Visited Naeba my only other time about 17 yrs ago. It had been snowing off and on for the past couple of weeks w/ a forecast calling for clear and sunny on the 2nd so signed up for a JR Ski Ski 1-day package (shinkansen RT, bus 1-way, all-day lift ticket) out of Ueno on the 1st train out, 2 days before.
Was on the hill a little before 10. Sunny w/ very little wind, the morning was crisp w/ good powder to be found all over. The day warmed up (only to slightly over freezing would be my guess) and the snow over exposed areas began settling but with good pow still in unexposed areas. There was everything from caky to wind crust to just plain denser, settled snow in the pm. In the morning the snow was squeaky underfoot. Would characterize conditions as packed powder overall (to varying degrees) throughout the day.
Skied the Takenoyama chair all morning until a couple of runs after lunch, before heading down the mtn. Went up and down Gondola 2 for the afternoon before coming off the slopes after 3. Had lunch (fries and chicken nuggets, 800yen) around 11:30, at the restaurant at the top of Gondola 2. There were really no lines, at most, maybe 5 or 6 in line, on the Takenoyama chair w/ the best conditions in the morning, and the best part of the day!
Didn’t duck any lines; there was plenty of good off-piste w/in bounds. They actually had patrol at the very top from late morning overlooking the main fenced off area at the very top but every now and then saw boarders duck into what looked to be a sweet powder face on the face up top. Saw what looked to be a gaping mini crevice as you were coming up the gondola. That area was fenced off. In the afternoon, the Men’s Riesen run along the right (unexposed) side held the best powder throughout the day.
Some practical stuff thats not really mentioned or stated anywhere: When you get off at Echigo Yuzawa Stn., head toward the East (Higashi) exits (escalators). The bus to Naeba departs from Stop (Loading area) 1 on the east side of the stn. The bus ride takes around 50 mins. If it’s crowded, you’ll have to stand the whole way. There are (I think) 3 actual bus stops w/in and when you get to Naeba. The first stop is Naeba Iriguchi (Naeba (parking lot) entranceway). You want to get off at the 2nd stop, Naeba Ski Jo, which lets you off right in front of their new ski center. There’s also a third stop that lets you off in front of the Naeba Prince Hotel (entranceway).
Once you come through the ski center doors, you’re not actually slopeslide, but one covered walkway away from the slopeside part of the ski center. You just walk straight on through the covered walkway, to the slopeside part, which is where you can get your lift pass, and they have a food court, mens and womens changing areas w/ big(ger) lockers (200yen). They also have small 100-yen lockers along the walls, past the rental area and before the changing rooms. I’m assuming there’s got to be more lockers somewhere, but if these were the ONLY lockers they have on their premises, then GOOD LUCK finding an empty locker on the weekends. It just didn’t seem like there’d be anywhere near enough if/when it gets crowded there. I found my way to the changing rooms and big lockers, and had my pick, but there really weren’t that many. I stuck my ski and boot bags and one medium shoulder bag into the locker, the type where you have to pay 200 yen each time you open the door, but forgot to take out my pass case before getting my lift ticket--had to come back and inserted an extra 200 yen just to get my pass case, sheesh! The first part of the ski center, by the parking lot area, is where the bus lets you off, and picks you up in the afternoon. There’s a waiting area with benches and TV, with a gift shop, ramen stand, vending machines, etc., located conveniently right there. At Echigo Yuzawa Stn, there’s a pretty large main courtyard-like shopping area, specializing in regional specialties of all sorts, in addition to a whole bunch of shops, restaurants and food stalls - a good way to pass the time until your train departs if you get there early.
All in all I had a great day that day. Conditions were excellent. With the weather cooperating, it was also a perfect picture op day, especially up top. These JR ski packages, too, are a great deal, especially on the weekdays. It definitely cost less than it would have for the whole trip, taking the train, than it would have if I’d driven up. The ONLY downside to taking the train was having to lug everything around in transit...and on the bus between the station and ski area, they charge(d) 100 yen extra for “oversized” luggage you bring on board (skis, snowboards). On the shinkansen, there’s space to store your boards behind the very last row of seats in every car, but there were also people laying their skis in the aisle, alongside their seats. You can also apparently put your boards in the door area between cars.