The Minakami Houdaigi Ski Resort feels like a locals’ mountain even though it is visited by lots of Tokyo-ites, and whilst Houdaigi (also spelled Hodaigi) is definitely not undiscovered by the Japanese, this Minakami ski resort is rather off the beaten track for westerners.
Mount Hotaka (Hotakasan) in Gunma has various ski resorts sitting on its flanks, yet the Hodaigi Ski Resort is located on the northwestern slope and many of the runs face due north, so the snow quality is particularly nice.
Hodaigi Ski and Snowboard Terrain
The Hodaigi Ski Resort might be the largest Minakami ski resort, but don’t get too excited because it’s small without being tiny. The ski area lay-out is compact and user friendly with 7 lifts, 16 courses, and 570 metres of vertical (830-1,400 metres).
Minakami Houdaigi has a spread of piste terrain that’s rated for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders. However as is commonly the case in Japan, some of the black runs could easily be tackled by strong intermediates so the mountain overall has a bias towards beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. Up the top are a few steep runs (one hits a maximum angle of 40 degrees) that tend to mogul up pretty quickly.
Adjacent to these black runs are some fun tree lines; well fun if you love tight technical trees! As is often the case with Honshu ski resorts, you’ll need to be discrete because whilst the ski patrollers might turn a blind eye to off-piste skiing, the lifties generally won’t.
Minakami Houdaigi Snow
Gunma snow can often be a bit drier than in Niigata and Nagano because it is located further inland, and the Hodaigi snow is no different. And this Minakami ski resort has decent elevation and good slope orientation, which generally keeps the snow in shipshape condition.
Minakami Hodaigi is relatively sheltered from the wind and inclement weather so it doesn’t generally suffer from lift closures, and the hooded lifts are a welcome respite when it is a little windy and frigid.
Where is Minakami Houdaigi Ski Resort?
Minakami Hodaigi is situated 28km northeast of Minakami in the Gunma Prefecture, 190km northwest of Tokyo, on the flanks of Mt Hotaka. The Tenjindaira ski
area is 20km (about a 20-25 minute drive) to the west.
The Minakami train station is about 15km away and it’s possible to get a bus to Houdaigi from the station (although it’s a bit messy) or some local lodgings provide transport. If you’ve got your own wheels, it’s easiest just to drive there.
There are a few Houdaigi lodgings at the base of the ski area. Chalet La Neige
is conveniently ski-in ski-out and offers western and Japanese rooms with shared bathrooms.
Or you could stay at the Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku
, which is 5km away from the ski field. This old ryokan sits on the very famous Takaragawa Onsen (one of the largest outdoor hot springs in Japan) and offers very traditional Japanese style tatami rooms.
Or you could stay at Tenjin Lodge
at the base of the Tanigawadake Tenjindaira Ski Resort
, where a free daily shuttle to and from the Houdaigi Ski Resort is provided.
Minakami Hotel Listings
Ski Resort Facilities
The ski resort amenities and services are middle of the road for a Japanese ski resort. There is an equipment rental shop, a small retail shop, and a few choices for dining. You might want to order the Dam Curry (in honour of the nearby dam) where they make a rice wall to hold back the flow of the curry!).
There are a few amenities for kids including child care, a kids snow play and sledding area, and ski school with English speaking instructors (private lessons only).
Summary of Pros and Cons of Minakami Houdaigi
- Minakami Hodaigi and the surrounding areas provide a traditional Japanese experience.
- The ski resort is family friendly (although English ski and snowboard lessons are held in a private format so they’re more expensive than group lessons if there is only one or two pupils).
- If you have a car, it’s reasonably quick to get there from Tokyo (if the traffic is OK!).
- The terrain is very well suited to beginners and intermediates.
- The snow quality is generally very good to excellent.
- There is no après ski in the Minakami area, although this is common to a lot of Japanese ski resorts that haven’t been westernised.
- Weekends can get congested but the crowds are bearable.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
- Houdaigi has some lovely tight tree runs. The pros of tight trees are that the snow rarely sees the sun and many people don’t have the skills to ride them, so they don’t tend to track out too quickly.