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Advice needed Southern Tohoku Spring Ski?

Discussion in 'Japan' started by Lonepeak, Feb 19, 2021.

  1. Lonepeak

    Lonepeak Addicted

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    Hi - trying to pull off another ski trip this season with lots of constraints to work around (within-Japan travel restrictions at work, flights cancelled, etc.). I think I will need to fly in to Sendai or Niigata, and probably can't go until mid-march at the earliest. I have not skied Fukushima or Niigata which I would like to try - if skiable late March. Friend and I are not backcountry skiers, and spring time groomers are OK with side-country a bonus (but not expecting in spring).

    With this in mind, any suggestions on regions/resorts from mid-March on? A home base with under 2 hour drives to various resorts is ideal. If can't go until April, any options still snow worthy?

    I had great feedback for my January Iwate/Akita trip, so I'm hoping for the same again should things align for a spring ski trip.
     
  2. Ramenman

    Ramenman A Local

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    Grandeco, Tengendai, Nekoma, etc are opening till the end of Golden Week = May. However, majority ski resorts close in early April even if there is snow at those ski resorts even in mid April. Relatively near Sendai, there is Sumikawa Snow Park (= Miyagi Zao). It's a high altitude ski resort and it has a CAT to a peak. There is snow there in April, but it will close in the first weekend of April.
     
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  3. skichanger

    skichanger A Local

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    Niigata late March, lots of options, in fact just about everywhere. Most places still have a bigger base than we ever get in Aus but still close at the end of March. Less options heading into April. The ones I know that are still open till Golden week are Akakura Kanko on Mt Myoko and Naeba/Kagura at Yuzawa. I am sure there are more.

    We went to Grandeco in April in 2013 (I think). My son was competing in a moguls comp there. Not sure if we got a really special deal because it was arranged for us by a moguls person who works for Tokyu. But beautiful hotel, amazing French restaurant, probably the best value skiing I have ever had. It was spring skiing which is perfect for moguls.
     
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  4. Ramenman

    Ramenman A Local

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    Zao - Tengendai - Minowa - Grandeco - Nekoma, then each drive is a short drive.

    This was filmed at Tengendai ski resort on April 8th (Yamagata).


    Zao Onsen (Yamagata) on April 12th



    All 3 ski resorts below (Minowa, Nekoma and Grandeco) are in Aizu regon, Fukushima.
    Minowa ski resort on April 12th


    Grandeco on April 19th


    Nekoma on April 8th (early April can be this good if you are lucky)
     
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  5. Ramenman

    Ramenman A Local

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    If you are landing in Sendai, skiing at Sumikawa Snow Park might be good. This was filmed on April 8th = the last day of the season. There was plenty of snow as you can see in the video, but it was the last day of the season. So, April means the ski resort might be already closed even if there is plenty of snow for skiing (March, you don't need to worry, though).


    Somehow, Zao Fox Village near Sumikawa is popular among foreign tourists.
     
    #5 Ramenman, Feb 20, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2021
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  6. Lonepeak

    Lonepeak Addicted

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    Thanks for the feedback. If arriving Sendai (which seems more viable), I like the Zao - Tengendai - Minowa - Grandeco - Nekoma option. Alts Bandai is not on that list. Not worth it late season?

    I would likely skip Sumikawa since I did that last month - although it was 2 hours in the fog so a marginal day.

    I will keep an eye out for a good weather window & working flights (been a problem) to try make this happen. Hope I can convince a few buddies to tag along this time.
     
  7. skichanger

    skichanger A Local

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    I would expect Alts Bandai to be similar to Grandeco as they are quite close.
     
  8. Ramenman

    Ramenman A Local

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    Speaking of Alts Bandai, they usually close in mid April. Alts Bandai and Nekoma are almost one ski resort. Nekoma's base altitude is higher than 1000m asl and it's north-facing, so Nekoma is open till the end of Golden Week = May in the average season while Alts Bandai usually close a few weeks earlier. Both Alts and Nekoma usually have big terrarain parks in March (and early April), naming them "Big Spring Park" (or something like that). They are popular among snowboarders and freestyle skiers.
     
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  9. Lonepeak

    Lonepeak Addicted

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    Thanks for the info.

    How about any non-ski day suggestions? Any historic/cultural/scenic things to see or do in the area?
     
  10. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Check out the Kokeshi dolls. There was a shop in Zao with an old guy carving them. Watched him for a bit and got a couple for myself. They feature in several parts of Tohoku, you probably have already seen some.
     
    #10 Heinz, Feb 21, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2021
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  11. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Have a day in Sendai and see the castle there. It was partially impacted by the earthquake in 2011.
     
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  12. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    There is also a nice ski area Onikoube in Miyagi near an Onsen resort town Naruko Onsen. Don't know though if it will be operating late season.
     
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  13. Melskius

    Melskius One of Us

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    Sendai is awesome, great vibe. The temple of a 1000 steps at yamadera is amazing. We did it one late feb/ early march with a 6&9yr old. Also one of the whiskey distillery is a few stops away on the train line.
     
  14. Ramenman

    Ramenman A Local

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    Aizu region is quite famous for Sake breweries and many of them offer you sake testing and brewery tour. One problem is, if you want to drink, you can't drive, so, the sake breweries must be in the downtown or a very short walk from a train station. Next to Aizu Wakamatsu station, there is Nanukamachi station. Nanukamachi area has Nanukamachi-dori = street where there are traditional buildings and shops, including Sake breweries. I like 末廣酒造 (Suehiro Sake brewery) and 鶴乃江酒造 (Tsurunoe Sake brewery). Both of them are about only 5 - 7 min walk from Nanukamachi station. By the way, Aizu Wakamatsu station to Nanukamachi station is only 1.7km, and it's only 20 min walk from Aizu Wakamatsu station (the downtown of Aizu Wakamtsu), so, you don't take a train either but just walk from your accommodation in the downtown of Aizu Wakamatsu.

    Suehiro Sake brewery
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]




    Tsurunoe Sake brewery
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    English article about Nanukamachi : https://www.tohokuandtokyo.org/spot_67/
     
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  15. Lonepeak

    Lonepeak Addicted

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    All great ideas. Thanks.
     
  16. Melskius

    Melskius One of Us

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    There are some really interesting sites here too. The castle, the double helix temple aizu sazaedo, the graves of the byakkotai. The hop on off tourist bus covers these sites.
     
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  17. Ramenman

    Ramenman A Local

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    Ginzan Onsen (Yamagata) and Ouchijuku (Aizu region, Fukushima) are beautiful with snow, but they are not as good in spring, so, I'm not for sure if it's worth staying at Ryokans there in spring for you. However, Shirabu Onsen is at the bottom of Tengendai ski resort, so staying at a traditional Onsen Ryokan in Shirabu Onsen village might be good if you are interested in some cultural experiences and skiing at Tengendai. Shirabu Onsen to the bottom ropeway station of Tengendai is only 1km. Shirabu Onsen and Tengendai are in Yonezawa city of Yamagata Pref and Yonezawa city is famous for Yonezawa Gyu (it's a luxury Wagyu), so ordering Yonezawa Gyu there might be good too (unless you are a vegetarian).

    Ginzan Onsen



    Ouchijuku




    Shirabu Onsen
     
    #17 Ramenman, Feb 22, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2021
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  18. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    One modifier in all this is the lack of crowds.
    In the places I've skied this season, there's quite a few lifts that normally run, but are NOT running this season, because there are less crowds than normal. Even worse midweek, because there are no foreign visitors, but weekend crowds are down as well. And on midweeks, if there's wind, they are much more likely to close lifts, than in a normal season.
    So I'd say that midweeks are down by 80%+ in the more foreign friendly resorts. There's a noticeable increase in numbers on Fridays (people from Tokyo making a long weekend by taking Friday off), only because they are not masked by lots of Aussie & Chinese snow riders.

    What I think it means, is that as crowds normally dwindle in March, there will be so few people in some areas, that they will take the decision to close the season early. I'm not sure how you can predict this exactly, but that's my gut feel.
    So selection of the resort you travel to is really important, given that they may close early... you'll need to check carefully before hand.
     
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  19. skichanger

    skichanger A Local

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    You should be able to leave booking till quite late. Then you can check where is still open.

    @Sandy I have been told that the Madarao Kogen hotel is closed midweek due to lack of guests. I expect lots of places are in the same situation
     
  20. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Yep, not surprised. At Shiga Kogen, the Prince Hotel West was shut, including the huge restaurant, that hundreds of people use every day. Only Prince East was open, so you had to go elsewhere to grab lunch, unless you wanted to pay thru the nose at Prince East.
     
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  21. Lonepeak

    Lonepeak Addicted

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    Aizu isn’t really in that category, is it? I thought it’s primarily domestic visitors.

    I do agree I need to track what is/is not open. With car rental planned I can adjust on the fly. Plus, a trip like this is as much about seeing new territory as it is about skiing (like Iwate/Akita last month). The non-ski day suggestions above can keep me busy if needed.

    Hoping for a decent weather forecast to commit...
     
  22. Ramenman

    Ramenman A Local

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    By the way, Inawashiro ski resort is for free weekdays and half priced weekend this season. I guess they are trying to use this COVID-19 season to increase local ski fans. By sacrificing this season, they try to make more "future ski fans"?. For students, skiing tends to be a bit expensive, and it is often said (in Japan) if they don't ski before turning 25 years old, they won't start skiing forever. So, giving young people the opportunity to ski is actually important.
     
  23. skichanger

    skichanger A Local

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    FYI when we went to Grandeco in 2013 we saw 2 westerners. One was a guy called Jup who was working at The Listel but was over at Grandeco to work on the moguls course. The other one was a poster on this forum. But at that point in time there weren't many westerners, as in about 4 guys married to Japanese women, at Mt Myoko either.
     
  24. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    There's no foreign friendly resorts there, but I also said that weekend crowds are down as well, and that means Japanese snow riders..... and if there's less of those, then out of the way places will also suffer from lack of people, leading to early closures this season IMO.
    Last season as the pandemic developed, the crowds even on weekends were down to less than half, by mid March.
     
  25. Jacksong

    Jacksong Addicted

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    Sounds like a great trip, worse case scenario you drive to one of the big resorts, nothing is too far really.
     
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  26. Lonepeak

    Lonepeak Addicted

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    That's even better than the Wamazing $5/day Aizu ski deal...
     
  27. Ramenman

    Ramenman A Local

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    You need to register to "Inawashiro ski fanclub" via your smartphone in advance. IIRC, you have a Japanese speaking partner, right?. I think she can help you to register. The altitude of Inawashiro ski resort is not high, and it's south-facing, so it won't open in April. The view of Lake Inawashiro (the biggest lake of Tohoku) is beautiful seen from the ski resort with or without snow, though.
    https://fanclub.inawashiro-ski.com/...S7ZYo9HcqdGg17SzlLeNG9Sy-r5YdC_0aAuGUEALw_wcB
     
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  28. Lonepeak

    Lonepeak Addicted

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    Yea
    Yes...my wife can help. One day she will tire of helping.

    No longer thinking April. March 13- is now target trip start date based on work & flights (fingers crossed no cancellations).
     
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  29. Ramenman

    Ramenman A Local

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    I understand Lonepeak-san is not interested in BC, but it's "Southern Tohoku Spring Ski" thread, and many local advanced people enjoy spring BC in Southern Tohoku. So, I mention some here. Sendai is by far the biggest city of Tohoku. Relatively near Sendai, there are three Miyagi Zao ski resorts which have BC terrains which are popular among local people. I mentioned Sumikawa Snow Park, so I won't write about it but write about a few others (Sumikawa has CATs to the ridge, so you don't need to hike).

    Caution :
    As long as the visibility is good and you are well prepared, you won't get lost and I don't think there are avalanche prone terrains, however, it's backcountry, so, of course, there are some risks. So, unless you are experienced enough and can estimate the risk, you should not try it. I feel Onsen & dinner & Sake after BC day nicer;)

    Near Sumikawa, there is Miyagi Zao Eboshi Resort. The altitude of the ski resort is 650 -1350m. The peak of the mountain is about 1700m.


    This is the BC filmed in March (2018)





    Near Miyagi Zao Eboshi, there is Miyagi Zao Shiroishi ski resort. It's simple, you just hike and ride the terrains above the ski resort you see.


    This is the BC video.




    A video of Workcation Trip to "Miyagi" Zao (not Yamagata).
     
  30. Lonepeak

    Lonepeak Addicted

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    I actually would love to do that, but lack touring equipment, and a partner (don't like to venture off without one). I planned to go for touring gear this year after Hakkoda last year, but opted out. My son in Seattle bought gear this year and has been making me jealous with his outings.

    Also, are the resorts OK heading out like that? In January a sunny day at Shizukuishi would have been perfect - and I saw a group of boarders heading up the upper abandoned run to I'm guessing hit the area you mentioned in the January Tohoku thread. It was tempting to follow them but I held back due to the prominent sign stating "no backcountry access from ski resort." So...ignore that I guess?
     
  31. Ramenman

    Ramenman A Local

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    Basically, ski resorts don't want to see skiers / snowboarders get injured. A long time ago, search & rescue was for free in many regions but ski resorts confiscated lift tickets from the skiers / snowboarders riding OOB. Now, many of them won't confiscate lift tickets even if they see people riding OOB but they'll really charge them for the search and rescue cost. "No backcountry" often means "No avalanche control, there might be terrain traps, you might get lost, etc but you will still ride OOB?. Don't forget we'll charge you for the search & rescue cost". Mountaineering insurance is needed for BC. Only 480 Yen per month, then the mountaineering insurance covers the search & rescue cost up to 3 million Yen.

    [​IMG]
     
  32. Lonepeak

    Lonepeak Addicted

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    I always get it (thanks to wife that does it for me).

    Ok on OOB. I thought I would get chased down if I wandered off. I will still use discretion- has to be very clear I wouldn’t get lost and safe terrain before proceeding. I exercised poor judgment at Hakkoda last season in a white out which I hope I’m smart enough to not repeat - lucky it didn’t go bad.
     
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  33. Lonepeak

    Lonepeak Addicted

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    Just landed in Sendai for the week trip. Buddy snowboarder joined.

    Spending next few nights in Aizu wakamatsu. Supposed to be very high winds Sunday. Any suggestions on which resort may be sheltered from that are welcome.
     
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