Sugadaira Kogen Ski Resort

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Sugadaira Kogen Ski Resort

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Sugadaira Kogen Ski Resort

Sugadaira Snow Resort in Nagano Prefecture has three ski areas: Taro; Davos; and Pine Beak, with the latter not interconnected with the other two ski areas. The Davos zone was named as the resort felt it was akin to Davos in Switzerland, and whilst Sugadaira Davos does offer some nice views from the top, there are negligible similarities between Davos in Switzerland and Japan.

Sugadaira Kogen Ski Resort is rather unknown on the international stage, in part because it’s a little further south compared to the mainstream Nagano ski resorts, both in terms of location as well as in relation to the typical mega snow volumes that resorts such as Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen get. Sugadaira Ski Resort is OK, but relative to Hakuba, Nozawa, Madarao etcetera, it’s a poor cousin.

Pros and Cons of Sugadaira Kogen

Pros 
  • The Davos area offers nice views (you know you’re scraping the barrel for pros when you mention views at a Japanese ski resort!).
  • The Sugadaira Kogen ski areas offer a good variety of beginner terrain – much more than your average Japanese ski area.
  • Sugadaira Kogen Ski Resort has minimal crowds and there’s very little, if any, competition for the fresh powder.
Cons
  • The hills are generally way too flat, especially near the top of the lifts where a degree of poling and skating is required, especially if there is fresh snow.
  • Pine Beak is physically separated from Taro and Davos, so you’ll need to get in your car or catch a bus if you want to sample all of Sugadaira Kogen.
  • The base areas of the Sugadaira ski resorts are very spread out and consist of just lodging and the occasional ski shop.
  • Sugadaira doesn’t receive as much snow as the mainstream Nagano ski resorts.

Sugadaira Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Sugadaira is large by Japanese ski resort standards on paper yet it’s comprised of three to four small ski areas. Pine Beak has two interconnected zones, whilst a bus ride away is Taro which is adjacent to Davos and connected via a tunnel. Whilst all of Sugadaira Kogen is covered with an all-mountain lift pass, you have to go to the ticket office to get an area specific pass when moving between Davos/Taro and Pine Beak.

All of Sugadaira Kogen includes 60 courses, 175 hectares of piste, and 19 lifts (4 quads, 7 triples and 8 doubles), with an equal distribution of lifts across the three zones. Elevations are from 1,250 to 1,650 metres.

Officially the distribution of trails is 20% beginner, 60% intermediate and 20% advanced, yet it actually has much more of a bias towards beginners and many of the black runs are not worthy of their status. Davos has predominantly beginner trails whilst Taro has a mix of runs for all abilities, as does Pine Beak except that it has a steeper bias. Off-piste skiing opportunities are best on Pine Beak where there are small treed areas as well as a larger tree zone that has a drainage that terminates on a green trail. Snow quality on Pine Beak is also more conducive to off-piste riding considering the superior snow quality.

At Davos there are snowcat tours that head up to the top of Mt Neko at approximately 2,200m. Don’t get excited that this is cat skiing where you’ll revel in deep powder snow, because the guide will just take you down the groomed line that the snowcat has formed. Only in Japan!

Sugadaira Snow

Whilst the distances from the resorts of Hakuba, Nozawa and Myoko may not seem that far away in kilometres, Sugadaira Ski Resort is a long way southwest as far as the snow falls are concerned. The mega snowstorms that come from the northwest typically peter out by the time they get to Sugadaira Kogen, so it generally doesn’t get the big snow volumes compared to the big name Nagano and Niigata ski resorts.

Temperatures usually stay cold which is a plus for the snow quality, yet slope aspect is not favourable across the board. Snow quality in the Pine Beak area is good considering the many north to northeast facing slopes, whilst many of the sunny slopes of Davos and Taro have too much southerly orientation.

Where is Sugadaira Ski Resort?

Sugadaira Kogen Ski Resort is located in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture, although it’s slightly south of the mainstream Nagano ski resorts (for example it’s 52km south of Madarao and 61km south of Nozawa Onsen) and 29km southeast of Nagano City. The Davos base of Sugadaira is 28km northwest of the city of Ueda near the border with the Gunma Prefecture. As the crow flies, Sugadaira is reasonably close to Palcall Tsumagoi Ski Resort in Gunma.

The Sugadaira Resort is about a 2:40 hour drive from the Kanto area. It’s also possible to get a train from Tokyo to Ueda and then it’s an hour long bus to the resort. There are also a few companies that offer bus day tours to Sugadaira.

Sugadaira Kogen Accommodation

There is no central village at Sugadaira Kogen where you can stroll along amongst restaurants and cute shops. Instead, there are lodgings spread around the area. Davos has a little pension village below the base. The base of #12 lift at Taro has a couple of ski-in properties, and there are also a handful of ski-in ski-out accommodation options at Pine Beak.

Sugadaira Taro/Davos Accommodation Listings
Sugadaira Pine Beak Accommodation Listings


Ski Resort Facilities and Activities

There are amenities at each of the ski areas, and the most facilities are housed at the resort centre at Taro where you’ll find child care. Various little restaurants are dotted around the ski areas where you can have lunch, and you’ll also find plenty of variety when it comes to ski schools. There are 17 different ski schools and one snowboard school!

The snowcat tours are also open for sightseeing where you can head to the top of Mt Neko to look at the snow monsters. Keep your expectations low because the trees are not in the same calibre as the snow covered trees you’ll find at Zao Onsen or Hakkoda. Other Sugadaira activities including cross country skiing and kids’ play parks.
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