Seeing as the town itself is a bit over-developed and the innkeepers surprisingly unfriendly, there's not much reason to leave the train station -- with its excellent, piping hot onsen (infused with sake) and the sake-tasting salon right there, and a range of local foods/souvenirs as well, it's easy to spend an hour or two here in the station before meandering outside. Ashiyu (foot onsen) are sprinkled around the town -- be sure to sample one or two of them if you do make it out of the station.
Echigo-Yuzawa is the site for Kawabata's famous novel, Snow Country
afterall, so one would think it would offer more to the casual traveler. However many of the onsen hotels use a tad too much chlorine, and the fancier hotels have deviated more towards the Western spa experience than the time-honored Japanese one. Skiers will surely appreciate the fact that you almost fall into an onsen when you reach the bottom of the slopes -- it would be a great way to soak away the soreness after a day on the slopes. The Shinkansen makes this town an easy escape from Tokyo. But while the unique train station is well worth stopping at, you may want to keep on going to find more natural, relaxing onsen further down the line.
Recommend an Onsen!
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