Gala Yuzawa, a snow resort in Yuzawa, Niigata Prefecture, is famed for being the only ski and snowboard resort in Japan with its own shinkansen station. Due to this easy accessibility, Gala Yuzawa has been extremely popular for 1-day or weekend-trips from Tokyo since its opening in 1990. Another reason why Gala Yuzawa is favoured by many snow fans is that Niigata prefecture is known for its heavy snowfall and cold temperatures in winter time. The snow brought from the Sea of Japan to inland Niigata is of great quality and comes in great quantities; overnight snowfall of more than 1 meter is not uncommon. The prefecture is home to a large number of ski resorts and the Yuzawa area consists of some 20 resorts already, some of these resorts have a winter season that lasts from November up until May!
Gala Yuzawa with it’s easy access from and to Tokyo and suburban snow conditions is especially popular for day and weekend trips. It is also known as an onsen town, great for unwinding after an active day in the snow. In this article we introduce everything you need to know about your trip to Gala Yuzawa.
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Access to Gala Yuzawa by Shinkansen
While you can drive up to Gala Yuzawa, taking a shinkansen is the faster and comfortable option. After all, the Shinkansen station connects directly to the ski lift.
Gala Yuzawa can be easily accessed by shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo, the trip only takes about 70 minutes and a one way trip costs about ¥6,500. There are several travel passes available that offer discounted travel such as the Tokyo Wide Pass and the JR East Pass. And for the international tourist: the JR pass is valid on this trip!
At Tokyo station, take the Joetsu Shinkansen that will take you to either Echigo-Yuzawa station or directly to Gala Yuzawa Station depending on the time and destination of the train. If you get off at Echigo-Yuzawa station, take a free shuttle bus to the Gala Yuzawa resort (about 10 minutes), which runs every 20 minutes.
Arriving at GALA Yuzawa Station
Gala Yuzawa Station is directly connected to Cowabunga Ski Center where you can find a ticket office, large coin lockers, ski and snowboard rental service, changing rooms and more. And most importantly, you can also access the gondola to get up to the slopes in the same building.
Gala Yuzawa gondola and lift tickets
As you exit the gate of Gala Yuzawa Station, you can find the ticket counter to purchase tickets for the gondola and lifts.
You can also purchase online tickets in advance via the Gala Yuzawa website, these are slightly cheaper than tickets purchased at the ski center. The ticket price for a 1 day ticket during the main season (2020.12.12 – 2021.05.05) is ¥5,200 or ¥5,000 online. *When you use the Tokyo Wide Pass for travelling, make sure to show the ticket for a discounted lift pass!Gala Yuzawa is lift-connected to the Yuzawa Kogen resort (from the Southern Area) and also to the Ishiuchi Maruyama resort (from the Northern Area). A joint lift ticket that is valid at all three resorts is available. It is called Yuzawa Snow Link and is priced at ¥5,700~¥6,200 for a 1 day ticket.
Ski & snowboard gear and clothing rental
At the Cowabunga Ski Center in Gala Yuzawa you can rent a ski, snowboard, boots, helmets and any other equipment you will need when you are going out on the slopes. Gala Yuzawa offers the latest models of high quality snow gear and trendy snow wear from famous (international) brands.
In order to rent equipment and clothing, fill in the required items on the form, hand it in, and pick them up at the counter. If you make an online booking in advance, directly go to the counter to pick up the items. You can check the rental prices of the items on the website of Gala Yuzawa.
Ski lesson in Gala Yuzawa
In Gala Yuzawa you can take both ski and snowboard lessons at the local ski school. The lessons are available in Japanese and English and are led by experienced instructors. The price for a group lesson is ¥5,500 per person in 2020-2021.
Areas and slopes
With a relatively high altitude of 1,181m and large amounts of snow, Gala Yuzawa enjoys a long season and offers some of the best snow conditions in the region. There are three main areas: Central Area, Southern Area, and Northern Area and a downhill course. Together they offer 33.8 km of slopes, fun for all levels.
The busiest area is the Central Area which has a mix of beginner and intermediate runs and is located near the Snow Enjoyment Park and Rest House Cheers. The Snow Enjoyment Park is a family-friendly place with a sledding slope and a play area. From the Bell of Love observation deck, you can enjoy panoramic views of the mountains.
The Northern Area offers six runs for beginners, whereas the Southern Area has four intermediate and advanced runs, and connects with the Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort. This is where you can find some amazing powder slopes off the beaten path. The downhill course stretches about 2.5 kilometers from the Northern Area all the way down to the Cowabunga Ski Center. The larger part of the Southern Area is left ungroomed and is usually a bit more quiet.
Facilities Gala Yuzawa
There are two main ski centers at Gala Yuzawa; Cowabunga Ski Center that is directly connected to the Gala Yuzawa station, and Rest House Cheers where the gondola arrives. They offer various services and facilities which add to your amazing experience at Gala Yuzawa.
At Cowabunga, you can relax and refresh in an outdoor jacuzzi, an onsen (hot spring) and a swimming pool after snow activities. Do not forget to bring your swimming suits.
Another convenient facility is the delivery service that is available at Cowabunga. You can pick up and drop off your heavy luggage at the delivery desk, making the trip even more hassle free! The (souvenir) shops are open at both Cowabunga and Cheers, with a wide variety of items on offer including equipment for snow activities and your very own Gala Yuzawa original t-shirts. On the 2nd floor of Cheers, there is also a nursery/day care for children aged 2-6 years.
Variety of local food in Gala Yuzawa
In Gala Yuzawa you can enjoy some of the delicious local specialties at the Japanese restaurant Yuta in Cowabunga Ski Center. Niigata is known for producing some of the best rice in the country and the restaurant Yuta offers dishes with local rice as well as local sake which is made of rice.
The main place to eat at Gala Yuzawa is the large food court PALPAL, located in the Rest House Cheers. This food court serves a wide variety of dishes from Japanese curry to ramen noodles and for the sweet tooth there is also ice cream at Blue Seal and crepes at Marion Crepe.
In the Northern Area, there is also a cozy restaurant called Ole where you can enjoy a tasty curry rice along with chips and beer on an outdoor deck.
Yuzawa ski resorts
Gala Yuzawa is the most popular ski resort in Yuzawa because of its convenient access. However, as mentioned before, Yuzawa consists of a dozen resorts in total! Other options for a great day of fun in the snow are Kagura (15 min by bus from Echigo-Yuzawa), Naeba (15 min by bus from Echigo-Yuzawa) or Yuzawa Kogen (10 min walk).
Yuzawa Onsen Town
Besides excellent winter sports opportunities, the area of Yuzawa is also known as an onsen town. Echigo-Yuzawa or Yuzawa town is a historic onsen resort area only 2 kilometers from Gala Yuzawa. In this area, you will find many hotels and inns offering relaxing onsen baths and delicious meals, which are perfect for your weekend trip.
The Snow Country Hotel TAKAHAN
TAKAHAN is a classic Japanese style hotel with a history of over 900 years. Guests can enjoy natural hot spring baths, award-winning Japanese cuisine with fresh local ingredients, and comfortable suites with stunning views of surrounding mountains. The hotel is conveniently located 5 minutes from Gala Yuzawa, and offers a free shuttle bus to and from Gala Yuzawa.
This hotel offers Japanese style rooms with tatami mats or Western style rooms with beds and a relaxing hot spring onsen with jacuzzi and outdoor baths. The hotel offers a free shuttle bus to and from GALA Yuzawa.
Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture is famous for its large amounts of high quality powder snow and the long season. Some of the ski resorts are open from mid November to late May! These excellent conditions in combination with Gala Yuzawa’s easy access by Shinkansen, make Gala Yuzawa the perfect place to go for a day trip or weekend trip and enjoy some snow activities and local specialty sake and rice. If you are looking for ways to spend a day or weekend in the mountain covered with snow, Gala Yuzawa is a great choice!
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