Advice needed Iwate/Akita - Jan 16-24, 2021

Lonepeak

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After a decent Tohoku mid-Jan trip last season, I am returning to check off more resorts on my Japan list. I would love to hit Hokkaido but steering clear for now due to covid cases (& getting the OK from work to travel to Iwate/Akita is easier).

My group consists of myself (advanced skier who loves off-piste/side country), an upper intermediate boarder (off-piste if not too tight trees), and low intermediate skier (definitely sticking to groomers). We fly Okinawa to Akita Jan 16, rent car, and base at the Shizukuishi Prince Hotel. After 3 ski/board days the friends depart (their endurance limit) while I ski solo 3 more days.

My preference is to day-trip to various areas since I love exploring new resorts. Based on research from this forum & other websites, below summarizes my impressions on the areas within a (mostly) reasonable drive. Feedback is greatly appreciated on my questions as well as any other suggestions.
  • Shizukuishi - plan to ski 1st day after arrival (Sunday) and last day (Saturday).
    • Is it smarter to go elsewhere on the weekend, or doesn't matter?
  • Amihari Onsen/Iwate Kogen
    • If doing only one, which one?
  • Tazawako
    • Seems worth the 1 hr drive. Agree?
  • Hachimanti Shimokura
    • Another 1 hour drive. Supposed to be a good storm day option due to exposure.
    • Is drive worth it, or better to do the "other" Amihari/Iwate Kogen area?
  • Ani
    • A a long drive but I definitely want to go since it appears to have a Hokkoda feel to it (enjoyed 2 days there last Jan).
    • Preference would be to go with a guide, but the resort guide I emailed said he is booked to end of February. However, he assured me the lack of foreign skiers means there should be plenty of powder within the resort so a guide isn't really needed. Anyone agree with that assessment?
 
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Heinz

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After a decent Tohoku mid-Jan trip last season, I am returning to check off more resorts on my Japan list.

Wow, someone actually able to travel! Easy if you are already in the country, unlike most here. :(

Shizukuishi
  • plan to ski 1st day after arrival (Sunday) and last day (Saturday). Is it smarter to go elsewhere on the weekend, or doesn't matter?
Probably doesn't matter much. Though from what I remember buses only ran from Morioka on the weekend, so midweek should be quiet.

Amihari Onsen/Iwate Kogen
  • If doing only one, which one?
Go to Amihari. Friendly old school type of ski area, who don't seem to do much grooming (a good thing :) ).
Memories of my one day at Iwate Kogen are a bit vague. I think it more for park stuff.

Tazawako
  • Seems worth the 1 hr drive. Agree?
Definately. Plenty of nice ski area possibilities with new snow. Nice lake views on the odd occasion that weather clears. Then potential of cat tours to upper part of mountain.

Hachimanti Shimokura
  • Another 1 hour drive. Supposed to be a good storm day option due to exposure.
  • Is drive worth it, or better to do the "other" Amihari/Iwate Kogen area?
Shimokura is certainly worth it. Don't bother with Panorama. Though if there is fresh snow, you still may want to return to Amihari.

Ani
  • A a long drive but I definitely want to go since it appears to have a Hokkoda feel to it (enjoyed 2 days there last Jan).
  • Preference would be to go with a guide, but the resort guide I emailed said he is booked to end of February. However, he assured me the lack of foreign skiers means there should be plenty of powder within the resort so a guide isn't really needed. Anyone agree with that assessment?
Don't know about Ani, but would certainly still think there will not be many foreign skiers - even without Covid.

Another option though a little further south would be Geto.
 
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Lonepeak

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Heinz - thanks for the feedback. I was going to lead in with "apologies to all who cannot get to Japan this season."

Re: Geto - went there last Jan for a couple days so plan to forgo this trip. Also did Appi, Aomori Springs, and Hakkoda.

I did not know Tazwako had cat run from top. I definitely need to research that. Which reminds me I forgot to ask...

Is Shizukuishi Cat run(s) worth it? Price is normally 4000¥/run but limited participants due to covid upped price to 8000¥/run which seems pretty steep (though Prince "point card" discounts to ~6400¥). Seems to me I would not do that unless it was prime powder. But, if that is the case, maybe the cat run is unnecessary and I can stick to the resort?
 
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Crispy013

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After a decent Tohoku mid-Jan trip last season, I am returning to check off more resorts on my Japan list. I would love to hit Hokkaido but steering clear for now due to covid cases (& getting the OK from work to travel to Iwate/Akita is easier).

My group consists of myself (advanced skier who loves off-piste/side country), an upper intermediate boarder (off-piste if not too tight trees), and low intermediate skier (definitely sticking to groomers). We fly Okinawa to Akita Jan 16, rent car, and base at the Shizukuishi Prince Hotel. After 3 ski/board days the friends depart (their endurance limit) while I ski solo 3 more days.

My preference is to day-trip to various areas since I love exploring new resorts. Based on research from this forum & other websites, below summarizes my impressions on the areas within a (mostly) reasonable drive. Feedback is greatly appreciated on my questions as well as any other suggestions.
  • Shizukuishi - plan to ski 1st day after arrival (Sunday) and last day (Saturday).
    • Is it smarter to go elsewhere on the weekend, or doesn't matter?
  • Amihari Onsen/Iwate Kogen
    • If doing only one, which one?
  • Tazawako
    • Seems worth the 1 hr drive. Agree?
  • Hachimanti Shimokura
    • Another 1 hour drive. Supposed to be a good storm day option due to exposure.
    • Is drive worth it, or better to do the "other" Amihari/Iwate Kogen area?
  • Ani
    • A a long drive but I definitely want to go since it appears to have a Hokkoda feel to it (enjoyed 2 days there last Jan).
    • Preference would be to go with a guide, but the resort guide I emailed said he is booked to end of February. However, he assured me the lack of foreign skiers means there should be plenty of powder within the resort so a guide isn't really needed. Anyone agree with that assessment?
Shizuikuishi is good. I’d expect most places to be busy on weekends. Amihari definitely. Tazawako yes. Shimokura yes.

Ani is a LONG way from Shiz. Even based over at Lake Tazawa it was like 90min drive there. So probably 2:30 in snowy conditions each way.

Have fun. Looks like an epic season on the way.
 
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Crispy013

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Heinz - thanks for the feedback. I was going to lead in with "apologies to all who cannot get to Japan this season."

Re: Geto - went there last Jan for a couple days so plan to forgo this trip. Also did Appi, Aomori Springs, and Hakkoda.

I did not know Tazwako had cat run from top. I definitely need to research that. Which reminds me I forgot to ask...

Is Shizukuishi Cat run(s) worth it? Price is normally 4000¥/run but limited participants due to covid upped price to 8000¥/run which seems pretty steep (though Prince "point card" discounts to ~6400¥). Seems to me I would not do that unless it was prime powder. But, if that is the case, maybe the cat run is unnecessary and I can stick to the resort?
I’d give the CAT at Shizukuishi a miss. The terrain is fairly mellow. Take a look at Lodge Clubman CAT tours. Much better terrain.
 

Lonepeak

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You won’t be disappointed. There are a couple of options. We did the CAT and ride tour. Thought next time I’m keen on the CAT and hike tour.
I was reading your last season trip report as you posted the above reply. I'm starting to think 2 weeks is better than 1, and I'm working on a buddy in Kyushu to join me for week #2. I've never heard of Jeunesse Kurikoma until your post...but it's now on my list. Buddy can fly in to Sendai cheaper so I'm offering to pick him up, we hit Zao (skipped last year since low snow), then Kurikoma, and back to Iwate.

I suspect I'm driving my wife a bit crazy with too much time on my hands (day 8/14 day quarantine after travel to Montana) and my over-active ski planning brain spinning out of control.
 
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Crispy013

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I was reading your last season trip report as you posted the above reply. I'm starting to think 2 weeks is better than 1, and I'm working on a buddy in Kyushu to join me for week #2. I've never heard of Jeunesse Kurikoma until your post...but it's now on my list. Buddy can fly in to Sendai cheaper so I'm offering to pick him up, we hit Zao (skipped last year since low snow), then Kurikoma, and back to Iwate.

I suspect I'm driving my wife a bit crazy with too much time on my hands (day 8/14 day quarantine after travel to Montana) and my over-active ski planning brain spinning out of control.
Juenesse is a brilliant little resort.

Looks like they are getting some good snow this season.
https://fb.watch/2CI_OOSALr/
 
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Jacksong

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Juenesse is a brilliant little resort.

Looks like they are getting some good snow this season.
https://fb.watch/2CI_OOSALr/

Just read on snowjapan: This ski area has two quad lifts and two pair lifts, but the Number 4 quad lift will not be operating during the 2020-2021 winter season.

course2020.jpg
 

Crispy013

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Just read on snowjapan: This ski area has two quad lifts and two pair lifts, but the Number 4 quad lift will not be operating during the 2020-2021 winter season.

course2020.jpg
Yep wasn’t operating when we went. This is actually a good thing, means you get free access to the far left side of the resort without the crowds chopping up the main piste. There is a little 5min walk back to the main quad which in my opinion is worth it.
 
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skipperlee

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Fwiw ive spent parts of my last 2 trips in iwate area and heres my views.
Amihari - great little locals resort with lots of off piste potential - i had rain so was limited but cheap lift pass and grub.

shizukuishi - bigger resort plenty of terrain on and off piste , - dont bother with cat as it was used on the old part of the ski resort (lookers right) had to stay on the old run guide included! it cost 7k yen for 3 runs.

tazawako - decent size plenty of on and off piste - last time i was there they had some ski race on and it was busy.

ani - spent 2 days here luckily had fresh snow everyday - plenty of off piste but limited on piste . main run has an annoying flat section in the middle which requires a tow rope . i was solo boarder so didnt stray too far off piste and had fresh tracks both days but with a guide on a pow day it would be awesome.

if you had no fresh snow id probably stick to shizukuishi or tazawako with the bigger groomers area. i used public transport so i was restricted but with a car would be much easier to follow the snowy weather.
appi kogen and geto kogen both good.
fingers crossed for 2022!
 
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Tonester

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You're so lucky to be able to pull this off.
I haven't read the whole thread yet, but just skimming through @Heinz post I would concur with just about everything.
I've skied at most of the places you've mentioned. May faves are Shizukuishi (especially after some fresh snow) and Shimokura. An I agree with Heinz here as well. Panorama is OK. Shimokura is better IMHO. Some nice gated access into the trees makes for some fun.
Lucky you!
 

Tonester

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Re. Amihari or Iwate. They're right next door to each other aren't they?
Hmmmm...I've not skied Iwate Kogen but have used Amihari a couple of times as my first-day-back-on-skis resort. I like it. It's got a nice chill sort of vibe and the onsen is right next door. So a great way to end the day. And if I recall correctly, the outdoor onsen is scorchingly hot.
 

Tonester

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Re. Tazawako. I have skied here several times. I base myself in Morioka and drive out and back. It's a very doable drive BUT every time I have done the drive it is frustratingly slow. So allow an hour plus to get there. You could base yourself there after your friends leave perhaps.
 

Heinz

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Re. Amihari or Iwate. They're right next door to each other aren't they?
Yep, the bus from Morioka to Amihari Onsen stops at Iwate Snow park on the way, only a few minutes drive away.
Going back to my TR on Iwate Snow Park in 2009 reminded me it was more set up as a park, although a bit limited. I imagine though it has probably been increased somewhat in the last 10 years. It was also a warm spring like day when I went, so not the best to judge.
 

Heinz

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Re. Tazawako. I have skied here several times. I base myself in Morioka and drive out and back. It's a very doable drive BUT every time I have done the drive it is frustratingly slow. So allow an hour plus to get there. You could base yourself there after your friends leave perhaps.

It is worth staying near Tazawako for a few days - some nice Onsens in the region.
 

Ramenman

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I like Hachimantai (Appi - Shimokura - Amihari - Iwate Kogen - Shizukuishi, etc + a lot of backcountry terrains), so I'm happy to ski there for a week. If you are interested in backcountry tour / CAT tour in Hachimantai region, Joining the tours of Appi or Lodge Clubman might be good (they have English speaking crew).

If you go to Tazawako, I recommend Nyuto Onsen (they are my favorite Onsen Ryokans, especially winter). Btw, Tazawako newly opened a treerun zone this season (a lot of people were skiing there when it was "unofficial", though). I like Tazawako (including the sidecountry and backcountry). Now, Tazawako based outdoor tour comapany "Tazawako Camp /Tour Guide" have backcountry / CAT tours both on Mt.Akita Komagatake (Tazawako's mountain) and Mt.Moriyoshi (the mountain of Ani ski resort). If you are interested in both Tazawako and Ani (and skiing OOB), hiring them might be good and I've seen them guiding English speaking people.
 
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bluestick

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Ani is definitely worth a day or two, great off piste and touring options up the top. Some of the smaller ‘resorts’ up that way are are also good on their day.
 
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Ramenman

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Ani ski resort has both Japanese brochure and English brochure. Last year, English brochure had 2 official licensed backcountry guides but this year only Japanese brochure has the information on the guides. It might be because they are not expecting that foreigners are visiting this season because of COVID-19. Anyway, if you are interested in skiing OOB (on Mt.Moriyoshi = Ani ski resort's mountain), contact them. By the way, they have CAT tours too, so you don't need to hike (or need to hike only a little).

Takuma Takasugi : takasugisanti@gmail.com

Koji Fukushi : koji.fukushi62@gmail.com
 
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Lonepeak

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Thanks all for feedback/links to past trip reports. I got the last slot for a confirmed Cat day thru Clubman Lodge, & will spend a night there to get the GoTo travel discount. I also booked a night at hotel Fusch for a day @ Ani before returning to Akita for flight back (agree with others that is too long a drive from Shiz). Prior to all of that as mentioned before will be with 2 others at Shizukuishi to ski there and side trips (Amihari & Tazawako).

Would love to add a 2nd week despite buddy not able to go (still recovering from a bicycle crash a month ago) but decided to play that by ear. If the predicted stellar snow conditions become a reality, I will go for it. It does seem the stars are aligning with excellent conditions to date and predicted, little powder competition due to travel restrictions, and GoTo travel discounts to sweeten the adventure (Shizukuishi Prince room to myself is 6400¥/night including breakfast, dinner, AND a 1000¥ coupon/day). Just hope Japan covid stays in check in Tohoku to make it a reality.
 

Ramenman

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I like the region in that only 5 min to an hour hike = easy hike can help us enjoy ideal powder treeskiing (and the trees are nicely sparse to dodge). If you are staying at Shizukuishi, you might try this sidecountry around the peak (the skier in the video is skiing on a Shizukuishi's mountain). As long as you ski down to the ski slope side, you won't get lost. The video was filmed on March 15th, 2015.


COCO Heli is getting common in recent years. You can rent COCO Heli's transmitter at Ani ski resort too. Rescue teams of ski resorts, police, fire fighter and Self Defense Force are using COCO Heli now, so it will help them locate you and rescue you as soon as possible. This video is about COCO Heli. Even if you don't understand, your wife can understand it (I think).
 
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Lonepeak

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Never give up...
  • Our Akita to Okinawa flight was cancelled a week ago. Rescheduled to different one.
  • Flight connection Haneda -> Akita was cancelled today. Now re-booked to fly via Nagoya instead.
  • 90% of my hotel reservations + Cat Ski day booked thru GoTo travel campaign, which is now cancelled thru early Feb. Received cancellation notices for all of those today (except Clubman Lodge/Cat Ski...so far). Now rebooked "regular" rate hotels (those deals were too good to be true...).
Fingers crossed the few remaining flights don't cancel.
 
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Crispy013

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Never give up...
  • Our Akita to Okinawa flight was cancelled a week ago. Rescheduled to different one.
  • Flight connection Haneda -> Akita was cancelled today. Now re-booked to fly via Nagoya instead.
  • 90% of my hotel reservations + Cat Ski day booked thru GoTo travel campaign, which is now cancelled thru early Feb. Received cancellation notices for all of those today (except Clubman Lodge/Cat Ski...so far). Now rebooked "regular" rate hotels (those deals were too good to be true...).
Fingers crossed the few remaining flights don't cancel.
Just stay the week at Lodge Clubman. You’ll have fun. They know the area very well. ;)
 

Lonepeak

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More flight cancellations- and employer now asking anyone passing through most mainland Japan airports to quarantine 14 days on return. The latter caused my buddies to back out...but not me (I telework 95% of the time lately anyway). Now doing the full trip solo - and switching to a trip report.

Also - still considering adding a 2nd week if weather forecast sounds decent for the following week. This may be the only ski trip this season so I’m leaning towards doing so.
 
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