During the midsummer months (Opening period: July 13th), the main Nagasaka gondola is open, taking you up to about 1,500m, high above the Chikuma valley. Not only is this a pleasant ride into the cool of the mountains, but it leads to great hiking trails, picnicking spots… and the start of some amazing downhill mountain biking trails!
Downhill mountain biking is the sport of choice in the summer for the winter sports-crazy locals in Nozawa. One of the local ski/board shops morphs in the summer to be a bike-geek’s dream shop, and moves to a temporary location right at the base of the gondola. There you can not only sort out your own bike and kit, but rent full or half suspension bikes and protective kits. It’s very easy and the kids in the shop can muddle through in simple English if the Japanese for “calliper brake” or “knobblies” has temporarily slipped your mind.
Apart from the fire trails dotted around, there are at least two main routes down the mountain. They’re well marked, and well used, so you’re unlikely to get lost. There are also bifurcations of both routes between easy and, umm, less easy, routes. The trails are mostly over open grassland, with some forested/wooded parts, and (for the easy trails) a little tarmac. It’s all downhill, tho’, so this is about technique, not strength or stamina.