Snow on Sled, Snow Raft, or Fat Bike
Ski resorts are increasingly offering ski and snowboard alternatives so that travelers of all backgrounds can enjoy the snow. Sleds, inner tubes, snow bikes and more give adults and children alike new ways to enjoy the best season of the year. Even longtime skiers and snowboarders will enjoy taking a break from their sticks to play in the snow.
Snow rafting is also a popular activity, where a snowmobile pulls people along on a large, inflatable raft. Some facilities even build specialized rafting courses with banks, curves and ramps.
Kurohime Kogen Ski Resort and the Ryuoo Adventure Park offer a variety of winter activities for the whole family.
Snow Activity Details and other Winter Sightseeing Opportunities
Surrounded by the Japanese Alps, Nagano offers beautiful scenery and loads of winter activities. Enjoy snowshoeing, snowmobiling, skating and more while taking in the crisp mountain air, and don’t forget to see some of Nagano’s winter festivals as well.
See details for all of the facilities that appear in the article here (click each facility name for details):
Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort (Snowcat Tours)
Nozawa Onsen has plenty of charm: an authentic village atmosphere, free public hot springs, and a great ski resort. For those who aren’t interested in skiing or snowboarding, or would like a break from falling over repeatedly, snowcat tours and snowshoeing activities are available as well! Snowcat tours begin from January and take guests to a beautiful, untouched snowy plain. On the journey you may see some local wildlife, like kamoshika or rabbits. The tour takes about 45 minutes and includes a hot drink.
Operating period: Early January to beginning of April and select days between April and May Holidays: Thursdays, and weekdays in April Hours: Tours begin at 9:45, 10:30, 11:15, 13:00, 13:45, and 14:30 Price: 500 yen Contact Info: – Website: http://www.nozawaski.com/en/ Address: Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort, Nozawa Onsen Mura, Nagano-ken Access: From Iiyama Station, take the Nozawa Onsen Liner or Nagano Dentetsu Nozawa Line Bus to Nozawa Onsen.
Iiyama Station Shinetsu Shizenkyo (Showshoe Rental, Tours)
The Shinetsu Shizenkyo activity center offers gear rental and nature tours around Iiyama. During summer they have kayaking, biking, and hiking activities, and in winter they offer skiing, snowboarding, and showshoeing. Located inside JR Iiyama Station, it’s in a perfect location to enjoy Japan’s snow country. (Reservations are required for tours, but not for rentals.)
Operating period: End of December to end of March Holidays: None Hours: Two tours daily: 10:00 to 12:00 or 13:00 to 15:00 Price: 3,500 yen (includes guide fee, rentals, insurance, tax) Contact Info: Website: https://www.shinetsu-activity.jp/en/activity/136/ Address: Shinetsu Shizenkyo Activity Center, Iiyama Station Access: Located directly inside JR Iiyama Station
Tangram Ski Resort (Snowmobiling)
Tangram Ski Resort is located on the Northern side of Mt. Madarao and adjacent to Madarao Ski Resort. It is a popular resort among families, with activities for younger children and gentle slopes for those learning to ski for the first time. Among their winter activities, they also offer snowmobiling. Guests can choose between short or long courses, and parents can ride tandem with younger children. More intense snowmobile courses are also available for those interested in earning their snowmobiling license.
Operating period: Mid-December to mid-March Holidays: None Hours: 10:00 to 16:00 Price: Short Course/1,500 yen, Long Course/2,500 yen Contact Info: 026-258-3511 Website: Tangram Ski Resort Website (English) Address: 3575-8 Furumi, Shinano-machi, Kamiminochi-gun, Nagano Access: Take the Madarao Line Bus from Iiyama Station to Tangram Madarao
Nabekura Kogen Mori No Ie (Snowshoe Tours)
Mori No Ie is an outdoor activity center in Iiyama’s Nabekura Kogen, which is famous for its beech tree forests. They offer a variety of guided snowshoe tours around the area, with courses for beginners and hardened athletes alike. They have one English-speaking guide, so inquire early for availability (reservations are required).
Operating period: Mid-December to mid-April Holidays: None Hours: Vary by activity Price Short Course (2 hours)
2 persons: 4,000 yen/person; 3 or more: 3,500 yen/person Long Course (7 hours)
2 persons: 8,500 yen/person; 3 or more/ 7,500 yen per person
Snowshoe Rental: 1,000 yen Contact Info: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: Nabekura Kogen Mori No Ie Website (English) Address: Mori No Ie, Nabekura Kogen, Iiyama-shi, Nagano-ken Access: Take the Iiyama line train from Nagano Station to Togari Nozawa Onsen Station. From there, take a 16 min. taxi to Mori no Ie. (Overnight guests can reserve a free shuttle to the facility.)
Greater Nagano Area
M-Wave Skating Rink (Ice Skating)
Once the competitive venue for the speed skating events of the 1998 Winter Olympics, it now holds exhibitions, offers ice skating, and has a museum dedicated to the 1998 Olympics on the premises. Enjoy a piece of Olympic history while ice skating!
The woods of Togakushi are beautiful year-round, but especially mystical in winter when the air is chill and quiet. You can snowshoe to the Okusha Shrine, Kagami-ike, and around Togakushi Ski Resort for a full day in the outdoors. Visitors may want to refer to this topographical map when hiking around the area.
Operating period: Early December to mid-April Holidays: Not fixed (Normally Monday/Tuesday) Hours: 10:30 to 16:00 Price: Showshoe Rental: about 1,000 yen Contact Info: 026-254-2551 Website: Okushamae Naosuke Restaurant Website (Japanese) Address: 3688 Okusha, Togakushi, Nagano-shi, Nagano-ken 381-4101 Access: Take the Togakushi Line Bus from Nagano Station to the Togaksuhi Ski Grounds stop. Walk 26 minutes to the Okusha Shrine trailhead. The restaurant is in front of the trailhead entrance.
Hakuba Lion Adventures in Shigakogen (Snowmobiling)
At Shigakogen’s Yakebitaiyama, you can enjoy a snowmobiling tour courtesy of Hakuba Lion Adventures. Enjoy snowy highland scenery while flying through the snow! (Reservations are required.)
Operating period: End of December to end of March Holidays: Weather Dependant Hours: Tours begin at 10:00, 11:00, 13:00 and 14:00 Price:
Single 60min./15,000 yen
Tandem 60min./18,000-20,000yen Contact Info: email@example.com Website: Hakuba Lion Adventures Snowmobiling Address: Shigakogen Yakebitaiyama Ski Area(Multipurpose Area) Access: Take the Shigakogen line bus from Nagano Station to the Prince Hotel bus stop (Higashikan or Nishikan). Hakuba Lion Adventure staff will meet you there.
Ryuoo Ski Park Adventure Park (Sledding, Snow Buggies)
Ryuoo Ski Park’s Adventure Park offers sledding and tubing, as well as an area for young children to practice skiing at their own pace. Another attraction at the ski resort is its SORAterrace, which has beautiful views of the surrounding mountains from a perch 1,770 meters high.
Operating period: December until March Holidays: None Hours: 9:00 to 16:00 Price: Park Entrance/1,000 yen Contact Info: 0269-33-7131 Website: Adventure Park Page (Japanese) Ryuoo Ski Park (English) Address: Ryuoo-Kogen, Ymananouchi-Machi, Shimotakai-Gun, Nagano Access: Take the Nagano Dentetsu train from Nagano Dentetsu Nagano Station to Yudanaka Station. From there, take the shuttle bus to Ryuoo.
Kurohime Kogen Family Park (Sledding, Snow Rafting, Snowmobiling)
Kurohime Kogen’s Family Park is perfect for adults with young children who want to play in the snow. The park has an 800m long sledding course with a lift and moving walkway, and snowmobiling and snow rafting activities are also available. From the resort, you can enjoy wonderful views of the winter landscape and Lake Nojiri in the distance.
Operating period: Late December to beginning of April Holidays: None Hours: 8:30 to 16:20 Price
Park Entrance/1,000 yen
Sled Rental: Adults/1,000 Yen, Children/500 Yen
Snowmobile (30-40 min.): Large Snowmobile/3,000 Yen, Small Snowmobile/2,000 Yen
Snow Rafting (10 min.): 1,000 yen Contact Info: 026-255-3176 Website: Kurohime Kogen Ski Park (English) Address: Kurohime Kogen Snow Park 3807 Nojiri, Shinano-Machi, Kamiminochi-Gun, Nagano-Ken Access: Take the Kita Shinano line train from Nagano Station to Kurohime Station. From there, take a bus bound for Kurohime Kogen.
Iwatake Snow Field (Snowshoeing)
Iwatake Snow Field has beautiful views of the Hakuba Sanzan Mountains. At the top of the gondola are also three snowshoe courses, covering almost 5km for over 4 hours of snowshoeing fun. Enjoy pristine winter forests and magnificent winter views at the top of Iwatake at Hakuba Mountain Harbor.
Operating periodMid-December to beginning of April Holidays: None (lifts may be closed due to bad weather) Hours: 8:00 to 16:10 (Gondola Hours) Price
Gondola Rountrip Ticket: 1,800 yen
Snowshoe and Poles Rental: 2,500 yen Contact Info: Website: https://iwatake-mountain-resort.com/winter Address: Iwatake Snowfield, Hakuba-mura, Nagano-ken Access: Take the Hakuba line bus from Nagano Station to Happo Bus Terminal. From there, take a shuttle bus to the resort.
Hakuba Lion Adventures in Hakuba 47 (Snowmobiling)
Try snowmobiling in the snowy fields outside of Hakuba 47 Winter Sports Park, courtesy of Hakuba Lion Adventures. Speed through the snow while gazing at the picturesque Northern Japanese Alps. (Reservations are required.)
Operating period: Mid-December to March Holidays: Weather Dependant Hours: Tours begin at 9:45, 11:00, 13:00, 14:15 and 15:30 Price
Single Ride 60 min./12,000 yen
Tandem Ride 60 min./14,000-18,000 yen Contact Info: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: Hakuba Lion Adventures Snowmobiling (Japanese) Address: Hakuba47 Winter Sports Park School Center Access: Take the Hakuba line bus from Nagano Station to Hakuba. Hakuba Lion Adventure staff will meet you at Hakuba Station or your accommodation.
Greater Matsumoto Area
Norikura Kogen Northstar (Snowshoe Tours)
Norikura Kogen is a beautiful highland area outside of Matsumoto City. Visitors can easily reach 3,000m heights and enjoy undisturbed natural splendor. The Northstar lodge offers tours around the area, including snowshoe tours in winter (reservations are required).
Operating period: End of December to beginning of April Holidays: Irregular (See website) Hours: Tour Begins at 9:00 or 13:00 Price Semi-private
Half Day/ 8,000 yen per person
Full Day/14,000 yen per person Regular
Half Day/5,300 yen per person
Full Day/9,200 yen per person Contact Info:0263-93-1688 (Available Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 to 18:00) Website: Norikura Northstar English Snowshoe Tour Page Address: Northstar Alpine Lodge, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto City Access: Take the bus or Kamikochi line train to Shin-shimashima Station. From there, take a bus towards Norikura Kogen and get off at Kanko Center Mae.
Ougatou Hotel (Snowcat and Snowshoeing)
Ougatou Hotel is perched atop the Utsukushigahara highlands outside of Matsumoto and Ueda cities. In this natural paradise, there are a wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy from hiking and stargazing to snowshoeing and snowcat rides in winter. Due to the difficulty of access, these activities are only available to hotel guests, but the stay is certainly worth it. (Reservations are required.)
Operating period: Year-round (winter activities from late December to late March) Holidays: None Hours: – Price: All-inclusive overnight plans start at 18,700 yen Contact Info: See Website Website: Ougatou Hotel TripAdvisor page Address: 8964 Iriyamabe, 390-0222, Nagano Prefecture Access: A shuttle bus can be arranged to pick you up from Matsumoto Station. If you come by car, you can park at the winter parking lot and be picked up from there.p
Okudavos Ski Resort (Snowcat Tours)
A snowcat takes you up near the top of Mt. Nekodake at the Okudavos ski resort. Take a short hike up to the top to enjoy amazing views of the surrounding mountains. Tours leave once per hour and can be reserved in advance by phone before 17:00. Same-day reservations are also accepted at the top of the No. 1 triple lift.
Operating period: Mid-January to late March Holidays: None Hours: 9:00 to 16:00 (last tour at 15:00) Price: Adults/3,300 yen, Children/1,800 yen Contact Info: 0268-74-3009 Website: Okudavos Ski Resort Website (Japanese) Address: 1223-3307 Sugadaira Kogen, Ueda City, Nagano Pref. 386-2204 Access: From Ueda Station, take the Sugadaira line bus to Davos (50 minutes), or, from Suzaka Station, take a 30-minute taxi.
Karuizawa Kera-ike Skating Rink (Ice Skating)
The outdoor Keraike Skate Rink in Karuizawa is a great place to enjoy winter in style. Lace up and skate around frosty trees and snow, or relax at the adjacent bar with a hot drink. Nearby, you can warm up with hearty meals at the Harunire Terrace while enjoying Christmas illuminations, or take a dip in the Tonbo No Yu hot springs.
Operating period: Beginning of November to early March Holidays: contact Hoshino Resorts Hours: 10:00 to 16:00 Price: JHS Student and up/1,900 yen, ES Student and below/1,300 yen (includes rental skates) Cap, Helmet Rental: free Glove Purchase: 300 yen Contact Info:0267-45-7777 Website: Hoshino Area Website (English) Address: Hoshino, Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun, Nagano-ken Access: Take the Seibu Kanko bus from the Northern exit of Karuizawa Station, or a shuttle bus from Naka-Karuizawa Station