I noticed the reviews on here are pretty old and since SnowJapan was nice enough to send me two free tickets I decided to write this review.
Ninox is close to Shibata city and is probably the closest ski place to Niigata City.
It is on the west facing side of the mountains and gets a lot of snow. The storms that blow in across the sea from Russia dump a lot of snow on the slopes. Ninox is usually the first place to open around here. It seems to trap clouds and while this means the snow conditions are good, visibility is often poor. Also it is very exposed to the westerly winds that howl in from the sea of Japan.
Ninox is a small resort. There are three lifts but one is pretty much useless, going less than a hundred metres to a short intermediate slope.
The beginner slope at the bottom is super flat and when the westerly winds are blowing, it is hard to keep moving. On the side of the beginner slope is the snow park. It is very well maintained, has a variety of kickers, rails etc and this season they just keep improving and adding to it. I have been about 5 times this season and every time I go I find something new and improved. When the wind is getting into it though, it is difficult to get sufficient speed to make big jumps (for me anyway other people seem to have less trouble).
At the top of Ninox there are two long, steep and at times narrow runs. After a fresh dump of snow, these are super fast and fun. The run on the right, (looking up the mountain) is often left ungroomed and seems to get a bit more snow. It is also exposed to wind and there are often icy patches where the snow has been blown off and deep drifts in other places. There are some opportunities to duck into the trees for a few short side-piste runs.
When the clouds are down, which is often there, it can be a bit spooky as you can suddenly find yourself on the edge of a steep ridge, or suddenly encountering the aforementioned ice or drifts. It definitely keeps you on your toes as another reviewer remarked.
The down sides are, as others have mentioned a lack of variety. It really is a small resort. Still, if you are in the area it can be fun when conditions are right. The bottom lift can get crowded on weekends but I have never waited for the lift to the top in the three years I have been going. Also, due to the direction it can get a bit too much sun in the afternoons which can result in sloppy snow. Definitely best early in the morning.
There is a free shuttle bus from Shibata station on weekends and over the New Year holidays. It leaves Shibata at 8:40 and leaves Ninox at 4:30.
Last but not least, I saw a Kamoshika strutting about on the piste there on Sunday (February 11th).
I will also put some pictures up taken on a couple of different days.
From December, 2012 To March, 2014
Snow condition on visit:
Light fluffy powder early, then a bit wet and cruddy as the day went on.
Things I liked:
The snow conditions early after a big dump and the long fast runs from the top. Lack of crowds usually. The park.
Things I didn't like:
Lack of variety. Windy days.
Authentic Japan experience