In short it was brilliant!! Everything you had organised was perfect, so thank you.
Here are a few comments for any future people you might book holidays for – I am sorry if you know these points but thought we would let you know
1. The snow is unbelievable!!!! All resorts were covered with heaps and
there was fresh powder snow almost daily.
2. Happo One is a fantastic resort to ski on with a sensational view and great wide runs. However, I would suggest for absolute beginners it may not be the best…….the blacks are hard, the blues/reds are a bit harder than in victoria and so are the greens (although some of these might have been labelled dotted green). For absolute beginners, we found the Tsugaike resort had a lot nicer green runs (a bit like the summit at Hotham or the bourke st buller run – but heaps and heaps of them). Otherwise I found Happo One to be magnificent and would strongly recommend it for intermediate or experienced skiers. Also, at Happo there were also heaps of runs which kept the day interesting.
3. I don’t know if you have used it much but the Yamano resort was fantastic. The rooms were nice enough, the view of the ski jumps every morning at breakfast was spectacular and to top it off the Japanese bath was sensational at the end of every day’s skiing. One of the complaints on trip advisor was the small bathrooms which is true, but I suspect none of these people used the gigantic japanese bath/sauna. Most of all, the service was top notch. The hosts spoke English mostly pretty well and were always helpful. We could call them anytime and they would come and pick us up in the resort (or drop us off). Also, Yamano was really close to the chair lift.
4. Regarding where to eat, I would tell people to relax…..everywhere we ate it was magnificent. We even had 2 hot pot meals in Yamano which were great. What I would recommend to people is to go to Echoland……its a small town nearby Happo (you can still get views of ski jump) and there are a number of restaurants here. We went to Zen and Izakaya Hie (make sure to order okonomyaki -japanese pancake here!!). Both were sensational – although we probably would give the vote to Zen.
5. The snow monkey tour should be strongly recommended. I think you had said we could use the JR East pass to get there, but when we spoke to the information centre at Nagano about this, we were told the way to get there was by bus so we didn’t book the train. However, at our resort we saw a tour to the monkeys, lunch at a sake factory (can’t remember the town name) and finally the Zenkoji Temple in Nagano city. By far the highlight of the day was the monkeys…..they are so cute and worth the trip!
6. My final comment is with the JR East pass. It was useful to have all the tickets booked on day one so we knew where to go, what time and with a reserved seat, but I am not sure costwise whether it is cheaper just to buy the tickets on arrival. As I said, we didn’t particularly mind and was pleased to have the reserved seats but given we only travelled narita-tokyo-nagano and return on the JR pass, others on a tighter budget might find it more useful to buy the tickets over there.
As I said, we had a brilliant week and hopefully will return.