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Nagano Niigata Explorer - Reviews

Fantastic Tour

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Plenty of great powder More powder! Dinner at the ryokan Powder at Myoko Powder in the sidecountry at Nozawa
We had such a brilliant time on the Nagano Niigata Tour. It’s easy to see why it’s called an “Explorer Tour”. It was an amazing opportunity to explore so many resorts in the Nagano and Myoko (Niigata) area. We have the tendency to get bored pretty easily if we have to stay at a ski area for more than a day, so it suited us to a tea to be able to move around to different resorts every day.

Every night we’d return to the hotel and meet other Kogakuro guests in the drying room, onsen or bar. They thought they were being adventurous if they’d just caught the local bus to Suginohara (one of the Myoko ski areas). They were sooo jealous that we’d been to so many other resorts, had someone to drive us around, and that we’d scored lots of powder.

Despite being funsters, the guides were very professional and organised. You felt like they had everything in control, and rhe pre-trip communication was very good.

Kogakuro is not deluxe or glamorous lodging but considering the price of the tour, the lodging was great. It provided a nice Japanese ryokan experience with sleeping on the floor, and the amenities were comprehensive including the ability to have a daily soak in the onsen. Both the indoor and outdoor baths were small, but they did the trick and were certainly ideal for the tired muscles. Having a bar and lounge to congregate for après ski drinks was a bonus too.

Breakfasts were amazing, and even though we stayed there for 11 nights we didn’t get sick of the food because it was so varied. It’s nice to experience Japanese culture but dried fish for breakfast is one element that grows old very quickly, so it was nice that the breakfasts included lots of western food. Dinner was entirely a different matter and rather traditional Japanese (although thankfully we didn’t have to sit on the floor). Regrettably we only had dinner two nights at the hotel because it was fantastic and included multiple courses of all sorts of interesting treats. We even wore our yukata to dinner to get right into the Japanese experience.

Kougakuro was in a very convenient location to get to the restaurants and to Akakura Onsen Ski Resort. The legendary manager Mieko and her team were also a highlight of our great stay!

The vans were of very high quality, the avalanche safety rental gear provided to some guests looked good, and our guide had extensive safety gear inside his big backpack.

The guiding was fantastic. We mostly had GB who was very knowledgeable, appropriately safety conscious, and had a very warm personality. Actually he was awesome – we wanted to take him with us to travel to other parts of Japan!

Sometimes we all rode as one big group where we had Paul as a guide. It’s easy why the company has lots of repeat customers. He’s all round Mr Charisma and it’s hard for people not to have fun when he’s around.

We visited early season and it was a relatively bad season by Japanese standards, so the off-piste snow cover wasn’t always adequate to cover up the sasa and shrubbery. The guides were great at scoping lines, which became particularly important considering the low snow.

We were the first ever tour and whilst the guides had done some pre-scoping, there were a couple of resorts that they didn’t know like the back of their hands. It probably didn’t matter because our guide was so experienced at reading the terrain that we still scored LOTS of amazing fresh powder lines. And I’m sure by the 2nd tour, this wouldn’t have even been apparent.

The terrain we skied matched the required ability for the tour, although considering the lack of snow and the many shrubs to dodge, it probably made it tough for a couple of powder riders without a lot of experience. The guides managed this well and at times gave guests a couple of options for lines to take.

Having so many ski areas to choose from within reasonable driving distance of Myoko was a major bonus. Due to warm temps, we mostly went to well known resorts with decent elevation. Finding freshies at these resorts generally wasn’t a problem, although Madarao has become a little too popular now. It would have been great to go to a couple of little gems that would have been deserted, but the weather wasn’t playing ball, and the snow at these typically lower elevation ski areas would have been sub-standard.

How could we not have fun considering the amount of fresh powder we scored?! We had a really fun crew, however the guides really made it and ensured that everyone had a superb time. And it was sooo nice having a guide to drive so that everyone else could have beers or Chu-His in the van. Kanpai!

The lodging was very good considering the price of the tour, and overall the tour provided great value for money (especially when you see what a few of the North American tour companies charge for a Japan tour!).