Togari Onsen is a locals’ ski field that’s not usually frequented by foreigners, mostly because it’s the poor cousin of the very popular neighbouring resort of Nozawa Onsen
. Togari Onsen Ski Resort is smaller than Nozawa Onsen and it’s at lower elevation, yet it comes to the fore on cold powder days when there is carnage at Nozawa and every powder hound is frothing at the mouth to get to the fresh powder! Meanwhile at Togari Ski Resort you’re blissfully unlikely to encounter any competition for the fresh powder lines.
Togari Onsen is worthy of a day trip from Nozawa, or powder hounds could play here for a day or two and stay overnight to enjoy the simplicity and Japanese-ness of Togari.
Togari Ski and Snowboard Terrain
On initial inspection the Togari Ski Resort looks really small, but it’s a bit bigger than you’d expect with 18 courses (ie trails) and 650 metres of vertical (400 - 1,050 metres). The Togari Onsen ski area is split into two sides with Pegasus being on the southern (lookers’ left) end, Orion (trail map right) at the northern end, and Casseopeia joining up the two zones (where there’s a flatt-ish spot that snowboarders may not adore).
The lift infrastructure consists of 7 lifts, of which 4 are quad chairs that actually run at a decent speed and have safety bars (something you shouldn’t take for granted in Japan!).
Togari Onsen is patronised on the weekends by lots of beginner snowboarders who enjoy the super wide slopes near the two base areas. Intermediate skiers and snowboarders have a handful of runs of varying pitches, and there are lots of spots to jump off the piste to experiment in the powder. The black runs are short and not particularly steep (as is generally the case with Japanese ski resorts), and intermediates could also have a crack at them.
For those wanting to play off-piste, there are minimal ropes, with the exception of some to discourage you from riding the lift lines. Togari has lots of short off-piste steep-ish sections that are not heavily treed where it’s easy to play without getting lost. Conversely there are zones between the two sides of the resort that have great trees and gullies that require good route finding skills and avy savvy.
Those willing to work for some powder turns will find plenty on offer. In particular, hike up the old lift line at the top (lookers’ left side of Togari) for some steep tree lines that drop back into the resort.
Togari Onsen Snow
Like the other Nagano ski resorts
, Togari receives plenty of snowfall. In the height of winter the temps are generally cold enough to retain the powder, but due to slopes that mostly face southeast to east, the snow can quickly sour. Togari is at low elevation relative to some of the nearby resorts (e.g. the top of Nozawa Onsen is 600m higher and Ryuoo is 880 metres higher), which can be another con for the snow quality.
Where is Togari Onsen?
Togari Onsen is located 43km northeast of Nagano City
in the Nagano Prefecture. It’s 10km west of Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort
, which is located just across the valley. Togari is 12km north of the town of Iiyama and its Shinkansen (bullet train) station.
There are various options for inexpensive Togari accommodation near the two bases of the ski resort. Pensions are the most common type of accommodation, and whilst some properties have western beds they are otherwise very much the full Japanese flavour. Some lodgings have onsens for bathing, and various are located in ski-in positions.
There’s not much to the town so you’ll want to get a half board meal package.
($$) is located about 400 metres walk from the Togari slopes. The hotel is rated as a 3 star and it’s quite comfortable, although the décor is a little dated. Alpen Plaza has the choice of twin rooms with western beds and an ensuite bathroom, or traditional Japanese style rooms with tatami flooring and futons (for up to 5 people) and shared bathrooms and toilets. The hotel has onsen (hot spring) baths onsite, a restaurant, and snow equipment rentals.
Refre Inn Fukuzawa
($$) is about 200 metres from the slopes. The inn has simple Japanese rooms with futons on the floor for up to 3 guests. Bathroom amenities are shared and include onsen baths.
($$) is 400 metres from the southern base area of Togari and features Japanese tatami rooms with up to 4 futons. Bathrooms are shared including onsen baths. Breakfast and dinner are included in the package.
Other options in the area include Kanoe
and Resort Square Sun Verde
Togari Onsen Accommodation Listings
Alternatively you could always stay in Nozawa Onsen accommodation
and do a day trip across to Togari Onsen.
Ski Resort Facilities
The ski resort facilities are located at both base areas. There are a few equipment rental shops that largely cater to the Japanese beginners, with out-dated equipment that only comes in Japanese sizes.
Togari Onsen has an unmanned kids’ room, a convenience store (there’s no ATM and they don’t accept credit card for lift tickets so arrive cashed up), and various cafeterias and eateries that serve up incredibly cheap food.
It’s not called Togari Onsen for nothing so it’s seems apt to have a soak in the therapeutic waters whilst at Togari. For public onsens there’s Nozomi Onsen near the Orion base which has very traditional architecture and a beautiful outdoor bath with a nice view. Akatsuki Onsen near the Pegasus base is also rather lovely. Both onsens are inexpensive or you can get a ski/sup/soak pass to make it even more affordable.
Summary of Pros and Cons of Togari Onsen
- There is negligible competition for the powder. You can see Nozawa Onsen from Togari, which reminds you how lucky you are to be over at Togari on a powder day.
- Very few people head off-piste so the patrollers don’t seem to waste their time worrying about it.
- Togari has some nice steep hike-to terrain.
- Togari Onsen is inexpensive. Lodging and meals are pretty cheap and there are good ticket packages that include lift, lunch and onsen. And if you’re over 55 the seniors’ pass is a bargain!
- There might be some lift queues at the beginners’ lifts on the weekends, but further up it’s likely to be very quiet.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
- Togari Onsen is not particularly big, so it doesn’t provide enough terrain variety for multiple days.
- South facing slopes and low elevation are not conducive to the powder being well retained, so it’s best visited on a cold powder day.
- Once you’ve had an onsen, there’s nada to do at night.
- Not much English is spoken at Togari which is rather refreshing in some respects.