This was my second visit to Gala. The first time was in January 2012 when there was good snow but poor visibility and more importantly, the Southern Area was closed, this being the area with ungroomed, powder runs. I’ve therefore wanted to return there with better conditions and was able to do so last week. Although early March, the Yuzawa area (“Paradise Alley”) was experiencing a brief return to mid-winter conditions, with lower temperatures and lots of snowfall. The day in question I had stayed at Yuzawa Kenkouland, the overnight onsen place that’s located just below Gala Yuzawa station, and awoke to find clearing skies and plenty of fresh snow on parked cars.
I was tempted to head up to nearby Kagura but the threat of lift closures due to strong winds, and the fact that I could see Gala station literally just up the road, meant that I chose the latter. A ten minute walk later, I was entering the station and within another 20 minutes I was on a gondola to the Central Area. I had a quick run up the bottom double (“Phaeton”) lift whilst waiting for the 2 quad lifts to open. “Barouche” opened first (at 08:30) and I got the first lift up. Plenty of snow had indeed fallen overnight and the groomers also looked in great condition, which proved to be the case as I got first tracks down the Entertainment course, on the skier’s right of the Central Area, slashing the powder on the sides. I went back up and came down the Gigi course, on the skier’s left. The groomers were really nice, almost as good as those in Furano, Hokkaido, which I think has the best quality grooming of all the Japanese ski resorts I’ve been to. There was a lot of powder to play in off the sides of both runs, which I did whilst waiting for the top double (“Coach”) lift to open, this being the lift needed to access the top of the Southern Area.
The PA system announced that the Southern Area was going to open at 9:30, so I headed up Coach and joined a few other powder-hounds up there at 9:25, only to then be told by the liftie that it wasn’t ready to open yet. I therefore did a run back down to the gondola station for a quick pit-stop. On the way back up the “Sociable” quad lift, I heard that the Southern Area was now open (at 10:00) and 5 minutes later I was strapping in and ready to drop in. Judging by the tracks in front of me, a good 20 or so people had got there before me but this being Japan, the majority had stayed in the centre of the run so I was able to score a sweet, untracked line all the way down the “$2,600,000” course. The snow was great – light, boot-to-knee-deep powder! Lovely!!
The main part of the Southern Area is serviced by one double lift (“Waggonette”), which accesses all the runs bar the top part of “$2,600,000”. There was so much snow that I didn’t think it worth the time or effort to head back over to the Central Area just to get back up to the top, so spent the rest of the morning in the Southern Area, using Wagonnette. The main courses got tracked out fairly quickly but early on, the snow was light enough for that not to make too much of a difference under foot. Things got a little bumpier as the sun started to warm things up but by then I had headed into the trees, where I was able to pick and choose my lines as I wished. The terrain in these trees is quite mellow, which suits me, and with the sun on my face, a good foot of pow to play in, and little or no competition for lines, I was like a pig in muck! Having bought a morning ticket, I did lap after lap of the various tree runs until 12.30, when I headed back over to the Central Area via the Batman and Edelweiss Courses. Back down the gondola, changed, quick bite to eat then a Shinkansen ride back to Tokyo and home by 5pm – sorted!
So I had a great morning at Gala! The Southern Area certainly delivered the goods and I left a happy man. As stated in my first review, Gala is quite limited in what it has to offer without the Southern Area, so my advice would be to time your visit for when that’s open.
From 11 March, 2014
Snow condition on visit:
Great! Soft pack on-piste with boot-to-knee-deep powder off-piste.
Things I liked:
The Southern Area, the quality of the groomed runs and the convenience of the shinkansen station.