Located in Niigata Prefecture, Myoko Kogen has nine resorts – the main ones being Akakura Kanko (sometimes called Akakan), Akakura Onsen, Myoko Suginohara and Ikenotaira Onsen.
Myoko is more laid back than Niseko and is less crowded, although that is changing as more people discover its virtues. Not the place if you prefer a long-night sculling sake. Suginohara has the longest run in Japan at 8.5km, and Akakura Onsen has one of the steepest, The Wall, which is for experts only. The ski and snowboard school has lessons in English and caters for children. Tree skiing is allowed.
Akakura is a lovely traditional village and is where most of the accommodation is located. Dine at Syokudo Shibata, Avaya or Chia. Drink at Skate Bar (it has a skate ramp) or Shinsetsuya. Akakura Kanko Hotel was built for the imperial family in 1937 and is five-star all the way.
Find a rotenburo (outdoor onsen), go snowshoeing, sake tasting and, for something different, the Dontoyaki Fireworks Festival is on at Suginohara in January.
In Nagano prefecture, Nozawa Onsen is a traditional village that has not been overrun with Western influences. Accommodation ranges from pensions and ryokans to larger lodges that are excellent for big groups of families or friends.
The authentic cultural experience is almost as good as the skiing, with the onsens in this area discovered in the eigth century.
With 24 lifts and 50km of terrain, Nozawa Onsen is one of the largest ski resorts in Japan and has something for everyone.
Stroll the cobblestone streets and feel as if you have gone back in time. Pick up some pork buns and steamed dumplings from street vendors and try the local pickled vegetable delicacy – nozawana. Dine at Wakagiri, Wanryu Ramen or Tsukushinbo and drink at Foot bar, Stay bar or Heaven.
There are 13 public onsens (soto no yu), with O-yu the best. Also try the Ashi no yu – hot foot baths. For OMG moments, the Dosojin Fire Festival is on January 15 every year and is a sight to behold. Forget occupational health and safety parameters – there are none.