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Trip Report elSpike’s Ski Ski Ski 2019 - Shiga Kogen, Madarao, Myoko and Yuzawa

Discussion in 'Japan' started by elSpike, Nov 27, 2018.

  1. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    February 1st - Tokyo to Akakura

    The alarm woke us at 7am, a solid five and a half hours of sleep in the ever reliable Haneda Airport hotel and we were out the door by 7.20am.

    Tokyo monorail to Hamamatsucho, transfer to the Yamamote Inner Loop and in to Tokyo Station. Alas no time for Vegan ramen (maybe on the way back). No reserved seats left on the Hakutaka 555 Shinkansen but there was no queue in the first car so easy enough to grab both two pairs of seats and the coveted gap between the wall and the last seat for luggage.

    While we were lining up, Mrs elSpike grabbed a few of these vegetable bentos from the little shop on the platform. Delicious. Maybe ¥1000 each.



    As we were leaving Tokyo, Fujisan reared it’s head. I can see why people have written much about the mood of this city being tied to how visible this mountain is. So iconic.



    Arrived in Nagano at 10.20am and straight on to the local train at 10.40am. (¥840 for a ticket. No Pasmo tap on) What a pretty line it follows, pacing a river with little villages every few minutes.



    We arrived in Myoko about 11.30 and only had a five minute wait for a taxi to take us to our hotel. I think the fare was about ¥2200. Very reasonable.

    We dumped our gear and walked down the street to Myoko Snowsports. I must say. The experience here was chalk and cheese to the one we had in Shiga. Exceptional customer service, great advice, attention to detail on the bindings and DINs.

    For those who followed my thread in the equipment section, I ended up with K2 Wayback 88s @ 174, with the option to swap out another day. I had a ball on them and Couldn’t believe how light they were compared to the usual intermediate rental ones.

    Mrs elSpike was especially pleased with the bogan underbody lights on her skis...



    We were advised that an afternoon on just the Akakura Kanko side would be all we needed so we got a PM pass and off we went.

    Vis was shocking at first.



    So bad that we almost missed the Hesta restaurant in the gloom. Thankfully not though or I would have missed first soft serve of the weekend.


    After lunch the visibility got much better and we had a great time playing on the edges and generally enjoying being on skis in the snow rather than home in the humidity of Singapore.





    After last lift we dropped our skis at Myoko Snowsports (they let you leave them there rather than carrying up the hill) and we’ll collect them before jumping on the box tomorrow.

    Our hotel allows private booking of the onsen so we did things backwards (for us) and had dinner first.

    Managed to snag a table at Samurai. I only got the front page of the menu but it’s all very reasonable and delicious.



    Shashimi bowl: ¥1200


    Sake tasting flight ¥1500. I wish you could pay another ¥500 and choose your favourite to round out to 4.

    On the way back up the hill I got another “look how much snow” pic. There has been a bit fall here.


    Sugi tomorrow I think.
     
    Kimski, skidazza, Jellybeans and 5 others like this.
  2. Telemark Phat

    Telemark Phat Pass the butter Ski Pass: Gold

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    A mate owns Myoko Snowsports, great to hear you had such a great experience
     
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  3. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Seriously. Everyone there are rockstar customer service. Genuinely great workplace culture.
     
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  4. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Those guys are hugely responsible for the big uptick in Myoko tourism. Come a long way since they started in 2009 with about a dozen staff.
     
  5. Tanuki

    Tanuki A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    I love that local train, you're so right about how beautiful it is.
     
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  6. skidazza

    skidazza Hard Yards

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    Great info once again @elSpike. The low vis probably explains why I didn’t spot you out there yesterday in that bright jacket Hope you had a great day at Sugi today. I’m guessing it was brilliant

    Have you planned your Sunday yet? Looks like the dreaded rain will stay away until late afternoon but coming in heavy at night. Michael here at Myoko Mountain Lodge says it will be all snow although pretty sure he’s just trying to stop us whingeing

    We’re planning to be on the first lift at Champion (above the Snowsports meets ng place) and ski Kanko until we get too hot! 6 degrees is a lot cooler than home (Adelaide was 37 today) but still unusually warm for around here. Might see you out there somewhere. Cheers.
     
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  7. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Hey @skidazza. I think we are gunna get a Akakura pass and just ski that area too. Definitely say Hi if you see us! After today not sure we’ll make first tracks though. Big day! Today’s report incoming shortly.
     
  8. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    February 2nd - Oh god my legs are sore.

    This morning was pretty nice. Looking out the room of our hotel with the sun rising slowly. Just bliss.



    I’ve come to the conclusion that tatami and thin futons are not for me. All future accomodation choices will be made with that in mind.

    Breakfast downstairs was served by some very chipper Australians. Eggs, bacon, sausage and carrots in sesame soy? Unusual flavours.

    We strolled down the Main Street to Myoko Snow Sports to pick up our skis - they let you leave them in their front room each afternoon so you don’t have to lug them up the hill - and on to the bus for Suginohara.

    You can buy a one day pass for the bus at the information booth just near the bus stop for ¥1000. I think that allows unlimited bus travel for the day. Otherwise you can buy a one way fare onboard for ¥500. It’s ¥500 no matter where you are getting off. Most people only take the bus to and from so buying onboard is fine. Do try to be a little early as there is only so many seats, and no one like the wheel well seat in ski boots. We got stuck with the wheel well. Was a little squishy.



    Once at Suginohara we grabbed one day passes. It’s ¥4500 (¥500 off if you are a prince club member. Join. It’s free) for the day for adults and kids under 12 ski free. Do remember to ask for a kids pass as they still need one.



    We skied the morning, piling on the kilometres with the long, easy groomers. They were a bit icy early on but softened up by the afternoon.





    I like that the signs had a little humour in their English translations:



    We started calling snowboarders “stagnants” always sitting in the middle of the piste. At one point I came screaming around a corner and found a wall of 8-9 seated boarders completely blocking the way, a single gap in the middle. Shifting course I squeezed through, narrowly avoiding yet another falling boarder.

    I know it is a weekend but, man, all of myoko was at Sugi, and on my particular section of the course, at times.

    Also of note were the notices all over the place calling out the costs of triggering a rescue if you go out of bounds.



    Expensive!

    For lunch we popped in to the first restaurant along the Mitahara Restaurant Street, a string of 5 reastaurants near the Mitahara high speed lift #2. It was 100% Japanese inside. Unfortunately for us we noticed too late that it allowed smoking, which every person then proceeded to do. Yuck.

    Food was passable quality but huge portions.



    After lunch we skied some more, with a little diversion to the main office at car park 1 to grab son #2 phone that had been handed in. We think he managed to leave a poket unzipped during some especially vigorous playing along the edges of the runs.





    An afternoon ski wouldn’t be complete without a soft serve on the snow.



    Now I need to call out the elephant in the room. Suginohara really calls out that they have an 8.5km run from top to bottom. It’s marked on every map. There is even a special paper map that has it prominently on the cover.

    I skied that run a few times today. I tried my best to pick the widest turns and longest paths when given a choice. I never once got longer than 6.6km. I’m not calling them out for false advertising, but I am very skeptical that I could find another 2km on that journey...



    We finished up with the final gondola as it closed at 4 and then caught the bus back to Akakura (this time with much better seats)

    As we arrived in to Akakura the mist had settled, giving the village a ethereal glow.



    For dinner we headed to Mecinova. It bills itself as a Mexican Japanese fusion and that’s pretty accurate. The octopus with avocado and wasabi was the standout. They also have Shiga Kogen beers so they had won me over from the moment I saw the drinks board.




    After dinner we grabbed a crepe from the place just across from Hotel Senke (Strawberry chocolate and custard for life!) and then had an onsen. The water felt hotter tonight than last night. I’ve not had that variability before.

    If anyone has any recommendations for an onsen that’s better than a basement hotel one I’m all ears!

    Tomorrow the family will most likely ski the rest of Akakura. Looking forward to some relaxed sking after today’s 36km day.
     

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  9. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Taiko Hotel (700 yen) or Akakura Hotel (1,000 yen) for onsen.
    We also have a private onsen at Red Warehouse. 500 yen each (if we have a free spot on the bookings- inhouse guests take priority obviously). Talk to @hotsaki
     
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  10. skidazza

    skidazza Hard Yards

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    Have you tried the crepes at the bottom of the Hotel Main slope yet @elSpike ? It's just opposite the bottom of the Hotel No 2 Quad. They're delicious!
     
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  11. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    I haven’t! We are about to cross over to Kanko. Just had lunch at the place above the Kumado Quad 1. The vegetable udons are outstanding.

    Maybe see you in a bit.
     
  12. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Thanks @M_G.

    Will give the Akakura Hotel one a go. Just up the hill from us.
     
  13. chriscross

    chriscross One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Hey, elSpike. Enjoying your reports, thanks. Will be at Myoko in a couple of weeks. On ski hire, were those K2 Waybacks available as regular hire or were they part of the premium/powder range? I plan to bring some touring skis with me but will hire alpine skis for a few days.
     
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  14. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    They are classed as premium I think. The myoko Snowsports website has them under the premium category. My boys have Elan explore 6 as the regular hire. I doubt anywhere will do more than a 74-77 waist as regular. They put most beginners to mid intermediate in the same skis.

    If you check their site and prebook, I’m sure you can get any of the range they have listed. I missed booking and still got the Waybacks. Your mileage may vary.
     
  15. Jacko4650

    Jacko4650 One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Enjoying your report very much. Thanks.
     
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  16. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Check Powder Recon rentals
     
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  17. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    February 3rd - Blue to Grey

    The morning was spectacular.



    Clear blue skies. Maybe -1°c and almost no wind. We stuck with the plan to ski Akakura Onsen in the morning and then head over to Akakura Kanko for the afternoon, and were rewarded with an almost empty pistes for the entire morning.




    The runs were a bit hard from the freeze overnight but soon softened up as the temperature climbed.



    I know that most people find Akakura Onsen a bit tame, but we had a great time. It was super relaxed and easy skiing after such a big day yesterday. You could take it slow or charge down the well groomed runs as fast as you liked.




    We even made a cameo in the offical Akakura Onsen insta feed!



    That’s us, on the left, at the start of the loop.

    It started to get a bit busier around 11.15am so we stopped and had lunch at the restaurant above the Kumado quad #1. The vegetarian udons were absolutely delicious. ¥900 for this bowl of yum!



    After lunch we headed for Kanko, hoping to do the upper sections with a little more visibility than Friday’s efforts. It was as clear as could be, though there seemed to be some sort of school event because there were literally a hundred or so students that seemed to congregate on the runs at various times.





    Mid afternoon, Mr 13 managed to have a spectacular crash on the terrain park just above the Akakura Kanko Hotel that ultimately didn’t break anything, but left him shaken for a bit.

    Mr 10, however, was ecstatic about the solid 10cm of daylight under his skis on the same section just moments before.

    After about 2.30pm the sky’s started getting dark, and we all concurred that it was time to head back. This meant we didn’t get to try the crepes at the base that @skidazza recommended, but we’ll try again another time.



    Half way up the gondola, @Sandy’s departure for Sweden made itself felt and the rain started to fall.



    With that we did a couple of runs on Champion and Yodel, but the snow started to get a bit soggy and slow. We probably could have stuck at it longer but we tucked our tails and headed home with a pretty good little scorecard for the day.



    For dinner we accidentally found ourselves at Lodge Hunter Restaurant after not being able to find Izakaya Sennin. I’m glad we did as it was really good. The Miso Salmon ¥1300 was the stand out. Alas the Myoko Kogen beers we had were a little uninspired. Much prefer the Shiga Kogen IPA.

    At @M_G’s suggestion we tried the Akakura Hotel onsen and boy are we glad we did. There are three baths in each of the male and female onsen (indoor, outdoor and a jacuzzi with onsen water) along with bookable private baths and a mixed outdoor bath (they strongly recommend you bath in a towel) that is only open in winter when the snow walls are high enough. I’m pretty sure we’ll be back there again tomorrow. Much better than our hotel’s onsen.



    The rain is being blown around by strong gusts of wind outside as I type this. It’s not looking too good for tomorrow morning, but we are hopeful it will ease off early and we’ll have a chance to get some runs in tomorrow afternoon.

    A four day bonus ski doesn’t leave time for the weather to play silly games!
     
  18. skidazza

    skidazza Hard Yards

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    I thought we had a big day at 29.9km - but you guys cover some serious territory! Rest day tomorrow for us - probably off to Nagano for the day and hoping the days to follow are a little more snowy. Hope this rain turns to snow in the early hours for you.

    We’re thinking of Sugi on Tuesday and maybe Madarao on Wednesday. It’s somewhere I’ve been wanting to try - but not overly keen on 45 minute bus rides Interested to hear your thoughts on comparison of Myoko vs Madarao @elSpike

    When do you head home? Would be great to grab a beer together before you go - especially as we’re staying next door to each other
     
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  19. mannyk

    mannyk One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Nice report.. We also enjoyed Akakura onsen, mid week we nearly always had the place to our selves. Gentle but fun runs.
    7 days to go...
     
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  20. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    As you saw on my report earlier, Madarao is pretty good fun. The groomed terrain is solid with a mix of gentle greens and medium difficulty reds. It has a couple of fast quads but is let down by some slow romance lifts. The romance taking you from Tangram back to Madarao side is showing its age.

    Where Madarao excels is as a “beginner” off piste area. They have half a dozen sanctioned tree areas that are a great introduction to that type of skiing. It is definitely a mountain that needs fresh pow to shine.

    If there’s a bit of a dump before you go, you should head over there.

    We fly out Tuesday 11pm, we’ll ski the morning then jump on a 3pm train. There was a bit of a mix up in communication so we ended up at a place in Akakura rather than our original plan. Will try for the Chalet again next time.

    That said, if you are around this evening we can grab a beer. Would need to be earlyish cause we will want to be on the mountain for first tracks on our last day.
     
  21. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Hey brains trust, particularly @M_G as you haven’t steered us wrong so far.

    We have limited time so we have to make the best of the situation. Tossing up between Sugi and Kanko (or even Ikenotaira as we haven’t done that at all) with the hope of getting a few turns in as the day progresses. Would hole up in a restaurant or something in between. We are going with the thought that soggy snow time is better than zero snow time. Any advice on which we should choose?
     
  22. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Sorry, just saw this. Don't like to be rude about where you're staying but don't your hosts help you out with this stuff? Maybe next time think about staying with us. ;)

    Should've gone to Ikenotaira earlier. Won't be much chop today.

    I'd say Kanko purely because it's easy to pull the pin if you're not having fun.
     
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  23. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Will keep that in mind! Will book with more notice next time.

    Will post more detail on hosts on the last report (c;

    Up top of Ikenotaira is fine for us at the moment.The bottom section is not so much fun. Full of sludgy snow.

    Thanks again.
     
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  24. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Spoke too soon. Wind hold for top quads. Early lunch it is.
     
  25. PiedPiper

    PiedPiper One of Us

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    Great report, makes me realise just how much i loved my time in Myoko!
     
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  26. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    February 4th - it all works out in the end.

    Unfortunately we woke to the sound of rain and wind at various times through the night. Not the stuff good dreams are made of. So it was with great trepidation that we pulled back the shutter to peer out the window.



    Not as bad as we were expecting. A slight drizzle of half hearted rain-like sleet still falling, and a damp fog hugging the village.

    After a bit of indecision, we decided to take a punt and head to Ikenotaira, the resort half way between Kanko and Suginohara. While it didn’t have the elevation of either of those, it was one we hadn’t been to, and only a 15 minute bus ride away so not a total loss if it ended in a bust.

    With that decision made we raced down the hill, just making it in time for the 8.30am bus by the skin of our teeth. I think the driver took pity on us barrelling down from Myoko Snow Sports at a large rate of knots.



    As I said, the bus ride was very short so Mr 10 only had time for a couple of games on his phone before it was time to strap on the skis and see what damage the rain had done. Ikenotaira was very quiet that early with only a handful of boarders and a group of Japanese soldiers on those dodgy looking white telemark skis pizza-zing their way down the bottom slope.

    Visibility was fine from the base but as soon as we hit the open areas it dropped fast.




    This was to be the theme of the day. On any given run you would go through a couple of different visibility levels from clear blue sky to “oh my god there might be monsters in this mist!” And everything in between.

    At about 11 the higher quad was put on wind hold so we cut early and grabbed lunch at Restaurant Alpen Blick. An otherwise standard Japanese cafeteria with a Swiss alps name.



    After lunch we hung around on the Alpen side, riding the upper pair lift a half dozen times until the quad came off wind hold.





    At one point we were treated to a wonderful view of the mist burning off from the top of the quad. Really quite stunning.



    We also came across a warning sign that we immediately dubbed Snow Yoga Man, and then proceeded to use its location as an easy waypoint when describing where we wanted to go next.



    Overall the conditions up on the higher sections were similar to yesterday afternoon. A little soft but still fun to fly down with little concentration on form needed. Lower remained sodden and at time difficult to keep a constant pace as the skis got grippy on and off.





    By 2.15pm the visibility had dropped significantly. The runs became hard to navigate and a lot of time was spent skiing quite slowly and tensed up ready to react as a sitting boarder (stagnant) appeared out the gloom.

    Just before 3 we decided to call it with one last run but as we rode the lift the visibility dropped again to less than 10m. One of the more difficult runs of the day. The bus heads in two directions from Ikenotaira so make sure you note the right time and the sign in the window of the bus.



    After dropping our gear at the hotel we caught up with @skidazza and his mate at the Full Circle bar which proudly states that they are snow surfers. That sounds suspiciously like snowboarding to me ಠ_ಠ.

    Luckily the beer was cold and the food tasty (Steak Sanga, Pulled pork burger, vege burger and an eggplant parmigiana that no one was game to try, all for ¥1000 each.)




    Once again, meeting up with fellow forumites was worth the effort, hope to see more of you in our future travels too.

    As I lay here typing this after another outstanding Onsen at the Akakura Hotel, i can say that it was a very good day. We got in significantly more runs than I though when seeing the rain forecast and we all had a pretty good day.




    Tomorrow we have the morning to ski (probably Onsen again to stay close by for a quick departure) then a race back to Haneda for our flight home just before midnight.
     

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  27. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    Glad you enjoyed Ikenotaira despite the conditions. Ike is actually my fav resort because of it's lazy tree runs. Also tends to be the least popular with foreigners but there you go. ;) Next time check out the onsen at Landmark Cafe down the road.

    Safe journeys home.
     
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  28. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    February 5th - The second goodbye

    Gong Xi Fa Cai to all. It’s lunar new year and what better to celebrate than with blue skies and snow under your skis?

    The final morning view was crisp, with a sprinkling of fine snow falling, as you can see.



    With a plane to catch later we spent the morning on a 4 hour ticket from Akakura Onsen. We’d already done Kanko twice, and wanted to stay close, so a loop around onsen seemed like the goods.

    We were at the Yodel #1 chair by 8.25am and managed to snag the first run down from the pair above Yodel all the way down to the ticket office. Magic.




    We also got second, third and fourth tracks too!



    The rest of the morning we spent looping around, almost always with only a few tracks ahead of us.






    As always the views were breathtaking.



    For a mid-morning snack we stopped in at the cafe at the top of Yodel #1. The boys loved that the had “dippin dots”, the super chilled pebbles of ice cream.




    After food we spent the last hour racing down from the top of Yodel #5 triple (which we called the death chair after seeing the state of the safety netting below it) to the base and back again. Great fun! Especially the ungroomed black that they call the mogul challenge but was decidedly un-moguled.

    We finished with a last ski down through the trees between Kanko and Onsen. A fitting end to our second and the boys last ski of the season.

    From there we returned our skis to Myoko Snow Sports, grabbed our bags from our hotel and made our way to Haneda via the Myoko Kogen local train, the Shinkansen, the Yamamote Line (outer loop) and the Tokyo monorail. Super easy and low stress.

    Some thoughts before I wrap up this part of the report.

    Myoko
    We really fell in love with Myoko and Akakura in particular. It’s a wonderful little village, with great food options, an easy commute to the various ski fields, and a relaxed and easy vibe. We will be back.

    Myoko Snow Sports
    Every interaction we’ve had with them, from emails, to rental, to friendly chats as we picked up and dropped off stuff for storage overnight was outstanding. Full credit to every member of the team there. Thanks also to all of you in the equipment thread who advised on wider skis. We’ve definitely leveled up there.

    Hotel Myosen
    We had some trouble with our first accomodation booking. I won’t go in to detail as I refuse to take from someone’s rice bowl, but it lead us to Susan and Nick’s place which was a good thing. A last minute booking.com appeared and we snapped it up. It has some poor reviews on TripAdvisor that had me worried but we saw nothing remotely like those reports during our stay. The hotel is quality, budget, accommodation. Our tatami room fit us four easily. The whole place was clean and well maintained. It was warm (too warm if you put the heater on full) with the minor exception of the breakfast room, but it’s a big space that makes no sense keeping heated before the 7.30am crowd. The onsen downstairs was perfectly adequate and the breakfasts, while a little repetitive, were plentiful and filling. We got exactly what we paid for and more and we’d happily stay there again. Nick mentioned that they are so focussed on running the business that they don’t get to ski much, which is a shame. They are omnipresent in the reception area and were happy to provide what advice they could, book a taxi when needed, and generally make the stay as comfortable as possible.

    M_G
    And finally a big shout out to @M_G
    He went out of his way to help with advice, trying to help us with accomodation, and generally being available to help make our trip a success. We didn’t manage to get over to his place in the limited time we had, but our next visit it will be a priority to buy him a beer or three. Thanks mate.

    With all that said, we board our SQ flight home in a little bit so I bid you fairwell. For those of you with still more ski days ahead, I wish you deep powder and bluebird days.

    And to rub salt in the wound for those of you without plans, only 16 more sleeps till our next trip!

     

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  29. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Time to bounce this one back up and board the hype train once again!

    Thursday night we fly back to Japan for our third and final weekend of the season.

    Plan is overnight flight to Haneda. Grab the JR 3 day pass, shink to Echigo-Yuzawa l, drop bags at accomodation, and be skiing by 10.30am.

    First day probably just something really close, iwappara or gala/Ishiuchi, then play it by ear for Saturday and Sunday but maybe Kagura Saturday.

    Expect the usual patented elSpike daily posts with food, prices, runs and general shenanigans.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, the hype is definitely real.
     
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  30. Hermannator

    Hermannator One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Before you Yuzawa (sorry if you know all this already but I did Yuzawa around month ago and think this could be useful):

    How to Yuzawa from Tokyo:

    1. Get the 3 day Tokyo-wide pass for 10,000JPY (it's valid to Yuzawa and Gala - if one bowls up and just gets fares, one return journey is 12,000+). You can even reserve a seat with this ticket (free).

    2. Use the above pass to get discounted lift tix and a free locker at Gala (for your jeans and shoes). That means don't bother with the 3 area pass at Gala/Kogen, because showing (1) gets you a 3,500 day ticket and it costs 1,000 to upgrade to Gala + Yuzawa Kogen. The upgrade to Kogen is done with cash at the aerial tram connecting the two (or at the other side once they let you on). I didn't bother with the 3rd area

    3. Note train timetable - there are gaps in the afternoon, something like 15:50 and the next one 17:10 As such, it is likely worth reserving a seat for the trip home, particularly on weekends.

    4. Pick a hotel located on/close to JR lines.
     
  31. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Thanks @Hermannator, appreciate the advice. We've done Yuzawa once before and those tips resonate with our experience.

    One note, the 3rd area is Ishiuchi. I would argue it is better than Gala and Yuzawakogen combined!
     
  32. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    February 21st - off we go.

    Another easy trip to Changi Terminal 2. Interestingly Grab was cheaper than GOJEK from our place in Bishan.

    Arrived a little early to spend some time in the SQ lounge as Mrs elSpike doesn’t get to go in unless it’s just the two of us. Travelling with the boys puts a drag on that.

    Flying overnight on NH844 that departs at 10.20pm and arrives at 5.55am. Just enough time to get through immigration and grab bags before the JR office opens.

    Hoping to get some sleep on the flight after a hectic day at work and the prospect of a full day skiing tomorrow.

    Now that we are at the plane. Yes! R2D2 plane!


    That’s two of them. Now just need to get the “Star Wars” plane to collect the set!

     
  33. blowfin

    blowfin One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Narrowly missed being on BB-8 on the way home :cry:

     
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  34. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    22 February - 3 mountains.

    We arrived into Haneda at 5.50am, along with what felt like 5-6 other flights of people. Snapped a terrible shot of the plane.



    The queue for immigration was all the way back to the main entrance so probably 50 minute wait. Luckily I have a magic power that lets me use the priority lane so we were through in less than 5 minutes.

    We were early for the JR office and were greeted with another massive queue. They’ve helpfully put up “your wait will be xx” minutes signs along the queue belts. This one said 40 minutes so we made the call to just pay the extra 60$ buying alacarte tickets along the way than waiting for the JR wise pass. When you only have 3 days of skiing you’ve got to make choices. Pasmo onto the Monorail and Yamanote Line and we were on time for the 7am MaxToki that would get us in to Echigo-Yuzawa by 8.10am.

    Fuji San gave his impressive consent on our presence as we passed.



    Exactly 70 minutes later we arrived and made our way to our accommodation to drop our bag and get changed.



    We had decided to just go straight up the Yuzawa Gondala and do the three mountain pass over to Gala and Ishiuchi. Exactly 3 and a half hours after landing we were skiing.

    The day started pretty icy but soon softened up as temps started to clime into the high single digits.





    By lunchtime the snow had turned to butter. The sort of butter that has been left on the counter too long and when you put the knife in it thunks to the bottom with no resistance whatsoever.



    One highlight was the new Ishiuchi Sunrise Express. It’s a six seater chair with gondola carriages interspersed. It has heated seats! My bottom appreciates that.



    Do note you have to be over 120cm for this ride.




    The snow got progressively worse for the rest of the afternoon. Is this what Australian skiing is like? If so I want nothing to do with it.



    At about 2pm we started making our way back to Yuzawa Kogen and the crowds started thinning out.



    Always time to stop off for sweet potato soft serve!



    All in all we had a pretty full day.



    Dinner was at a fresh soba place just down the road. Yuzawa has infinity restaurants to choose from.

    Shinbashi is one of the more famous ones.





    After some Sake and some food I was feeling a little like this guy.



    Tomorrow we head to Maiko as we’ve never been there before. Weather looks ok with some light snow showers but who knows in this crazy early spring weather world.
     
  35. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    23 February - Your ko? No Maiko!

    After an excellent nights rest on some very comfortable futons, we made our way through to the east exit of Echigo-Yuzawa station to find the free shuttle bus to Maiko Ski Center.

    When you come out of the east exit immediately turn left. Not straight ahead to the ticket counter for Naeba. Head toward a little gap between the buildings and there will be a man holding a sign.



    The bus ride is about 20 minutes long and takes you along the expressway and through some pretty typical Japanese villiages.

    Upon arrival we were greeted with a chaotically full lobby and rental counter. Turns out that if you ski at a resort within 90 minutes of Tokyo on a Saturday you are going to do it with hundreds of your new closest friends.

    Maiko uses the same Brand Viking rental system as Shiga where you fill in your form, pay at the counter, and then go self select your skis from the range, before getting them adjusted at a series of workstations. We ended up with a couple of pairs of Rossi Experience 74s which were great for the somewhat icy to slushy conditions of the day. Would have loved something wider as the day progressed.



    It was snowing lightly as we made our way up the gondola and it pretty much sprinkled with snow most of the day.



    Having not had breakfast we opted for a quick one at Itadaki at the top of the Gondola. Reasonable food for reasonable prices. Great playlist with Crowded House and Dave Matthews Band. Songs that were older than the serving staff by a fair whack.



    We had a lot of fun up in the top section with occasional frustration with out perennial enemy, the common boarder.




    We stopped in at a place called Mountain Restaurant where we had a marvellous interaction with two young Japanese girls who thought our Google Translate live image translation was just magic. They were gushing over it.




    For the afternoon we went over to the hotel side and were very underwhelmed. It was even more crowded, and had lots of bare dirt patches in the lower sections.



    One highlight was a rare ungroomed red that was just soft enough to have got rid of the icy crust but not quite slush yet.



    Needing a little sugar boost we got a couple of crepes (nothing on the guy in Akakura) and I saw these crooks who seemed very pleased with their capers!



    After “collecting” the runs we wanted to from that side, we transited back to the main side and did a few more runs at the top.





    Calling it for the day we jumped back on the shuttle bus back to Echigo-Yuzawa and dropped our boots and gear off at the hotel.

    It being Saturday night, lots of places were already full or fully booked so we wandered around a bit before deciding to put our name down at the other Soba place of note, Nakanoya. 45 minutes later we were ushered in to our table to devour some delicious Soba and tempura, every bit as good as we remember from last year.



    Prices were about 800-1300 for Soba/udon dishes, 400ish for sides like oshinko and akadashi tofu, and they had an extensive sake menu from mostly local breweries.



    Less sleep deprived than last night, I only left the restaurant looking like this...



    I’m writing this in full Yakuta, jacket and toe socks, after a very relaxing outdoor onsen.

    Looking forward to Naeba / Kagura tomorrow.
     
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  36. PMG

    PMG One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Ate at Shinbashi and Nakanoya just last week. They're both good. Love how the Japanese snowboarders/skiers step off the train and go straight to Nakanoya with all their luggage.
    Yuzawa certainly has lost some snow looking at that top pic.
     
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  37. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    The lobby of Nakanoya was so full. And yes. Luggage and boards everywhere. Comical to see the guy in business suit, high shine leather shoes and snowboard on his back.
     
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  38. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    With a 7.30am shuttle to catch the morning started early. Pack down of the room, drop our bag into a locker at Echigo-Yuzawa station and quickly buy tickets for the shuttle. Luckily we were first in line and got prime seats on the bus as it’s an uncomfortable 40 minutes standing otherwise.



    The express shuttle stops at Mitsumata, Tashiro, Naeba Day Center and the Naeba Prince Hotel lobby. We stayed on to the last stop as I wanted to rent from The Salomon Station, near the South entrance, so I could demo some XDR 88 @179 length.



    These guys greeted us as we crossed the bridge in front of the hotel.



    We chose to come to Naeba as the forecast had temps rising to about 6-8°C and the freeze level making its way up to 1700m throughout the day. Naeba is about as high as it gets in the Yuzawa region so it stayed colder longer. Or that was the theory.

    We were rewarded with a cracking day with clear blue skies and relatively small crowds (for Naeba).






    Occasionally we’d hit a line. The one as you drop down the bowl to take the romance lift to the summit seems to be always long and awkward due to the camber of the snow where the line forms.



    The views and clear air at the summit is worth the wait though.



    It got pretty warm after lunch with both of us stripping off layers in the gondala and stuffing them into my very excellent Liftrider backpack. I got it as a kickstarter backer and it’s been phenomenal.



    Arguably the best run in Naeba is a natural halfpipe on the Challenge Trail. So much fun zooming high up the walls as you race down at speed.



    Heading home we found the aftermath of the warmth. A massacre of poor defenceless snow people.



    Once again, getting on the bus at the first stop let us get a seat all the way back to town.

    Once in town we grabbed some more Soba (this weekend was just Soba city for us!) and then took the 7.01pm Shinkansen back to Tokyo, Yamanote lone to Hamamatsucho, and the Monorail to Haneda where we will overnight at the Airport hotel before our morning flight tomorrow.

    So thus ends the elSpike SkiSkiSki for 2019. Thanks again for reading along and offering your thoughts and advice. It’s been a wonderful season.

    For those of you playing at home here are the stats:



    We visited Akakura Kanko, Akakura Onsen, Gala Yuzawa, Ikenotaira Onsen, Madarao, Maiko, Suginohara, Naeba, and Shiga Kogen.

    Not a bad haul for 4people who didn’t know how to ski 4 years ago!
     
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  39. nanami_JS

    nanami_JS Early Days

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    Really enjoyed reading your trip report! My hubby and me went to Myoko the same time as you guys. Spent 1 day in Akakura Onsen / Akakan, 2 days Madarao / Tangram, 1 day Suginohara, 1 day in Nozawa Onsen and 1.5 days in Lotte Arai (the only powder days for off-piste / tree-skiing). Been skiing in Japan since 2015 and this year is the worst skiing condition that I have seen.
     
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  40. Melskius

    Melskius Addicted

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    Just re-read your trip report. If you could revisit just one place, what would be your pick - Myoko or Shiga Kogen...in terms of all factors, accommodation, terrain and food?
     
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  41. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    That is such an unfair question! Both have all of those things with Shiga winning on terrain and Myoko winning on food and it being a wash on accommodation.

    I think I'd need to leave my January 2020 plans to answer. We are doing 9 days in Shiga and 5 days in Myoko so we chose both!

    If it was purely about skiing, I'd pick Shiga though. There is just so much variety in the interlinked resorts.
     
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  42. Melskius

    Melskius Addicted

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    We have ski shiga for 2 days when our kids we 2 and 5. Since then we have been skiing naeba/kagura, but their 2020 prices are 2 &1/2 times same time 2019. So now looking for nice groomers, cheapish food the now 6 and 9 year old will eat, and accommodation with western bed for hubby. Leaning towards shiga for ease of not travelling to different resorts for more varied runs, though the limited food may be a factor.
     
  43. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    If that is your requirements, I'd definitely go to Shiga and stay either at the Prince West or in the Ichinose village. When you arrive, you can book the restaurants for the coming days and you'll be fine on the food style. The groomers on Yakebitaiyama and Okushiga are spectacular.
     
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