Mt Norikura Ski Resort

Mt Norikura Ski Resort

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Mt Norikura

Mt Norikura4/51
Mt Norikura4 out of 5 based on 1 reviews
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The Mt Norikura Ski Resort sits on the flanks of Mount Norikura (Norikura-dake), the third highest volcano in Japan. Norikura means “riding saddle” because it supposedly looks like a horse saddle, but you might need a lot of sake to be able to visualise this.

Mt Norikura Snow Resort in Nagano is located near Matsumoto so you could combine a couple of days at the ski resort with sightseeing at the Matsumoto Castle, as a tack onto some time at Hakuba, but don’t confuse Mt Norikura Ski Resort with Hakuba Norikura Ski Resort (which is also in Nagano Prefecture).

Mt. Norikura Ski Resort is one of those ski areas that’s worthy of your support. With its ancient lift towers and dilapidated amenities, it feels like the ski resort might not be around for too much longer without an income injection.

Pros and Cons of Mt Norikura Ski Resort

  • The ski resort has decent elevation and a mostly northeast facing aspect to maintain good snow quality.
  • Mt Norikura is reasonably sized for a Japanese ski resort.
  • The ski area offers some nice off-piste and sidecountry, whilst Mount Norikura offers backcountry skiing options.
  • It is renowned for low skier traffic, and foreigners are few and far between.
  • The area provides a variety of hot springs.
  • The amenities are rather dated.
  • The ski terrain for advanced-plus riders is boring without fresh snow, although this is typical of most Japanese ski resorts.
  • This is an off the beaten track ski resort where English is not widely spoken.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
  • It takes some effort to get to Mt Norikura Ski Resort, which helps to keep the gaijin crowds away.

Mt Norikura Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Mt Norikura Ski Resort is a decent size compared to many other Japanese ski resorts, with 8 lifts (2 quad chairs, 1 triple, 5 pair lifts), 20 courses, and 510 metres of vertical drop (1,490-2,000m). Of course, Japan ski resorts are not renowned for being large, so the terrain might only keep you entertained for a day or two.

The official trail stats are 45% beginner, 25% intermediate and 30% advanced. The beginner slopes are delightfully gentle and wide, the intermediate slopes are well groomed, whilst the advanced slopes are not particularly challenging and the maximum gradient is only 35 degrees, so it’s a classic Japanese ski resort.

What’s not typical is that you can pretty much ski anywhere off-piste without ski patrol trying to chase you in the deep powder on their narrow slalom skis (which is always fun to watch!). There is a distinct lack of ropes at Mt Norikura Resort, and the off-piste provides some steep albeit short pitches. The off-piste near the Kamoshika course is a fave with its combination of widely spaced evergreens & deciduous trees. In addition to some sidecountry, Mount Norikura provides some good backcountry skiing above the lifts.

The ski resort also has a snow park that’s rather popular with terrain park junkies.

Mt Norikura Snow

Whilst it’s further south than many of the big name Nagano ski resorts, the Mt Norikura snow is typically of good quality thanks to high elevation (the top lift goes up to 2,000m) and a mostly northeast aspect. Large snowfalls tend to mostly originate from storm systems from the south, unlike many of the other Nagano ski resorts that enjoy NW and NNW storms.

Mt Norikura is renowned for being very cold and it often gets a lot of wind, so if you’re commuting there for the day, it would pay to check that the lifts are operating.

Where is Mt. Norikura Snow Resort?

Blue Resort Norikura Ski Area sits in the Hida Mountains on Mount Norikura (Norikura dake), which is on the border of Gifu & Nagano Prefectures, whilst the ski area sits in the Nagano Prefecture. Norikura Kogen is a little village at the base of the ski area that has some hot springs (Norikura Kogen Onsen).

Mt Norikura Ski Resort is 43km southwest of the city of Matsumoto, and 106km southwest of the city of Nagano.

It’s possible to get there via train and bus, although it’s rather clunky. There are buses from the Shin Shimashima Station on the Kamikochi line which is 29km away, or occasional shuttles from Matsumoto station (reservations required with Alpico) which is 43km away.

Driving provides much more flexibility and the telephone number for GPS navigation is 0263 93 2645. From Matsumoto, the narrow mountain road up to Norikura Kogen can be challenging on a snowy day, and the road usually acquires some impressive snow walls.

Mt Norikura Ski Resort is 92km (2 hour drive) southwest of Hakuba. Other nearby ski resorts include Nomugi Toge which is 30km by road to the southeast, and the small Hirayu Onsen in Gifu which is 29km to the northwest and it has some steep tree skiing if you have good route finding skills.

Norikura Kogen Accommodation

There are a few hotels that sit right at the base of the ski area, whilst other Norikura Kogen hotels are a short distance away.

The Norikura Kanko Hotel (aka Yamayuri) is 2 minute walk from the closest lift, whilst Guest House Raicho is a 5 minute drive away (shuttles are offered).

Norikura Kogen Hotels

Or alternatively you could stay in Matsumoto City and drive up for the day.

Matsumoto Hotels

Ski Resort Facilities & Activities

The ski resort has adequate amenities, although they are very dated. Even the equipment rental shop speaks volumes for the bubble era with its abundance of retro rear-entry boots. The ski school offers private lessons in English if you pre-book these.

Your dining requirements are well looked after with a large cafeteria at the base along with a few eateries dotted along the trails.

There is a tubing area and kids’ play park, yet undoubtedly you’re not heading to Mt Norikura to go tubing!

In addition to the many onsen in town at the hotels, there is the Shirahone Onsen about 10km away from the ski area, which is famous for its white water (Shirahone means “white bones”).
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