Snow-covered mountains surround the city of Nagano, where the 1,400 year old Zenkoji Temple is the biggest tourist attraction in this small industrial city. The open-air temple provides a peaceful and gentle backdrop to the ski resorts in the mountains. The 1998 Winter Olympics were held in Nagano, Japan in the heart of the majestic Japanese Alps. It served as a venue for the hockey and ice events as well. The various events such as downhill and cross country took place at different resorts like Happo, Shiga and Nozawa. The bobsled and luge took place in Iizuna which is thirty minutes to the northwest of Nagano.

Iizuna is a newer and more reasonably priced ski resort in Japan, though it has very limited runs. Its big advantages are that it never gets too crowded and night skiing is permitted through the week. A snowboarding terrain park with a half-pipe is another attraction and artificial snow makes up for any poor coverage. The terrain is a combination of groomed beginner slopes and tougher mogul runs, with a system of eight ski lifts providing access to the slopes.

Iizuna runs a ski school, cafeteria and children’s facilities, and reasonably priced pensions and traditional Japanese-style hotels are available in the ski resort. Iizuna ski resort has seven fairly long and wide runs, the longest measuring to 1.5 miles. It offers a good spread of runs suitable for all levels of experience. Groomed beginner slopes are located near the bottom of the mountain but there are more challenging pistes with moguls near the top. Eight triple and quad chairlifts provide access to the slopes.

The seven pistes at Iizuna ski resort are almost equally divided between runs suitable for beginners, intermediates and experts. The skiing season here runs between mid-December and early April and the best snow conditions are usually in February. There are usually discount packages available, particularly for children, and skiing during the weekdays is cheaper.

Iizuna ski resort is conveniently accessible from Nagano. Take the bullet train along the Shinetsu line from Tokyo to Nagano and you will find regular buses that run to the resort.