Riding JaPOW in Nozawaonsen – A working holiday in Japan
In 2015 I traveled to the land of the rising sun in search of JaPOW: powder snow in Japan. I spent four months living, working and snowboarding in Nozawaonsen, a small, traditional village with an amazing ski resort. As a snowboard instructor I taught English speaking tourists how to navigate the snowy slopes and, when they were ready, how to ride powder. Over the course of the season I connected with travelers and locals alike, sharing my passion for snowboarding and eating as much ramen as possible.
Nozawaonsen captured my heart and I can’t wait to return.
Wake up. Its snowing. Toast and coffee. Pants, boots, jacket, gloves, helmet, goggles, snowboard GO!
Almost every week a new storm leaves a dump of fresh snow on mount Kenashi, the local peak. The resort has twenty odd lifts but most of the terrain can be accessed using just a few chairs and gondolas. You will probably run into your work mates, your new acquaintance from the bar or that cute Japanese friend you made yesterday on the slopes. Everyone is grinning, neck-warmers white from the last face shot. Its deep out here.
After a day on the mountain its time to soak in a local onsen, or hotspring. A traditional hotspring town, Nozawaonsen has 13 free public hot baths to choose from. Get clean and relax. Afterwords, grab some delicious Ramen and a drink in town before wandering back to your bed, or the bar. There is not a lot of nightlife in this small town, but none-the-less weekly parties hosted by local bars keep things fresh. Expect to see familiar faces as you wonder the crooked streets between.
With a newly built bullet-train station in the adjacent town, Nozawaonsen has never been more accessible. Take the Shinkonsen directly from Tokyo to Iyama before catching the shuttle bus to Nozawaonsen. Alternatively you can arrange the Chuho taxi to take you to Nozawaonsen from the airport directly. This is a less expensive option (especially if you book round trip) but takes longer and must be reserved in advance.
Accommodation can be tricky. If you have secured a job or plan on working your best bet is to stay in staff housing. Most restaurants and all home-stays / hotels provide accommodation for workers. So does the snow school. Otherwise, check out the official tourist information website for the resort and book far in advance to reserve your space! Ideally you want to be located near the Nagasaka Gondola.
I worked with Canyons ( http://www.canyons.jp ) as a snowboard instructor for the Nozawaonsen Snow School. I also assisted with school management and international reservations.
I had an very positive experience staying in Nozawaonsen and will definitely return. The new and exciting terrain, consistent heavy snowfall, traditional culture and warm and welcoming people made my stay unforgettable. In the end I found JaPOW and so much more.’,’The snow school was a great place to work. Fairly new, the school is growing quickly and actively. Employing twenty to thirty instructors the company has a great community of passionate staff that love what they do.