Japan Cat Skiing
Snowcat skiing is one of the finest adventures for avid powder hounds. Cat skiing
provides fresh powder galore, there’s no competition to get to the untracked snow, and you don’t have to hike to get to the goods. Cat skiing in Japan offers the ultimate scenario due to the superb quality and quantity of the powder, especially in Hokkaido where the powder is delicious!
Style of Japanese Cat Skiing
Most Japan cat skiing differs significantly to that in British Columbia Canada, the home of snowcat skiing. Firstly many of the Japanese cat ski operations are situated at old ski resorts that were built during the lavish bubble era when money grew on trees. Now with the economic downturn, enterprising snowcat operators utilize some of the abandoned ski resorts (e.g. Chisenupuri Cat Skiing
), so some of the runs are on the ungroomed “piste” and there’s also plenty of tree skiing.
And synonymous with many of the Japan ski resorts, the cat skiing terrain isn’t particularly steep, especially relative to many Canada cat skiing
outfits. Much of the Japanese cat skiing is ideal for strong intermediate to advanced riders and those relatively new to powder skiing (e.g. Chisenupuri Cat Skiing
, Niseko Weiss Powder Cats
Other common characteristics of Japanese snowcat skiing relative to BC cat skiing
is that there are no multi-day trips staying in backcountry lodges, the vertical drop per run and the vertical covered each day is not substantial, and the terrain size is generally rather small. However powder resets are very common so fresh tracks are generally not a problem, and Japan is ichiban for the quality, quantity and consistency of the snow.
One operation that breaks the Japanese cat skiing mould is Shimamaki Snowcat Adventures
Niseko Cat Skiing
is the most popular Japanese ski resort for international travellers hunting for powder, so it’s no surprise that the greatest concentration of snowcat operations is found around Niseko.
At the former ski resort of Weisshorn next to Hanazono, is the Niseko cat skiing operation of Niseko Weiss Powder Cats
. The Weiss Cat Skiing terrain has some nicely spaced trees and old “piste” runs that are the equivalent of easy blue runs where there’s plenty of room to manoeuvre, so it’s particularly well suited to up and coming powder hounds (strong intermediates), or those looking for a relaxed day of powder skiing.
Rising Sun Niseko Cat Skiing
(on the previous Niseko Snowcat Adventures terrain) is about 30 minutes from Niseko (transport provided). Instead of being at an old ski resort, the terrain is located in the true backcountry and it has some steeper terrain, a range of tree spacings, and mushrooms and pillows for advanced riders.
Hokkaido Backcountry Club will run a snowcat operation for the 2016-17 season at the former ski resort of Chisenupuri
, which is the next ski area over from Moiwa (adjacent to Niseko). It’s about a 30 minute drive from Niseko Hirafu to Chisenupuri. The Chisenupuri cat skiing
is well suited to first time cat skiers and those learning to ride powder.
Northwest of Niseko near the coast is the NOASC outfit that operates from the former Iwanai ski resort (pronounced “you-an-eye”), offering unique views across the Sea of Japan on those rare clear days.
Shimamaki Snowcat Adventures
(see below) operates about 2 hours southwest of Niseko, but they provide transfers to and from your Niseko accommodation.
NAC Cat Skiing
operate near Kamui Links and offer transfers from Niseko once a week.
Other Hokkaido Cat Skiing
Hokkaido Backcountry Club
offers "real" cat skiing with Shimamaki Snowcat Adventures
. Unlike most cat skiing in Japan that operates out of abandoned ski resorts on small and mellow terrain, Shimamaki is more akin to a Canadian cat skiing experience whereby the trips are multi-day and include accommodation, the terrain is large and has some steeps (trees and above the tree-line), and there are qualified backcountry guides. The main difference compared to Canada cat skiing is that you score the powder that Hokkaido is famous for as well as a traditional Japanese experience. You can feast on powder up to your eye balls, feast on Japanese food, and stay in a traditional Japanese pension and soak in the onsen.
NAC Cat Skiing
|Multi-Day Packages - 2 days From JPY 135,000 p.p.
|This HBC cat skiing package offers incredible powder skiing & boarding. Stay in a traditional coastal Japanese inn. Ride deep untracked powder, feast on Japanese cuisine and soak in the hotel's onsen in the evenings. Trips depart from Niseko ......click for more info
has moved from the former ski resort of Weisshorn near Niseko to Mt Otoe near Kamui Links Ski Resort
(near Asahikawa). The cat skiing is ideal for those new to snowcat skiing or those that want more powder riding experience in an unrushed environment. Advanced riders will also adore the NAC cat skiing for the phenomenal powder that central Hokkaido is renowned for.
Tomamu Cat Skiing is a relatively long standing outfit in the Japan cat skiing market. Run by the Tomamu
Resort in a backcountry area nearby, a tour comprises about 5 runs a day (only about 2,000 metres of vertical in total). The snowcat tours are only offered on weekends and book up quickly, and they also tend to primarily cater to Japanese speaking guests.
Further north in the Daisetsuzan National Park at the former Kitataisetsu Ski Resort is Tengu Snowcats. Like other Japanese cat skiing, the tenure is rather small and the vertical per run is about 500 metres. A major plus is the quality of the snow with super cold temperatures and north facing slopes. Delectable powder!
Honshu SnowCat Skiing
A snowcat skiing company on the main island is Myoko Snowcat Tours
in the Niigata Prefecture near Jōetsu and Myoko Kogen
, which offers 5-6 runs per day.
And a new cat ski outfit has popped up at Alts on the recently closed west portion of the mountain.
Cat skiing is becoming popular up in northern Tohoku, even though it’s really easy to find fresh powder by just skiing at the ski resorts. Single run cat skiing operates on some days on Mt Ko-Takakura at Shizukuishi Ski Resort
. Tazawako Ski Resort
offers snowcat rides for backcountry skiing but there’s no guarantee your guide will speak English. Appi Kogen Ski Resort
has started running cat skiing adjacent to the Hachimantai Shimokura Ski Resort
. And Geto Kogen
, a powder magnet, sometimes offers snowcat rides up into the backcountry.