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Iwate Prefecture

The Iwate Prefecture in Tohoku provides a fabulous opportunity for powder hounds to get away from those crazy busy high profile Japanese ski resorts, and easily score fresh tracks. There are various Iwate ski resorts, and they are generally only large enough to warrant a day or two of skiing or snowboarding at each. Head there on a guided tour (see below) or rent a car and do your own road trip.

Ski Iwate: Summary of Pros and Cons

The pros and cons apply to most Iwate ski resorts (with the exception of Appi Kogen which is an international, full service resort).

Pros

  • The Iwate ski resorts can feel deserted at times, and pretty much no one rides in the trees so fresh tracks are so easy to score.
  • Accommodation, food and beverages are much cheaper than at the mainstream ski resorts in Japan.
  • The region has lots of great onsens.
  • An Iwate ski trip can provide an unadulterated Japanese experience.
  • There are several ski areas within easy driving distance for day trips.
Cons
  • Iwate takes a little more time to get to compared with the mainstream Japanese ski regions further south.
  • The ski areas are not ideal for English speaking families that require childcare or lessons (except Appi Kogen).
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
  • Iwate ski resorts tend to receive drier snow compared to Nagano and Niigata, but not quite to the same magnitude.
  • Many of the ski resorts are small to medium sized and don’t provide adequate variety for a multi-day visit.
  • Tree skiing is generally not allowed officially, but it is definitely possible with discretion and self-responsibility.
  • Don’t expect much English to be spoken. At times, thank goodness for google translate!
  • The bus system between the Iwate ski resorts is not well developed, necessitating a guide to drive you around or a rental car (GPS are in English and very easy to use).

Iwate Ski Resort Regions

Depending on the length of your Iwate ski trip, you may choose to base yourself in one or two sub-regions of Iwate.

Hachimantai

Appi Kogen is the most well known of the Iwate ski resorts, with incredibly well developed facilities. It is family friendly and has English group snowsports lessons. Appi Kogen accommodation includes a fancy hotel and economical pensions about a kilometre from the ski area. The ski area is reasonably sized by Japanese standards. For powder hounds, there is a little bit of tree skiing in-bounds and some lovely sidecountry. Appi is 14km from the town of Hachimantai.

Hachimantai Resort (the Shimokura side) is a small ski resort that has a little bit of pitch and some easy to find trees. Hachimantai Resort is 14km from town and 20km from Appi.

Shizukuishi
Another place to base yourself is in or near the town of Shizukuishi, which is south of Hachimantai.

The Shizukuishi Ski Resort is the largest in the area and offers some good piste riding, nice tree skiing in-bounds (for those who can be discrete), and absolutely fabulous northeast facing sidecountry trees. The Shizukuishi ski area is 12km northwest of the town of Shizukuishi.

Amihari Onsen Ski Resort is a reasonably small ski resort, but it’s a great for easy to find tree skiing. Adjacent to Amihari is a massive backcountry bowl (and Mt Iwate further afield) which has some gnarly lines for those with well honed backcountry skills. Amihari Onsen is 15km north of Shizukuishi ski resort and 21km north of town.

Next door (3km by road) is the small Iwate Kogen Ski Resort, which has some easily sourced mellow trees as well as steep trees that require some clever route finding to stay out of the deep gullies. Iwate Kogen has a very sunny aspect, so it’s ideal for storm riding or powder days when the temperatures are cold.

Tazawako is located in the Akita Prefecture but can be accessed from Shizukuishi (about 45 min drive from town). Tazawako can receive massive weather which can be a huge plus or a bit of a curse.

Geto Kogen
Geto Kogen is a little further south than the main Iwate ski resorts (84km south of Shizukuishi town), so it requires more commitment to get there. This is a favourite ski area of the Powderhounds as Geto is renowned for big dumps of snow and excellent tree skiing.

Morioka
The city of Morioka is another option to utilise as a base. The daily commute to the ski areas can be a little further, but it provides the advantage of being a vibrant city with easy access to lots of restaurants.

Approximate road distances from Morioka:
Safari (Road Trip) Tours
Powder Odyssey DETAILS
GUIDED SAFARI - TOHOKU
7 Nights | 6 Days Guided Skiing
From price based on twin/double-share option.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 1,864
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
If you are looking to go off-the-beaten track in Tohoku (northeastern Honshu) where there are abundant lines of fresh powder and no foreigners, this tour is perfect! Visit Tohoku ski areas you've probably never heard of before and immerse yourself in the Japanese culture.
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See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit Iwate Prefecture here