Looking For a Quiet Pocket of Powder? You’ve Found It At Charmant Ski Hiuchi Snow Resort, Niigata!
Do you like snow sports? Quiet locations? Beautiful views? No crowds? If you answer “Yes!” to these, Charmant Hiuchi Ski Resort is your kind of place! Charmant is a lovely, compact resort that can be enjoyed by all! People of all ages: skiers, snowboarders and ski scooters of all levels. Oh! I forgot to mention! Great snow? Charmant is renowned for huge dumps of snow and deep powder, and a long winter season!
Now, about the name! It is, I’m told, probably French, but the pronunciation here is something like “shah-ru-marn.” It is in the south-east of Niigata prefecture, just off the Japan Sea coast, and about 16km from the town of Nou. The drive is lovely, along the Nou River, first through small villages, that give way to natural forests and hills. You’ll find Charmant at the end of a beautiful winding mountain road, and at quite a high elevation, hence it’s bountiful snow. It is surrounded by nothing other than nature, and on a clear day, you will see beautiful sea and mountain views.
The park has three main courses, with two being 1.3km, and the third is 2.3km. Two runs are quite steep, providing challenges for more advanced riders. There are three lifts, of which the quadlift will take you right to the top of the park and allow you to access any run. There are two other lifts that will take riders to some more gentler areas for the less-experienced. As well as the main courses, there are a number of other tracks that wind in and around the park, providing fun and entertainment in the snow throughout the day. There are areas at the base in front of the main central building for kids to play as well.
About 65% of the resort is free for off-track free-riding. In the surrounding areas, the backcountry is popular, and the resort has an off-piste register – please make sure you use this if you are going to go off the park, for your own good! The tracks mostly have some English words – easy; slightly difficult; difficult. The park map shows the traditional ski park level ranking in green, red and black, so if you are familiar with that, no worries!
There are other convenient features I would like to mention about Charmant. With nothing adjacent the park, it is quite self-sufficient offering a number of services. There is a large, free parking lot for 500 vehicles. This is located on the lower side of the park, in front of the entrance. The main building has an eatery section with typical ski resort, and other Japanese facilities, eating options – noodle dishes, donburi (rice bowl – rice topped with other simmered ingredients such as meats), hot chips etc. There are drink machines and water. You can rent gear and also there is a small shop with very basic goods such as neck-warmers, gloves, goggles, water-proofers, snacks, etc. At the top of the park, where the quadlift alights there is another small eatery, a cute log cabin. This is very charming and has a great atmosphere.
After a glorious day on the slopes I recommend you visit Gongenso Onsen, just 5km back down the road from Charmant. Nothing like hot, mineral waters to sooth the muscles after a day on the slopes! It is modern but also traditional in style of such a facility. It also does have a restaurant and gift shop, plus accommodation (see below).
Charmant is 33km from Itoigawa, and 16 km from Nou. It is also relatively near Myoko Kogen for those who are maybe looking for a variety of parks to explore. I would recommend you peruse this following site for more detailed information on the parks in the vicinity and snow and weather conditions.
There are no places to actually stay at the resort but many choices in the greater area to suit all budgets, from dormitories, hostels, to ryokans (Japanese inns) and hotels. About 5km from Charmant is a ryokan and onsen (public hot-spring baths) called Gongsenso, which is the closest place to stay.
The closest local railway is Nou. As I always suggest, check Hyperdia for all public transport in Japan!
With the Hokuriku Shinkansen line it is easy to get to both Itoigawa and Nou, and from these places there are shuttle buses. The other possibility is to rent a car. Just make sure though you have a valid international license if you are visiting from outside Japan. A travel tip if you drive–anywhere in Japan–many service stations are not open on Sundays, especially in more out of town places! Don’t get caught out with no petrol!
For further details please check out the website for Charmant.
I recommend Charmant as both a destination on a trip, or as a stop passing through. It is conveniently located to quite a variety of other ski resorts and can be easily factored into a tour.