Niigata and Nagano are at the historic heart of Japanese skiing, ever since it was introduced by Austrian officer Theodore von Lerch back in 1911. He would be amazed to see how snow sports have grown, and even more surprised to see he has become famous as the face of all things snow related. The friendly Lerch caricature, complete with moustache and hat, is ubiquitous, on everything from posters to popular soft toys. He is the official winter mascot for Niigata.
Von Lerch was the first European skier here, but now thousands of international visitors flock to the Japan Alps for the quality of the skiing, the great snow, and the all round experience.
The main resorts of Hakuba Valley, Nozawa Onsen and Shiga Kogen are already well known to many Australian visitors, so this feature focuses on the latest addition to Japanese skiing, Arai, and the surrounding Myoko and Joetsu region.
The new Arai Resort
The biggest news in Japanese skiing this year has to be the re-opening of a legend, Arai resort near Myoko in southern Niigata, which had been closed for a decade. Set between Myoko and the coast, behind the city of Joetsu, Arai was famous for getting more snow than almost anywhere in Japan – an average of over 15 metres per season.