Minowa Ski Resort
On the face of it, the Minowa Ski Resort looks like just another mediocre Japanese ski resort that was built in the bubble era of excess, that’s really only ideal for the local families. Minowa Japan is too small and has inadequate facilities to attract English speaking families, but for powder hounds it is an absolute winner and definitely worthy of at least a day or two of powder snorting.
The Minowa ski area may be petite, but it has so many things going for it as a powder hound destination: amazing tree skiing both in-bounds and in the sidecountry; barely any competition for the fresh powder; and ski patrollers that just nod and grin at you as you wander off to the sidecountry.
Minowa Ski and Snowboard Terrain
Statistically, Minowa ski resort is tiny with only 3 lifts, 11 courses, 26 hectares of piste, and 450 metres of vertical (1,050 – 1,500 m).
Beginners have 6 runs to choose from and can explore most of the ski area. Despite the trail stats of 50% of the terrain being for intermediates, in reality there are only 3 runs for intermediates. And there are only 2 black runs, with the Sundance trail reaching a maximum gradient of 34 degrees – whoop-dee-doo!!
The real fun for advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders is in the trees, and by golly there are lots of spots to choose from, and the spacing of the trees and the pitch is delightfully varied. The tree skiing can be found in both the off-piste areas (inside the resort boundaries) and the sidecountry which can be accessed with just the tiniest bit of hiking, whilst ingress is super easy. There might be a few locals hitting the off-piste areas, but otherwise there are plentiful fresh powder lines on offer.
Like most Honshu ski resorts, off-piste skiing probably isn’t allowed officially, but when we visited the patrollers didn’t seem to mind. As always, use discretion as required and be respectful.
Where is Minowa Japan?
Minowa is located in the Mt Bandai area of the Fukushima Prefecture in the Tohoku region (ie the north east of Honshu), 284km north of Tokyo
. There are various other ski resorts in the Mt Bandai area including Alts Bandai
, and Urabandai Nekoma
Minowa Hotel and Accommodation
The Minowa ski resort features a ski-in ski-out hotel, the Hotel de Premiere Minowa
. This deluxe hotel has western style rooms ranging from twin rooms up to suites for 6 guests, and all rooms have an ensuite bathroom. In addition to other amenities, the Minowa hotel has indoor and outdoor onsen baths. There is no village at Minowa so you might want to get a package with half-board.
Minowa Accommodation Listings
There are a couple of pensions near Minowa, or if you’re visiting multiple ski resorts in the region, you could stay in one of the Inawashiro hotels
or the Urabandai hotels
The Minowa Ski Resort has pretty decent facilities and services for a small ski area and these are spread across two base areas: the Hotel de Premiere Minowa; and the Rest House (the lower base area). The latter has a nice cafeteria, a snack outlet and an all-important creperie. Other amenities include a retail shop with souvenirs and basic ski and snowboard accessories, ski school (if you speak Japanese), ski and snowboard rentals at both base areas, and an indoor kids play room at the hotel base. Kids will also love the sledding slopes just above both base areas.
After you’ve ruined your body on the slopes, you might want to have a soak in the onsen at the hotel, which non-guests can use for a small fee. Alternatively there are various other establishments in the area with an onsen.
Summary of Pros and Cons of Minowa
- The tree skiing at Minowa is superb and the ski patrollers don’t seem to mind you heading off-piste.
- Minowa has some steep sub-alpine terrain in the sidecountry.
- There is very little off-piste competition and soooo many fresh powder lines that you’re likely to get white line fever.
- The resort is at a reasonably high elevation for the area, so the snow quality is usually very good.
- When it’s not snowing and blowing, the scenery can be pretty impressive and the top of the mountain features snow monsters (although these aren’t as grand as the snow ghosts at Zao Onsen).
- Minowa has a nice ski-in ski-out hotel.
- There are lots of ski resorts in the area so if you have your own wheels (or are on a multi-resort tour) you can explore lots of slopes.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
- Piste skiers and snowboarders may get bored rather quickly at Minowa because it’s a small ski resort.
- Minowa is a little hard to get to via public transport, but this is what helps keep it off the beaten path.
- This is not one of those high profile westernised Japanese ski resorts with apartments, where all the staff speak English, and your kids can get group ski lessons in English.