Nozawa Onsen is located at the foot of Kenashi-yama (literally Mt No-hair) in the scenic northern part of Nagano Prefecture. It has the most snowfall in the region and is famous as a hot springs and ski resort. Even though it is a Mecca for keen skiers, it has retained its traditional Japanese charm. Onsen is the Japanese word for hot springs and Nozawa Onsen has numerous hot springs each from a different source and quite different in mineral content.
The village has been a ski resort since 1912, a year after skiing was introduced to Japan by Austrian Major Theodor von Lerch. The ski hill was established in 1924 and it was the first place in the country to install ski lifts. Nozawa Onsen has been the venue for numerous major skiing and snowboarding tournaments and was the host for the Biathlon competitions at the Nagano Olympics.
Mt. Kenashi has eleven ski slopes with very fine powder snow. The Ya-road, a 300 meter long moving lane connects the village center with the ski resort. Fifty km of trails are accessed by two gondolas and 22 chair lifts. Nozawa Onsen is one of the largest ski resorts in Japan and offers alpine skiing, cross country skiing and ski jump facilities, as well as being home to a training center. The famous, demanding Kandahar slopes are now open to the general public for skiing on specific days.
Almost all the trails of Nozawa Onsen are open to both snowboarders and skiers. Only the Yamabiko and Kandahar courses cannot be used by snowboarders. The halfpipe at Uenotaira adds to the thrill of snowboarders at Nozawa Onsen.
The town is built on hills with maze-like narrow streets running into each other and rows of Japanese-style hotels and inns. At the end of a day on the slope, relax in any of the thirteen free public hot spring baths known as sotoyu. Be sure to visit Ogama, a boiling hot spring of about 100 degrees Celsius, which is used as the town’s public kitchen. Residents bring baskets of greens, corn, eggs, or anything to be boiled here.