Manza Onsen Ski Resort

Manza Onsen Ski Resort

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Manza Onsen

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Hokkaido Ski & Snowboard Tour

Manza Onsen Gunma

NB In October 2019 a typhoon caused a landslide within the Manza Onsen ski area and the damage has resulted in its closure until it can be assessed and rectified.

Of all the numerous Japanese ski resorts and snowy destinations, Manza Onsen offers the best onsen experience. Nozawa Onsen and Zao Onsen are both great onsen villages with ski resorts, but they can’t compare when it comes to the quality and variety of hot springs that Manza Onsen in Gunma offers. Sure there’s a bit of skiing and snowboarding at the Manza Onsen Ski Resort, but the main event is the hot springs. The presence of the many onsen is obvious from the first moment you arrive and inhale the stench of the strong sulphur! What sets Manza apart from some other onsen towns is the abundance of rotenburo (outdoor baths) and the variety of mineral compositions. All of the waters are supposed to cure all your ailments and make you look stunning (!!), and the water colours range from milky white to turquoise to yellow (those ones look suspicious!). At Manza Onsen, you can also choose from gender specific onsen (the norm in Japan) as well as konyoku (mixed gender bathing), where you can a wear towel dress or special shorts if you’re shy.

Pros and Cons of Manza Onsen Ski Resort

Pros
  • As the name suggests, there are lots of onsen, including outdoor baths that offer spectacular views.
  • Manza Onsen is reasonably devoid of gaijin (foreigners).
Cons
  • The Manza Onsen Ski Resort is rather small.
  • There is zero nightlife.
  • It’s a bit harder to get to Manza compared to many other Japanese ski resorts or onsen towns, but the upside is that it doesn’t draw the same crowds as high profile ski resorts or the nearby Kusatsu Onsen.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
  • The terrain is mostly for beginners and intermediates. There is only a little bit of off-piste skiing (if you can be discrete), yet on the plus side, there’s minimal competition for the powder lines because most of the visitors are families and beginners.
  • Negligible English is spoken so use you Japenglish or google translate.

Manza Onsen Ski and Snowboard Terrain

You won’t need a mountain host to get you oriented to Manza Onsen Ski Resort because its compact size makes it very easy to navigate. The main ski area has only 9 trails which equate to 38 hectares of terrain, a small terrain park, 4 lifts (1 hooded quad, 3 double chairs), and 348 metres of vertical (1,648 – 1,994m). There is also another small ski area at Manza Onsen that only opens in peak season on Sundays and holidays.

Whilst officially the trail breakdown is 40% beginner, 40% intermediate and 20% advanced, in reality there are only beginner and intermediate courses, with the gradient of both the blue and black runs being almost identical, which is reasonably mellow.

Manza Onsen is one of the Prince owned resorts which are renowned for strict off-piste policies, and the trail map indicates that any area other than the cut runs is outside the resort boundaries. In a similar vein to other Prince resorts, if you’re respectful and not too colourful, then tree skiing is possible. Freshies abound and some of the nicest trees are skiers’ right off the top.

Manza Onsen Snow

Manza Onsen receives a very respectable amount of snow, although by Nagano and Niigata standards, it’s a bit short handed at 7 metres on average per season. It sits behind Yoketeyama (2,300m) of Shiga Kogen, which may steal some of the precipitation during northerly storms. The high elevation of Manza Onsen Ski Resort (1,648-1,994m) contributes to excellent snow quality during the height of winter, but the slopes are mostly south facing so spring conditions can come early. At least the Sunday area of Manza is west facing.

Where is Manza Onsen Gunma?

Manza Onsen sits in the far northwest corner of the Gunma Prefecture, 44km east of Nagano City by road (in summer only) and 10km south of Shiga Kogen (in summer only), whilst Tokyo is 211km to the southeast.

In addition to Shiga Kogen, Manza Onsen is also really close as the crow flies to Kusatsu, but Manza Onsen is very isolated in winter when the roads close around Mount Shirane. Access to Manza Onsen Ski Resort is only from the south via the Asama-Shirane Volcano Route (Manza Highway).

If you don’t have a car there are a couple of train/bus options to get there from Tokyo. You can catch a train to Manza-Kazawaguchi station which is the closest train station (22km/40 minutes), from where there are infrequent buses. Or catch a train to Karuizawa Station and then guests of the Prince Hotels can catch one of two daily buses (1:40 hours) to the resort.

A trip to Manza Onsen could be combined with Nagano ski destinations whereby you’d use it to warm-up your legs (by skiing/snowboarding and by sitting in the onsen) or combined with Kusatsu Onsen (28km away) if you need more onsen soaking.

Manza Onsen Accommodation

The Manza Prince Hotel sits slopeside at the Manza Onsen Ski Resort in a perfect ski-in ski-out position. The hotel has western twin and quad rooms and traditional Japanese tatami rooms (up to 5 futons). The Manza Prince Hotel has 6 outdoor onsen inclusive of a mixed gender bath and a ladies outdoor bath with a roof.

At the base of the ski resort and just across the road is the Manza Kogen Hotel, which is also a Prince hotel and more affordable. The Manza Kogen Hotel is also famous for its many hot springs, and of the dozen baths, 7 are mixed gender.

Both of the Prince hotels serve up mega buffet meals.

Manza Onsen village also has ryokan. One example is Manza Onsen Nisshinkan which is about 90 metres from the slopes of the Mt Manza lift. The ryokan has twin western beds with tatami flooring (Japanese combo rooms). Naturally the ryokan has onsen, both indoor and outdoor, as well as private reservable baths.

Manza Onsen Accommodation Listings


Ski Resort Facilities

Despite being a small ski area, there are very adequate facilities for skiers and snowboarders. There are equipment rentals shops in the Ski Center, Manza Prince Hotel, and Manza Kogen Hotel. For lunch you can head to the Manza Prince Hotel or the on-mountain restaurant near the base. And if you need lessons with an English speaking instructor, these can be provided in a private format (reservations recommended).
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