Honshu, Japan

Arai is a fantastic family ski resort area in Honshu, recently re-opened for the first time in over 10 years after being brought back to life by the Lotte Hotel group. This rejuvenated resort means modern facilities, world-class amenities, luxurious accommodation, and plenty of first tracks!

Scout Loves

  • International Ski School with English-speaking instructors.
  • Avalanche controlled off-piste & fantastic high alpine terrain.
  • Snow...and lots of it! Up to 15 metres annually.
  • Family friendly activities to keep the kids entertained.

Scout Tips

  • There is no village or town nearby so if staying here you can feel a bit stuck.
  • The Lotte Arai Hotel has luxury hotel-style rooms.
  • Catch the free resort shuttle from Joetsumyoko Train Station to the resort.
  • Great day trip option from nearby Myoko Kogen with daily buses.
  • Over 65% of the terrain caters towards intermediate to advanced skiers.

Scout Review

Arai is fast becoming one of the new must-ski destinations in Japan, and there's plenty of reasons why! Originally built and opened in 1993 as a luxurious purpose-built ski resort, the Arai (formerly known as Arai Mountain Resort and Spa) operated for many years as a popular ski destination, however closed its doors in 2006, alongside many other ski resorts in Japan. Newly refurbished and redeveloped for the international skier, Lotte Arai Resort reopened December 2017. Incredible snowfall, advanced off-piste terrain, wide open alpine bowls, and family friendly resort facilities, this 'new' powder paradise has upped the ante for luxury ski resorts in Japan.

Arai Hotel has everything you need for a luxe ski vacation all in the one spot. From lounge & whiskey bars, bakeries, private karaoke rooms, indoor swimming pools & day spas, to five star accommodation that ranges from standard hotel rooms to private penthouses - Arai is ticking all the boxes. Team that up with brand new resort facilities, including international ski school, child care, and plenty of non-ski activities for the kids (think climbing wall, zip-line, and trampolines). The onsen facilities at the hotel are beautiful.

There are some downsides, however. There is no village or town nearby so when staying here you are limited to the restaurants and facilities provided by the resort. The four main restaurants for dinner are quite expensive, and there is little in the wya of apres or nightlife - though we did find the Cottage lounge off the lobby to be a nice place to relax and enjoy a beer in the afternoon. Any other westerners staying at the resort seemed to have the same idea. The result is that you can feel a little "stuck"with resort fever setting in after a few days. We would reccomend staying at Arai for a couple of days of quiet luxury, however not for a full week

The other negative is the limited amount of on-piste skiing which we expand on below.

All-in-all Arai is definitely worth the visit, particuarly for advanced skiers looking for awesome inbounds off-piste terrain, and those seeing a higher end resort style stay.

Arai Skiing

Arai Ski Resort offers some fantastic skiing in Honshu, especially for higher intermediate to advanced skiers and snowboarders. The terrain itself is much smaller than nearby resorts at only 388 acres, however, it has the all important vertical (951 metres) for those waist-deep powder days. Below the tree-line, the resort offers some great light tree-skiing. Above the tree-line, you have access to incredible wide open powder bowls, and off-piste skiing within avalanche controlled areas. For even more fresh lines, you can take a short hike up to the peak from the top chair.

Arai's proximity to the Sea of Japan brings storms with plenty of moisture for snow, and plenty of it, up to 15 metres annually. Some say that due to this, Arai receives more snow than nearby Myoko Kogen and Seki Onsen! The slopes are East-facing, so the snow sticks around a little longer through Spring. Ski patrollers at Arai are diligent, so expect to find a few in-bounds areas roped off - as tempting as they may look, the mammoth snowfall also brings increased avalanche danger so best to steer clear. Arai boasts a team of highly trained and experienced international snow patrol and avalance forecasters on site to make sure your powder turns are safe.

Arai is best for those who love backcountry style terrain, with rolling alpine zones and over a 1000 metres of vertical. Arai has some steep off-piste pitches allowing you to get waist deep with each turn, even with just a couple of inches of new snow. While it looks small on the map, the off-piste area to explore feels much bigger, especially if you put in the odd 10 minute hike (of which there are some still in the safe in-bounds area).  This would also be a great place for strong intermediate skiers looking to have a go at off-piste powder. They will find areas where the terrain is challenging but easy enough to handle and best of all, it's safe. While a ski guide is always a benefit, Arai is one resort where they aren't absolutely necessry since the off-piste is avalanche controlled, there is plenty of it in-bounds and most of it is quite visible and easy to navigate.

Where Arai falls down is its beginner and intermediate on-piste terrain. There simply isn't enough of it to warrant more than a day or two for skiers not looking to venture off-piste. The first timers' run is so flat that if a few inches of snow falls during the day (which is quite common) and it's not groomed, skiing it in a snow plough becomes virtually impossible. 

The resort is serviced by only 5 lifts - one main gondola, two quad chairs, and two double chairs. There is an excellent ski school run by Myoko Snowsports - they also offer guides for off-piste powder skiing. Lessons and guides can be included as part of an Arai Ski Package via Scout.

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Arai For Families

Arai has some great facilities for a family ski holiday. At the base area, you will find an International Ski School with English-speaking instructors (operated by Myoko Snowsports) with a great range of group and private lessons for kids (from the ages of 3) and adults. This is a major drawcard for Arai, being one of the only resorts in Japan with an extensive international-visitor friendly ski school. Also expect to find high quality rentals, which can be easily arranged right at the gondola base building. 

For families, the Lotte Arai Hotel offers great rooms for families, including childcare services. One benefit of staying here is the prime location, almost ski-in/ski-out, and easily access to the base of the resort. There are other great amenities for the kids, including an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a trampoline room, and the Lodge has a fun karaoke room. Tubing is also available at the base, perfect for a down day or a spare afternoon, and there is a food court and restaurant at the base and top of the gondola, providing many options for dining throughout the day.

The terrain is catered to intermediate to advanced skiers and snowboarders, however, there are some beginner slopes at lower mountain, including nice long blue runs. 

Arai Accommodation

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Arai is a small resort area with only one accommodation option at the base. The Lotte Arai Resort Hotel is the main complex at the base of the resort and offers a good range of rooms for individuals, couples, and families. The accommodation is Western-style rooms, with many restaurants, shops, and amenities including indoor & outdoor pools, indoor & outdoor onsen, gym, and day spa. There's 3 bars (very quiet) and karaoke room on site.

The Lotte Resort Hotel has fantastic re-furbished rooms and brand new facilities, but be prepared to pay a little extra to stay at the resort. Having no main village as such at the resort means dining out can be rather pricey, however, there are surprisingly a number of options; from bakeries and cafes, to exquisite restaurants. Opting for accommodation with half-board (breakfast and dinner included daily), does reduce the impact on your wallet. For budget travellers, we recommend a home base at nearby Myoko Kogen and taking a day trip (or two!) to Arai.

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Resort Activities

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Other than incredible skiing and the facilities at the hotel, there aren't many other activities at the resort itself. Kids (and adults) can participate in tubing, which is always a great way to spend an afternoon. There is also a long zip-line which is quite a thrill, though it does eat up a bit of skiing time with the briefing getting to and from the actual zip-line which goes across the ski resort. The day spa is also a fantastic way to spend the day, with treatments and pampering sessions available at the Lotte Arai Resort Hotel.

If you have a car there are some lovely attractions within a 40-60 minute drive, such as the historical town of takada, onsens, temples a vineyard and even an aquarium.

Getting There and Around

Arai is located on Mt Ohgenashi in the Niigata Prefecture of Honshu, only about 21km North of Myoko Kogen. Shinkansen is the easiest way to get to Arai, with a bullet train journey approximately 3 hours from Narita Airport (or only 1.5 hours from Tokyo). The resort offers a free shuttle from Joetsumyoko station, or you can take a taxi (which can be fairly expensive). Arai is about 30 minutes from Joetsu Myoko station. 

Transfers are available from Myoko Kogen for those wanting to take a day trip or partaking in a multi-resort ski holiday. Private transfers are also available from Tokyo Narita and Haneda Airports via Chuo Taxi.

The resort itself is incredibly compact, with everything within walking distance. The main hotel is located directly at the base of the resort, so you're on the slopes for first tracks straight away each morning. There is no town or village close by.

When To Go

Like many of the Nagano resorts in Honshu, the majority of snow falls between late-December and mid-February, with plenty of powder days throughout January. Heading towards the end of Feb and start of March, expect more bluebird days and Spring-like conditions. January is the coldest month, and brings stormy and blizzard-like days, however, this also brings the mammoth snowfall consistent with the regions proximity to the Sea of Japan (15 metres a season!).

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 1079ft / 329m Gondolas 1 Beginner 25%  
Summit Elevation 4101ft / 1280m Express Quads 0 Intermediates 45%  
Vertical Drop 3120ft / 951m Quad Chair 2 Advanced 30%  
Skiable Area 388ac / 157ha Triple Chairs 0      
Annual Snowfall 590in / 15m Double Chairs 2      
Longest Run TBC Surface Lifts 0      
Operating Hours TBC          
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