A couple of posts ago, I wrote about snowshoeing to the frozen Zengoro Falls in Norikura. This week, I have another snowy Norikura adventure to tell you about: Nature skiing!
You can rent a pair of nature skis, boots, and ski poles for just ¥1,500 for half a day or ¥3,000 for a full day at the Little Peaks equipment rental shop located at the Norikura Kogen Tourist Information Center. (Get here by bus or car).
The Ichinose area in Norikura is one of the best places for nature skiing because it’s fairly flat and wide-open. Plus you can head out directly from the Tourist Information Center/Little Peaks without needing to drive anywhere.
So, you might be wondering what exactly “nature skis” are in the first place. I originally thought it was just another name for cross-country skis, but upon asking at Little Peaks, they are actually a bit different: Nature skis are a hybrid ski that shorter in length compared to cross-country skis and still have an edge on the sides. They are great for ski-walking through snowy forests or fields and don’t require much technique. On the other hand, they are not built for speed and are not ideal for going down slopes.
Whether you have skiing experience or not, nature skis are easy to pick up in just a few minutes. One of the Little Peaks staff members will also help you learn how to use them and give you tips on how to walk through the snow.
Once you got your skis strapped on, you’re ready to head out!
If it’s windy or extremely cold, I do recommend having some kind of face cover to keep the wind out, as well as earmuffs or a cap that covers your ears.
To head for Ichinose, just walk out of Little Peaks and head out to the road. Look to your left and you’ll see two signs with the numbers “20” and “21” on them. It’s mostly in Japanese except for the “NORTHSTAR Outdoor Adventures” text. You’ll want to head right down that road, which will take you directly to Ichinose (if you are not familiar with the area, make sure you grab a map at Little Peaks and have them explain it to you).
And let your snow adventure begin!
It’s a little tricky to get used to how to efficiently walk with the skis right away, but you’ll get it after a few minutes. The skis are very narrow, so it’s easy to lose your balance, but luckily, there is plenty of fluffy snow to break your fall 😉
For going up or down a very steep or rugged step/slope, you may have to turn sideways and “walk” up or down one ski at a time—or an easier option may be to just remove the skis until you get past that area, as they are very easy to clip on and off.
Anyway, the best part about nature skis is being able to simply glide across the snow and enjoy the beautiful winter scenery! If you find a gentle downhill, it’s super fun to slide down those too.
We reached the entrance to Ichinose area in about 45 minutes, but I think it took us extra time because of the large amount of snow (and amount of falling down!). Here, you can explore the area, ski across frozen ponds, and on a nice day, see the surrounding mountains. You could even bring a lunch or some coffee (or mulled wine…) and have a mini-winter picnic out in the snow 😉
Enjoy, stay warm, and stay safe!
See more info about winter activities in Matsumoto here.