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Tenjindaira Backcountry Tours

Oze Iwakura
Oze Iwakura
White World Oze Iwakura
White World Oze Iwakura
Oze Iwakura Ski Resort
Oze Iwakura Ski Resort

Oze Iwakura

White World Oze Iwakura

The White World Oze Iwakura Ski Resort near Katashina in Gunma Prefecture is a little gem for powder hounds, with fun off-piste and easily accessed sidecountry that isn’t shy when it comes to pitch. Oze Iwakura hasn’t been discovered by the overseas masses yet, so there’s little competition for the powder that’s often sublimely dry.

Oze Iwakura Ski and Snowboard Terrain

White World Oze Iwakura is the biggest Katashina ski resort, but don’t have expectations of something similar sized to Shiga Kogen because it isn’t really that large. Oze Iwakura Ski Resort has 16 courses, 10 lifts (including a gondola), and 697 metres of vertical (1,006-1,703m).

The ski resort has two main areas. The front side is a big bowl with some long and pitchy runs at the top, and all lines feed back down into the base area where it mellows out. The side face isn’t as big, but the snow’s nicer and it’s quieter.

Beginners only have a couple of runs near the base, whilst intermediates have several piste to choose from, with the best being a long top to bottom red run that’s accessed via the gondola. And to add to the fun of the groomers, the resort closes some of the runs in the middle of the day so they can groom them again. For advanced riders, there are a couple of ungroomed runs that are typically covered in moguls, including one that hits a pitch of 40 degrees.

The real attraction for advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders is the off-piste and sidecountry skiing in amongst the pine and white birch trees. Some of it is steep and other tasty bits have some challenging rock features. As to be expected, there are creek beds in many of the gullies, but otherwise the egress is super easy due to the bowl layout of the ski area. There is also some nice backcountry if you hike up the ridge. Ski patrol generally doesn’t get too antsy, but of course it depends on who you see (or who sees you!) on the day.

Oze Iwakura Snow

Often blanketed in fresh snow, Oze Iwakura is renowned for having rather nice snow quality on a powder day. Gunma is somewhat inland so the snow loses some of its moisture before it falls, and the high elevation (1,703m at the top) also aids the snow quality. However the Oze snow might not stay in great shape for long because the front face has mostly southeast oriented slopes, whilst the side bowl is more north to northeast facing.

Where is White World Oze Iwakura?

The Oze Iwakura Ski Resort is situated between Mt Hotaka and the Oze National Park, in the north east corner of Gunma Prefecture. White World Oze Iwakura is 7km north of Katashina and 41km northeast of Minakami. There are various other ski resorts in the Katashina area, including Katashina Kogen next door (but they’re not interconnected).

It’s easiest to get to the ski resort via car, and it’s about one hour drive from the nearest highway interchange. Otherwise you can catch a train to Jomo Kogen station (75 mins from Tokyo) and then a 90 minute bus to the ski resort. Or another option is to get a train to Numata Station and then the Oze Kikou bus takes 60 minutes.

Accommodation

The Izakura Resort Hotel is the main accommodation at White World Oze Izakura, located right at the base of the ski area. The hotel has western rooms, Japanese style rooms, or combo rooms, as well as a café lounge, restaurant and onsen.

There are also some pensions at the base providing very simple lodging, or there are other accommodation options just down the road. Mizubasho no Yado Higashi is a cute little ryokan located about 7 minutes drive from the ski resort. The ryokan has traditional Japanese style rooms with futons on tatami flooring, and onsen baths including a rotenburo.

Katashina Hotel Listings 

Ski Resort Facilities

The ski resort has reasonably simple facilities and services. There are a few options for dining, a rental shop with equipment and clothing, a basic retail shop, and an onsen in the hotel which is open to non-guests (you can purchase a lift and onsen combo pass). There are no ski school or snowboard lessons in English.

Summary of Pros and Cons of White World Oze Iwakura

Pros

  • Midweek crowds are non-existent and there are generally plenty of freshies on offer.
  • The terrain lay-out is ideal to allow an abundance of powder lines with easy exits back to the lifts.
  • Whilst not super steep, Oze is certainly not a flat hill so there are adequate challenges for advanced and expert riders.
  • Oze Iwakura is also very well geared to intermediate skiers and snowboarders who like to carve plenty of turns in a row.

Cons

  • This is not the best spot for park riders.
  • There are much better places to head if you’re on a family ski holiday.
  • There’s little to do besides chasing powder.

Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective

  • Oze Iwakura is a delightful spot to get away from the Nagano gaijin hordes, but don’t expect too many staff to speak English.
  • It’s somewhat difficult to get there compared to many other Honshu ski resorts, but that equates to more freshies for you and I!