Joetsu Kokusai Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

  • Vertical (m)
    200– 1,017 (817)
  • Average Snow Fall
    approx 10  metres
  • Lifts (25)
    3 quads
  • Ski Hours
    8am- 5pm
    early Dec - early April
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 22
    Longest run – 6km
    Beginner - 30%
    Intermediate - 50%
    Advanced - 20%
The Joetsu Ski Resort is large by Japanese standards, with 22 courses and 25 lifts that are spread across a very wide area. The ski area has 817 metres of vertical (200 - 1,017m), although this is commonly chopped up into much shorter runs. The terrain is reasonably mellow and mostly consists of red and green runs. Rather than stick with European or North American ski resort convention, the Joetsu Ski Resort has made up their own trail rating colours with red for beginners, green for intermediates, and blue for experts (although these runs are really for intermediates). Go figure!

The Joetsu Kokusai ski area has four main zones that are related to their general geography. The East zone is the main area above and below the Hotel Green Plaza Joetsu, that’s mostly southeast facing so it can be very sunny. This area has the best terrain for beginners and also plenty of intermediate runs. The South area is even sunnier and has a range of terrain, including the steepest run on the hill (don’t get too excited!). The North area has a couple of lovely intermediate groomers, it’s very quiet, and as to be expected for north facing terrain, it has the best snow quality. The West area (Mt Atema) has good intermediate runs and a little bit of off-piste fun. The Joetsu Kokusai Ski Resort has the occasional sign in English pointing to the north, south, east or west area, but nothing indicating the trail ability rating so keep your wits about you.

And considering that Joetsu isn’t a mountain with one flat face, but rather a series of little hills that go up and down, keep a close eye on the trail map with respect to which way the arrows point for each run, or you might get tricked.

Ideally try and spend a fair bit of time in one area before moving onto another, because if you change areas frequently you’ll spend much more time on lifts than skiing or snowboarding.

Crowds

As to be expected for a ski resort with such easy access from Tokyo, it can get rather busy on weekends although most of the congestion is concentrated around the hotel area (east). So if you leave the beginners to this zone and head to the north or west areas, the skier traffic is very reasonable. And mid week, the place is generally very quiet except for the obligatory school kids.

Lifts

On the popular front side (east) where the beginners hang out, there are some very good fast lifts that have safety bars. Other parts of the mountain tend to have slow double chair lifts sans safety bar. The layout of the lifts is appalling, but this is more of a product of the unusual undulating terrain of the ski resort.

The Joetsu Ski Resort has reasonably impressive night skiing in areas above and below the hotel. The illuminated area doesn’t just have lame bunny slopes, but rather some good intermediate groomers as well.

Lift Tickets

Lift tickets are reasonably inexpensive, especially when you consider the amount of terrain on offer. Joetsu Kokusai partners up with Iwappara, another Yuzawa ski resort, to offer joint lift tickets. Iwappara is about 20-25 minutes drive from Joetsu Kokusai.

Joetsu Kokusai Snow

The average snowfall per season statistic for Joetsu Kokusai is unknown, although it’s thought to be about 10 metres. Joetsu Kokusai doesn’t have any snow making facilities, and generally snow cover is not a problem except at the extreme fringes of the season, particularly considering that most of the skiing at Joetsu is on-piste.

As to be expected, the Joetsu Kokusai snow quality varies significantly across the various aspects, and the south and east (which largely faces southeast) zones can have slush or ice, particularly in the lower elevations (which drop as low as 200 metres). Like most other Yuzawa ski resorts, the top elevation isn’t particularly high either, so it’s not renowned for being the most amazing powder resort.

Joetsu Kokusai Skiing / Snowboarding for the Beginner

Beginners staying at the Hotel Green Plaza Joetsu might initially freak out when they see the steep-ish slopes on either side of the hotel. On closer inspection, thankfully there’s a gentle little trail that runs around the side. Day tripping beginners should ideally start at the Mina base where most of the beginner terrain is located, and they definitely shouldn’t start from the Osawa day base.

Joetsu Kokusai is good for beginners but not amazing, because there are some trails that are a little narrow in places, and due to the challenging navigation that is required. Beginners undertaking ski or snowboard lessons (and therefore guiding) will get the most out of the Joetsu Kokusai terrain.

Intermediate Skiing Joetsu Kokusai

Joetsu is excellent for intermediates considering the abundance of terrain. It only loses half a point due to the weird terrain lay-out.

When the Daibetto slope is groomed, this steep run provides some very speedy turns, and considering its aspect, I imagine it sometimes gets rather icy, just to add to the velocity!

Terrain Parks & Pipes

Joetsu Kokusai has a decent terrain park and 2 half pipes.

Advanced Skiing and Snowboarding

The trail stats suggest that 20% of the runs are “blue” (ie expert), but it appears that someone isn’t too good with their mathematics because there are only 4 very short “expert” runs. The rating of these as “expert” runs is also rather dubious. So once advanced skiers and snowboarders have sped down the groomers and hit the few “expert” runs, they’ll find Joetsu Kokusai rather snoringly boring and want to head to the onsen.

Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Experts might little bits of short off-piste fun but that’s about it.

Off Piste Skiing and Riding

Due to the many undulations, off-piste skiing is a little challenging in many places without getting gullied out. In many spots it’s also not steep enough when there’s fresh snow, particularly for snowboarders. The west area is probably the best spot to head off-piste where there are short pitches amongst widely spaced trees. It’s unclear as to what ski patrol thinks about people riding off-piste, because so few people do it (so freshies on a powder day probably won’t be a problem).