By Sandra Isaka
Hidden deep within the mountains of Gunma Prefecture, but easy to reach, Minakami Kogen Ski Resort is the ultimate winter get-away for anyone with an interest in snow-related activities. From the end of December to the beginning of April, winter enthusiasts can enjoy some of Japan's best powder snow while staying at this top quality resort.
The Minakami Kogen Ski Resort is located within the grounds of the Minakami Kogen Hotel 200. Skiers and snowboarders have access to four lifts and can choose from eleven courses of varying levels. Guests of the hotel can watch the slopes from large wall-to-wall windows in their room, and only need to step outside to join the fun. For those who enjoy skiing at a leisurely pace, there are two cross country ski courses that meander through forests of white birch trees. Or, take a walk on a set of modern snow shoes!
If you prefer to speed across the snow in a motorized vehicle, the hotel has a impressive variety of options to choose from. Adults can enjoy full-sized snowmobiles, while children can drive their own mini-mobiles. For a modern version of a horse and carriage, take a ride in a two-person snow coach - which is pulled behind an instructor-driven snowmobile. Or, try the 'snow liner', a large open-air sled in which families can take a slow and scenic ride around the grounds behind a bright pink tractor. The ride I enjoyed most, however, was snow rafting. Get ready to hold on tight, and laugh until it hurts, in a whitewater raft adapted for the snow that slides all over the place behind a skillfully driven snowmobile.
One of the best things about this resort is that anyone, with little or no skill involved, can have a fantastic day speeding down the slopes. To accomplish this, try one of the resort's many hand-held sleds like the 'Snow Racer' or my personal favorite, the 'Snow Rider'. A crash in the soft snow left me with no injuries; only a slightly embarrassed smile and a head-to-toe dusting of white powder.
Children who are not ready for the slopes can slide down mini hills on tubes and/or plastic sleds in a variety of shapes and sizes. Once at the bottom, there are even snow escalators to carry rider and tube/sled back up to the top. Want to build a snowman, hang out in an igloo, have a snowball fight... the options are endless.
For those who plan ahead, a visit can include one of the world's most exciting winter activities... dog sledding! From early January to the end of March, only eight people each day can enjoy this amazing experience.
If you don't have equipment and ski wear, or you don't feel like carrying any luggage, everything can be rented on-site. Need some ski or snowboarding instruction? Take a lesson or two from an expert at the on-site Ski School & Kids Academy.
The Minakami Kogen Hotel 200 is part of the Naqua Hotels and Resorts group. It offers a variety of comfortable rooms, tasty meal choices, and excellent open air hot spring baths. Stay a night or two in the hotel, or just visit for the day. With many packages to choose from, there truly is something for everyone!
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