Japan: General tips for when and where to go for snow

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Froff Life

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So looking at a possible two week jaunt in early April (trying to mend a broken heart...…). Powder would be lovely but I know I am dreaming is Zao Onsen a reasonable bet for some decent groomers? I am an intermediate telemarker so don't need steeps or off piste to keep myself amused. Other suggestions welcome, prefer Honshu as I have already done two trips to Hokkaido and would like something a different.
Zao is a decent sized mountain, but the lift layout is appalling. Makes it really difficult to get some proper groomer laps in.
Go Shiga as Crispy suggested.
 

Tonester

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Zao is a decent sized mountain, but the lift layout is appalling. Makes it really difficult to get some proper groomer laps in.
Go Shiga as Crispy suggested.
True that. It's not only tough for boarders but skiers have their work cut out traversing from lift to lift. This is the legacy of having separate lift companies and no collaboration. Still, even on a busy day (e.g. Chinese NY, 2018) you get great wide groomers with not a lot of people to get in your way....they're all up staring at snow monsters.
 
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LDJ

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looking for some reassurances or recommedations on time to ski for furano and surrounding area in regards to pow. Japow is on dads bucket list. He’s 70 and lives in London. We live in Brissie and go all the time. This will be a 1 hit wonder for him. Would be looking at 10 days probably early feb but flex. I’d like to go furano and surroundings as haven’t been but are we safer just going to Myoko, rusutsu or similar due to amount of snowfall/likelihood of freshies. Dad isn’t going to be able to do hardcore BC but side country and life accessed pow he’ll be fine on. Due to age of want him to be able to call it a day to accom if he’s tired. Was awesome skier but hasn’t done quite so much pow recently as skis the French alps
 

Kash

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looking for some reassurances or recommedations on time to ski for furano and surrounding area in regards to pow. Japow is on dads bucket list. He’s 70 and lives in London. We live in Brissie and go all the time. This will be a 1 hit wonder for him. Would be looking at 10 days probably early feb but flex. I’d like to go furano and surroundings as haven’t been but are we safer just going to Myoko, rusutsu or similar due to amount of snowfall/likelihood of freshies. Dad isn’t going to be able to do hardcore BC but side country and life accessed pow he’ll be fine on. Due to age of want him to be able to call it a day to accom if he’s tired. Was awesome skier but hasn’t done quite so much pow recently as skis the French alps

Definitely go to Furano. While Nagano possibly gets more pow, it also has a greater likelihood of rainy days. If you look at the snowjapan stats you'll also see that Rusutsu and Furano avg snowfalls don't differ that much. Furano is such a nice resort to ski. Also, you have the benefit of visiting the other local resorts, such as Kamui etc.
 

Froff Life

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looking for some reassurances or recommedations on time to ski for furano and surrounding area in regards to pow. Japow is on dads bucket list. He’s 70 and lives in London. We live in Brissie and go all the time. This will be a 1 hit wonder for him. Would be looking at 10 days probably early feb but flex. I’d like to go furano and surroundings as haven’t been but are we safer just going to Myoko, rusutsu or similar due to amount of snowfall/likelihood of freshies. Dad isn’t going to be able to do hardcore BC but side country and life accessed pow he’ll be fine on. Due to age of want him to be able to call it a day to accom if he’s tired. Was awesome skier but hasn’t done quite so much pow recently as skis the French alps
Early Feb for 10 days, you're practically guaranteed to get at least a few decent pow days.
 

LMB

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True that. It's not only tough for boarders but skiers have their work cut out traversing from lift to lift. This is the legacy of having separate lift companies and no collaboration. Still, even on a busy day (e.g. Chinese NY, 2018) you get great wide groomers with not a lot of people to get in your way....they're all up staring at snow monsters.
Do you guys reckon it would be ripe for redevelopment? I mean, they’re developing the shizzz outta Niseko region, Kiroro/Rusutsu and Furano now on the hit lists. Surely the boom in Chinese visitors Zao would be a good resort to target. Snow Monsters have the added interest factor, and they could market the resort as a Snow Monsters/Family/All inclusive package deal thing that they love. Get new lifts working in together better...

Am I getting way to ahead of myself..
 
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Froff Life

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Do you guys reckon it would be ripe for redevelopment? I mean, they’re developing the shizzz outta Niseko region, Kiroro/Rusutsu and Furano now on the hit lists. Surely the boom in Chinese visitors Zao would be a good resort to target. Snow Monsters have the added interest factor, and they could market the resort as a Snow Monsters/Family/All inclusive package deal thing that they love. Get new lifts working in together better...

Am I getting way to ahead of myself..
Totally agree with you LMB. Zao already attracts quite a few non-skiing tourists who just go to see the snow monsters and not ski. The line in the morning for the snow monster gondola can be 40-50 mins, lucky thee are 2 more!
 
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Tonester

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Do you guys reckon it would be ripe for redevelopment? I mean, they’re developing the shizzz outta Niseko region, Kiroro/Rusutsu and Furano now on the hit lists. Surely the boom in Chinese visitors Zao would be a good resort to target. Snow Monsters have the added interest factor, and they could market the resort as a Snow Monsters/Family/All inclusive package deal thing that they love. Get new lifts working in together better...

Am I getting way to ahead of myself..
Quite possibly. The added attraction of some pretty nice onsens, just at the village base has to be an aded bonus.
 
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LMB

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Must get myself to Zao at some stage.

Next few on the must do list: Zao, Tokachidake (again), Shirebetsu, Asahidake and swimming in the ice flow at the top of Hokkaido.
 
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Vermillion

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Nope, not worth it IMO. The chinese go there for the juyho, they arent interested in skiing. There's a ski jump there too that hardly gets used. The only development I can see happening at Zao is a way to get more Chinese up to the juyho faster. The amount of lifts that would need to be changed/moved/replaced and associated earthworks to make the resort smooth from a riding perspective would be enormous, and not something that would happen any time soon IMO. The village is also a very old village with a lot of dated, soviet-style buildings that are slowly getting replaced, although there is a push to keep a lot of the old buildings, as shabby as some of them look.

As @Ramenman said, there's other places around Zao that are much better resorts in terms of skiing cohesion. Leave Zaoonsen to the people who like it for what it is, or for those who want to come see the juyho.
 
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Froff Life

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Nope, not worth it IMO. The chinese go there for the juyho, they arent interested in skiing. There's a ski jump there too that hardly gets used. The only development I can see happening at Zao is a way to get more Chinese up to the juyho faster. The amount of lifts that would need to be changed/moved/replaced and associated earthworks to make the resort smooth from a riding perspective would be enormous, and not something that would happen any time soon IMO. The village is also a very old village with a lot of dated, soviet-style buildings that are slowly getting replaced, although there is a push to keep a lot of the old buildings, as shabby as some of them look.

As @Ramenman said, there's other places around Zao that are much better resorts in terms of skiing cohesion. Leave Zaoonsen to the people who like it for what it is, or for those who want to come see the juyho.
I liked the village, plenty of nice traditional restaurants and heaps of amazing onsens. Yes it's definitely a bit dated, but Zao retains some traditional Japanese charm. Well worth a visit for 5-7 days, but the ski lift layout and flat spots on the hill wouldn't have me returning in a hurry.
 

LMB

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Interesting to hear that opinion @Vermillion - and you’re probably spot on.

However I think the times they are a-changing with regard to Chinese skiing. There will always be those that don’t, but enough of a percentage are now getting into it in a bigger and bigger way that I see them as the newest huge market to tap into. Heck if only 0.1% of the population get into skiing it’ll be a massive market.
 

Vermillion

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I liked the village, plenty of nice traditional restaurants and heaps of amazing onsens. Yes it's definitely a bit dated, but Zao retains some traditional Japanese charm. Well worth a visit for 5-7 days, but the ski lift layout and flat spots on the hill wouldn't have me returning in a hurry.

5-7 might get you 1-2 with half-decent visibility. I've been at Zao for 12 days over 3 different seasons and had 1 true bluebird day. And I know it was special as there were 3-4 helicopters circling the peak all day long, taking visitors and promo photos I assume. They dont get many chances to do that. They also get a lot of rain compared to other places.

I wouldnt go back now that i've been there 3 times.
 
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Vermillion

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Interesting to hear that opinion @Vermillion - and you’re probably spot on.

However I think the times they are a-changing with regard to Chinese skiing. There will always be those that don’t, but enough of a percentage are now getting into it in a bigger and bigger way that I see them as the newest huge market to tap into. Heck if only 0.1% of the population get into skiing it’ll be a massive market.

The problem is that it's a hell of a lot of investment for relatively little return, as opposed to charging through the nose to get up the top and look at tree covered in snow. There's no ski hire, ski school, ski patrol and the associated costs/insurance etc that go along with that, but you still get the people on the hill. Like I said the only real investment I can see them doing targeting the Chinese tourists would be extra gondola capacity to get them up the hill faster.
 
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Vermillion

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It doesnt look like this often:
12669527_10153264984911126_3142440248665497576_n.jpg

12705712_10153264961541126_8008312672800108537_n.jpg

12729291_10153264939421126_5996079382712976254_n.jpg

12745933_10153264919791126_64642785391429969_n.jpg

Most of the time it looks like this:
1011210_10151842281301126_1482276518_n.jpg
8014_10151842280916126_1099620590_n.jpg
 
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Ramenman

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As @Ramenman said, there's other places around Zao that are much better resorts in terms of skiing cohesion. Leave Zaoonsen to the people who like it for what it is, or for those who want to come see the juyho.

Zao Onsen has been attracting a lot of Asian tourists in recent years, so I don't worry about them at all and I don't need to promote them at all now, but smaller ski resorts near Zao Onsen are not doing very well, so I'll promote one of them here now;).

I like Zao Liza World (less than 30min drive from Zao Onsen). Green = The ski resort area. Yellow is the Juhyo area at 1500m above sea level (only less than 50m vertical hike from the top lift station of Liza World, and you won't see many Asian tourists there). Black is the mountain ridge of 1760 - 1841m asl. Unless the visibility is too bad, it's difficult to get lost in that there are many things that tell you where you are. For example, Blue = Lift for green season hikers (It isn't running in winter), Purple = a mountain hut, Orange = Zao Echo line(a road up to the peak of the mountain and it leads you to Miyagi prefecture side of Zao mountains but it's closed between late Autumn and April).
snowtrekking03.jpg


Gray on the map above is where this is. We took it on Jan 21st this season.
90744_56c1d46abd8043dee04a7a68f09e96f2.PNG


This is Yellow(the Juhyo area very near the top lift station of Liza World). It was also taken on January 21st(this year). This season was the worst or the second worst season since 2010, but there was this sized Juhyo around 1500m + above sea level(quite easy hike).
90740_ff9843c4b9c57ecce61bccb8585c2ece.PNG


90751_c294c7dc9bf22d3470f1f9fca2346538.PNG
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Red = tooCotton, a lodge on a ski slope at 1200m asl. I like such lodges which are at higher than the bottom lift stations of the ski resorts. Most of them have snowshoe tours, backcountry tours, etc, and tooCotton also organize some tours. This is the lodge in winter, and it's reasonable.
49858422_358317044991012_5830866026366075963_n.jpg


Some Zao Liza World videos.


Backcountry around Liza World this season.


This is Zao Echo Line(the Orange road in the first picture) after it opened in April.
52ca58e6d17a744d23ba43165acd584f.jpg





Zao Liza World has some X-country courses. This is the video.
 
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almontyrat

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Thanks all for the advice to come to Shiga Kogen. I arrived Tuesday in heavy snow and it chucked down all night and well into Wednesday. First ski day Wednesday was in 44cms of fresh and boy was it fun. I can actually link tele turns in deep freshies now, a skill that has long eluded me. Managed to ski about 5 hours before my poor legs said enough. Sun is out today and the view from my window tells me they have groomed the living daylights out of everything so I am off to tele the corduroy.
IMG_20190403_090533609.jpg

No action shots sorry, bit hard when you are solo.
 

Sandy

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Thanks all for the advice to come to Shiga Kogen. I arrived Tuesday in heavy snow and it chucked down all night and well into Wednesday. First ski day Wednesday was in 44cms of fresh and boy was it fun. I can actually link tele turns in deep freshies now, a skill that has long eluded me. Managed to ski about 5 hours before my poor legs said enough. Sun is out today and the view from my window tells me they have groomed the living daylights out of everything so I am off to tele the corduroy.
IMG_20190403_090533609.jpg

No action shots sorry, bit hard when you are solo.
There is still powder out there, you just need to find it.
 

almontyrat

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There is still powder out there, you just need to find it.
I'm sure there is Sandy, I am just too chicken to go hunting on my own. I am having enough trouble working out the piste maps and how to get about without venturing too far from the groomed trails. Going to be very different out there today, sunshine and good vis for a start :)
 
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PMG

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I'm sure there is Sandy, I am just too chicken to go hunting on my own. I am having enough trouble working out the piste maps and how to get about without venturing too far from the groomed trails. Going to be very different out there today, sunshine and good vis for a start :)
You scored!
 
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almontyrat

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Well its been a real mixed bag the last few days. Mornings have been firm and fast turning to slush around lunch time. Another 20cms of fresh last night and this morning meant great skiing today, I am really getting this freshies skiing down pat finally. Had a great two hour private yesterday with Robel who is the director of the Shiga International ski school. Skied much better today putting all I learned into practice. The only sad things is that there is no one about so things are closing up for the season. The links between areas are all closed and its hard to find somewhere open for lunch. Supposed to snow again all day tomorrow, bring it on I say!
IMG_20190409_123043700.jpg

The main run at Ichinose Family with a whole two skiers on it, the place is deserted!
 

Kym

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as @Sandy would attest to... if you go in January, don't expect many blue bird days...

When I went, which was during mid January... it was pretty much white out all the time & the snow did not stop falling
Where is that for please? Hakuba?
 

LDJ

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Looking at Tokohu for either 2020 or 2021. Is this to other areas where Feb is probably best bet? Will be resort, slack country and some guided. No touring
 

rickau

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I found some cheap flights to Japan for early March. Is this too late in the season for Hakuba?
 

Sandy

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A bit more info on riding around New Year holidays.

January 1st is a public holiday. There are usually 2-3 "Bank Holidays" around this time, which companies will usually give as company holidays. If these fall on a weekend, there may be one day less. But you need to understand and predict when most Japanese will be on the slopes riding.
e.g. 2019/20
Sat 28th - Sun 29th - Mon 30th - Tue 31st - Wed 1st - Thu 2nd - Fri 3rd - Sat 4th - Sun 5th
Red
= Public holiday, or weekend.
Blue = Bank holiday
Green = normal day

In this case, workers will almost certainly take off Monday 30th. So this period will be crowded.
Christmas Day is not an issue, because it's just a normal working day.
 

fennekeg

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And what about Chinese New Year? Am I right in that the Chinese have (their) new year's day off, plus 2 to 4 days after? I.e. there will be a lot of Chinese taking a holiday and hitting the slopes the first 5 days of the Chinese new year?
 

skivet

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Sandy also wondering will a lot of Japanese take off Monday before their holiday Tuesday 11th Feb for National Foundation day to give them a four day weekend?
 

lehb

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Hi folks, heading off to a wedding and probs a trip to Japan pistes in mid Dec. Reading the thread it appears Hokkaido is the only option, would Tomamu be a good place to be at that time ?
 

mannyk

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Thanks MG, looks very interesting. Finding accom rates and locations was hard. Its so close to Nagano and never heard about the area.. I assume mostly locals visit.
 

M_G

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I think best to stay in or near Karuizawa with a car. Shouldn't be too hard to find digs there.

At this point mostly off the foreigner's radar, yes.
 

Sandy

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Thanks MG, looks very interesting. Finding accom rates and locations was hard. Its so close to Nagano and never heard about the area.. I assume mostly locals visit.
You need to know, however, that Karuizawa rarely gets more than 120cm of snow base during the season, because it doesn't get a lot of natural snow.... it uses a lot of snow making, and the snow tends to be icier as a consequece.

And it's not so close to Nagano city. (75km by Shinkansen, which is 1/3 of the WAY BACK to Tokyo, from Nagano city)
 

Dr_Cucumber

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Hi Guys, has been a while since I've posted. Maybe several years. We are using Madarao as a base 13th to 26th January. We have wheels. Plan is to drive around and find the best conditions. Only question is how? Sure we can look at the forecasts / predictions, but how do we actually know whats fallen on the day. For example, we get up about 7am to check the reports, but most don't update til around 9am each day. So we are flying blind! Obviously we want to get out onto the road as early as possible to maximize our skiing time. Any tips for planning / optimizing our experience?
 

Crispy013

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Hi Guys, has been a while since I've posted. Maybe several years. We are using Madarao as a base 13th to 26th January. We have wheels. Plan is to drive around and find the best conditions. Only question is how? Sure we can look at the forecasts / predictions, but how do we actually know whats fallen on the day. For example, we get up about 7am to check the reports, but most don't update til around 9am each day. So we are flying blind! Obviously we want to get out onto the road as early as possible to maximize our skiing time. Any tips for planning / optimizing our experience?
Check their FB page. Most do an update around 7am. Also understand the JMA weather stations. They will give you a very unbiased reading of snowfall.
 

ojisan

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Hi Guys, has been a while since I've posted. Maybe several years. We are using Madarao as a base 13th to 26th January. We have wheels. Plan is to drive around and find the best conditions. Only question is how? Sure we can look at the forecasts / predictions, but how do we actually know whats fallen on the day. For example, we get up about 7am to check the reports, but most don't update til around 9am each day. So we are flying blind! Obviously we want to get out onto the road as early as possible to maximize our skiing time. Any tips for planning / optimizing our experience?
Is your lodge owner is a seasoned veteran they will have a good idea of where the conditions will be best
 

Sandy

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Hi Guys, has been a while since I've posted. Maybe several years. We are using Madarao as a base 13th to 26th January. We have wheels. Plan is to drive around and find the best conditions. Only question is how? Sure we can look at the forecasts / predictions, but how do we actually know whats fallen on the day. For example, we get up about 7am to check the reports, but most don't update til around 9am each day. So we are flying blind! Obviously we want to get out onto the road as early as possible to maximize our skiing time. Any tips for planning / optimizing our experience?

I rely on coastal wind direction info, and radar info from JMA. The new snowfall analysis page on JMA is also useful.
Read the Weather forum thread J as pan tutorial to understand how to use the info.
e.g. Suginohara does well off a WNW compared to Madarao, and the other resort at Myoko.
 

Chillybin

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Hi Guys, has been a while since I've posted. Maybe several years. We are using Madarao as a base 13th to 26th January. We have wheels. Plan is to drive around and find the best conditions. Only question is how? Sure we can look at the forecasts / predictions, but how do we actually know whats fallen on the day. For example, we get up about 7am to check the reports, but most don't update til around 9am each day. So we are flying blind! Obviously we want to get out onto the road as early as possible to maximize our skiing time. Any tips for planning / optimizing our experience?

You’re in the right area for “mystery dumps”...... a site like this is similar to BOM in Australia and you can see what’s happening in real time. You have to be very vigilant though. Myoko and Nozawa are renowned for getting dumps out of nowhere. I’ve been at both where 70cm-1m have dropped where the forecast either had nothing or very minimal. Unfortunately you’re not going to know about it until someone posts. I’ve also been up the top of the Nagasaka gondola in a ghost town because it hadn’t snowed in 4 or 5 days and was clear skies overnight but I’m in waist deep pow and it’s bluebird. You really need eyes on the ground. Good luck http://www.chiiki.pref.niigata.jp/yuki/index-e.html
 
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