Nagano was host to the 1998 Winter Olympics, which helped to bring international attention to the region. Since then, the number of people visiting Nagano from overseas has only been increasing.
There are over 80 ski and snowboard resorts in Nagano, including many well-known major names such as Hakuba, Shiga Kogen, Nozawa Onsen and Madarao Kogen. Many smaller ski and snowboard resorts can be found on the mountains throughout the prefecture, though most of the larger ones are located in its northern region.
The village of Hakuba boasts a collection of five ski resorts that are immensely popular with overseas and Japanese tourists alike. Happo-one (pronounced "oh-nay") is one of the biggest resorts in the area, with 23 lifts servicing broad runs as long as 8 kilometers (5 miles) from top to bottom. Hakuba Goryu and Hakuba 47 Winter Sports Park connect to offer a total of 24 runs and 19 lifts, while the more traditional Hakuba Iwatake Snow Field has 25 courses on its own, and Hakuba Minekata has seven.
Accessible within a reasonable amount of time from Tokyo, Hakuba also offers quite a few hot springs and is very foreigner friendly. Daily snow reports can be found here, while you can explore all the area's resorts from the link below.
Shiga Kogen is a great destination for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. It actually consists of 21 different ski resorts that are interconnected with an all-encompassing system of 71 lifts that can be accessed with a single lift pass, leaving you free to explore a number of villages via ski or snowboard—with some assistance from a shuttle bus.
Shiga Kogen gained international fame when was used as a venue for various events during the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Games, becoming increasingly popular with foreign tourists in the years that followed. This is also the closest ski area to the snow monkeys at Jigokudani Yaen-Koen, a popular side trip.
As the highest ski region in Japan, the ski season at some of the resorts in Shiga Kogen continues into early May. You can see daily snow updates here, and information on all the major resorts below.
Below all the powder snow on the mountain, Nozawa Onsen is a town of steaming water. The town boasts 30 distinct hot springs and 13 public soto-yu, making apres-ski a much-anticipated joy.
The mountain itself is largely divided into an upper and lower area, which can be connected into a single, exhausting—but never dull—10-kilometer (6.2-mile) run. With 36 courses and 21 lifts, there's plenty to do! You can check the daily snow update here.
Madarao Mountain Resort
Located in northeastern Nagano Prefecture, Madarao Mountain Resort (formerly Madarao Kogen) is an increasingly popular resort connected to Tangram Ski Circus. You can ski both resorts with a single ticket, so there's a lot to explore—and 60 percent of the courses at Madarao are ungroomed, meaning plenty of fresh snow to play in! Check the conditions here!
Regional Snow Guide
Head over to Snow Japan for everything you need to know about a embarking on a ski adventure in Nagano!