After quite some time at Hakuba it was time to move on and visit a new area. Myoko only 2.5h away from Hakuba and spoiled by incredible amounts of snow was our destination for a few days.
Myoko at a glance
The land of snow; a real Japanese experience
A trip to Myoko is traveling into the heart of Japanese culture and the Snow Country. About 13m average snow fall a season guarantees good skiing December all the way into May.
With Suginohara, Ikenotaira, Akakura Kanko, Akakura Onsen, Kyukamura, Myoko Ski Park and Seki Onsen connected by shuttle buses, you will have a wide variety of resorts to choose from every morning. There are two more resorts on the other side of the valley, but there is no shuttle bus and due to the access road taxi drivers (8000 Yen on way) often refuse to drive there during heavy snow.
Myoko is a true ski town with a unique local feeling and flavor. Hospitality, kindness and friendliness are always present while you are enjoying your time surrounded by beautiful mountains.
No matter whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced skier Myoko will provide the right area for you. Keen backcountry skiers also only need to wait until the clouds move away from Mt Myoko before you can hike up to the top and enjoy breathtaking views, followed by untracked powder turns, days after the last storm.
Day 17 early morning powder and travel to Myoko
Nick asked me to get up very early and be ready to leave the lodge at 6:30 for a “first decent”. Well not a real first decent but at least for him and me. After having some trouble to find the way to the run we got some nice early morning powder. We were back at the lodge by 8am. Leave the lodge at lunchtime, with Lachlan. Pick Mark and Damon up at Cortina and drive to Myoko for the week.
Day 18 Powderday at Seki Onsen Myoko – 7.5 outta 10
After a good night sleep and breakfast at the SkiInSkiOut Hotel Alp at Myoko, we jump in the car and drive about 25min to today’s destination Seki Onsen. Seki is one of several resorts at Myoko and is owned and run by a Family Business. The whole family plus 10 other employees take care of running the lifts. A double chair brings you half way up the mountain and then from there a SINGLE chair brings you to the top, when it is running. They have very limited grooming with two machines, one of which is totally snowed in (buried) and will not be used for quite some time. We didn’t really care as we are here to enjoy untracked powder and there is plenty of it. A snow base of several meters plus over 2.5m of fresh over the last week should be good enough to have plenty of fun.
First impression might not be the best. Smallish and short runs, but then when you start to explore the area you will enjoy every run a bit more. Nice pillows, rollovers, spines and more. Described by some as feature`licious.
We talked to the owner in the morning to find out about the off piste rules and for once it was a big relieving and very welcome change for Japan. He told us that he gave up warning people on where to go and not to go. Instead of these warnings he simply told us that any off piste rescue will be VERY expensive and fully charged towards us. He said we had better know what we are doing. A fair way in my opinion and they would for sure save a lot of money on ropes and signs which many of us would ignore anyway.
Weekdays are very quiet and the top single chair will not necessarily be open. But if you are polite and ask you might be spoiled by a temporary opening. Enjoy it as long as it lasts because they might shut it down again after an hour or two.
There is a restaurant within the resort which offers Japanese food and drinks. This also gives you a good chance to dry all your wet stuff while having a break.
On a powder day this resort is best for experienced powderhounds. Intermediate skiers probably won’t be too enthused with the one and only groomed run from mid mountain back to the base.
Skipatrol: Not seen at all. The lift staff would probably take care of anything if needed but would probably not be there within minutes. So if you ski off piste or even decide to hit the backcountry make sure you know what you are doing and have skiing partners with you. The weather did not allow us to see the whole potential of the backcountry but once we got to see parts of it for about 30 seconds and it looked promising for sure.
Overall: Good things come in small packages.
Day 19 Somekind of a powderday at Suginohara – Myoko
Big surprise this morning. We got to see the mountains for a few hours before fog and light snow returned.
Suginohara is part of the Myoko Big 4 which you can get on the same day pass if you ask for it. The lift system is probably the first very good impression you get. High speed gondola and several high speed chairs. If you search for the steeps you only need the top chair and even then you won’t find many challenging areas without hiking to it. Nevertheless it did not take long to find some short but nice tree runs right off the groomers. Later in the day we even found the really good area, easy way in and a short hike out.
The resort offers long, wide open groomed runs from the top to the bottom and you can even ski Japans longest run 8.5km. Impressive vertical drop of 1124 meters!
Overall I would recommend the resort for beginner and intermediate skiers and boarders in need of perfectly groomed runs. Keen to hit the park? From what we saw it looked pretty good, lots of features considering how early in the season. Suginohara’s south facing aspect (not all of it) will lead to some crusty powder a day or two after the storm so make sure to be there in time
Several on mountain restaurants offer food and drinks.
Oh and a few words to the off piste policy. Officially: No idea. Reality: very few signs and very few ropes. We had no issues all day but be careful if you decide to ski near the gully of the top of the highest chair. There are some huge cornices and they are super easy to trigger as we had to learn today. You don’t even notice that you are already standing on it until you notice the cracks or even trigger one like we did today. Not funny at all.
We had not the right conditions to hit the BC but we could see the potential and there are some sick lines after about a one hour hike.
It was very quiet today but the size of the car park did leave a rather weird feeling in terms of possible weekend crowds.
Note for powder hounds: If the top lift is closed you won’t find anything steep enough to have fun with.
Day 20 – 2 resorts – the best trees but the ski patrol did not like us
Morning at Tangram Ski Circus
About half an hour drive to the other side of the valley, from the Alp Hotel at Akakura Onsen, you will find the two linked resorts of Tangram and Madarao. When you arrive at the base of Tangram you right away get a very good feeling about the potential of some amazing tree skiing. After a bit of hard time on our first run we agreed to blame the quality of the snow, but in reality it is just the number of days we ski powder day after day without giving our legs a good rest. After our legs warmed up, the second run was simply awesome. Nicely spaced trees, 35 degrees on top and a bit less lower down – just what the doctor ordered. After that we went for another run from the very top, all the way to the base area and again very happy.
On the next ride up to the top we noticed a ski patroller following us. We did not know what the rules were but we found out sooner then expected. After skiing on the groomer for a bit we escaped into the trees for another awesome run, but then right on popping out of the exit, we got stopped by 2 patrollers. They explained to us in a very friendly way that Tangram does not allow ANY tree skiing. Too dangerous and they do not have enough staff to open this area for the public. We had a nice chat and told them that this place probably has some of the best tree skiing in Japan. We told them that we were only there to ski trees but alas they said they could not turn a blind eye. Instead they ripped an edge off our paper ticket, told us that the whole mountain staff knows how we look and we would lose our ticket if we were caught in the trees again. The usual cat and mouse game would probably not work for long here as its always pretty easy to be spotted dropping back onto the groomers.
Very disappointed, but nothing we can do. Instead of pressing our luck we decided to head to the linked resort of Madarao Kogen.
Afternoon at Madarano Kogen Ski Area
OK lift system and plenty of trees – this was the first impression. Then the weather changed and it started to snow for the rest of the afternoon. We had a hard time to find our way around and twice had to hike back to the resort. Pretty lucky that we started the big traverse back after a nice long tree run, otherwise we would probably have spent hours getting back.
We don’t know how ski patrol is handling the off piste skiing here. However there are official areas where you are allowed to ski the trees, called “AirWave 1” and “Air Wave 2”. BC access is possible off the top of the single chair but we had more trouble to find the cat tracks in the heavy snow and high winds let alone thinking about how to go BC.
Huge restaurants at the base which either are a reminder of the good old busy times or maybe weekends are a zoo. We weren’t there on a weekend to find out.
Day 21 Powderday at Akakura Kanko and Akakura Onsen
Another 50cm over the last 24h.
We started the day at Akakura Kanko and spent most of the day there as it provides more challenging terrain than Akakura Onsen. It will take you a while to find the good stuff but unlike other resorts the off piste policy seems to be very relaxed. We skied lift lines and trees all day without even noticing any ski patrol. You can choose from nice moderate long mellow tree runs or go for something steeper but shorter. There are many areas you can leave the resort, ski some very good terrain and then after a short hike out, or even just by following a gully, you will get back to the groomers.
The lift system is very good. High speed gondola and high speed chairs. This is all you need to find the good stuff. We are pretty sure there is more good terrain out there but in only one day, with sometimes white out conditions, it was a bit tricky to find.
Akakura Kanko is on a different lift pass then Akakura Onsen but signs will warn you before you enter the wrong area or you can buy a combined ticket which gives you access to both resorts. Also you can buy the single or multi-day 4 mountain pass.
The beginner/intermediate/family resort. Pretty flat but with very nice long groomers in-between the trees so even on a snow or fogy day you will easily find you way back to the next chair.
Akakuara Onsen is on a different lift pass than Akakura Kanko but signs will warn you before you enter the wrong area. It is possible to buy a combined ticket which gives you access to both resorts or even buy the single or multi-day 4 mountain pass.
Day 22 Powderday at Charmant
On the way back from Myoko to Hakuba we stopped for a few hours at this rather small resort. One high speed quad will bring you from the base to the top and that will be the only chair you need. Pretty much all of the resort is open for off piste skiing with the exception of the lift lines. Ropes and signs will make this pretty clear and the locals seem to follow the rules pretty well. It was a Saturday, the parking lot was only half full and overall the resort pretty quiet. I’m guessing a weekday with fresh snow could probably be kind of like your own private powder resort.
When we arrived at the resort we got to see the mountain for a few minutes before heavy snow, fog and wind set in. We had to be careful finding our way around and did pretty well by skiing mostly untracked powder all day. Based on some pictures we could see at the day lodge there seems to be some good BC.
Foreigners: we didn’t see any all day besides us. It would probably not be easy to get to without your own car.
Overall: Definitely want to come back for a midweek pow pow day but without fresh snow or with warm temperatures, you will be bored after the first hour.
Ticket options: Morning, Afternoon, 10:00-15:00 and more. Great selection!
Groupie Report: Speaking of high speed – this one should be a high speed chair but it was run all day at 2m per second which is in fact as slow as a fast non-detachable chair. With the bubbles it was not too bad, but still a bit slow.
Day 23 Day off
2nd wrong decision this season. We should have…… but decided to take a day off. It was awesome based on numerous reports. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr
Hotel for the week - Alp Hotel Myoko
Just a little bit of snow....
Ramen dinner - yummy
Mark your turns are getting better and better :-)
Damon why do you always try to hide? The camera does not bit..
Really cool Mark
Lachlan in the white room
Mark there is a copyright on these turns.... I'll send you the bill
I can do that too
First digging out the single chair
Single Chair at Seki Onsen - cool!
Did feel awsome
Lachlan and the base of Seki Onsen
And Mark too
Style..... hmmmmm not yet a pro but working on it :-)