Tazawako Ski Resort
The Tazawako Ski Resort in the Akita Prefecture is mostly a locals’ ski area that barely registers on the Japan ski tourism radar. And considering Tazawako Japan is definitely off the beaten track, you won’t have to beat off other feisty powder hounds to get to the freshies. Tazawako is a spot where you can get cultural immersion as well as powder submersion!
Tazawa-ko (Lake Tazawa) Ski Resort overlooks the beautiful blue Lake Tazawa, which is the deepest lake in Japan so it doesn’t freeze during winter. You can either enjoy the scenery and look at the mirror lake or just focus on being in the powder room of Tazawako sans a mirror!
Even though the Tazawako ski area is the largest in Akita, it’s a reasonably small resort, so it’s best visited for just a day or two as part of a sojourn of the Tohoku area.
Tazawako Ski and Snowboard Terrain
Tazawako has 100 hectares of piste terrain with 13 courses and 608 metres of vertical (578-1,186m). The 6 lifts are mostly slow, and in addition to 4 pair chair lifts, there are 2 covered quad chairs that are a saviour on foul weather days.
The piste terrain has an even split for ability levels, although some of the black runs are groomed and not that steep so they’re ideal for strong intermediate riders. Quite unusually for a Japanese ski area, the resort also leaves lots of areas ungroomed, so on a powder day you don’t have to necessarily head off-piste. There are some steep-ish runs, but this is Japan after all so don’t get too excited about finding Jackson-Hole-esque steeps. The Mizusawa Champion Course is the steepest of the runs and hits 38 degrees at one point.
Tazawako has some great off-piste terrain and the fun police (ski patrol) often turn a blind eye to off-piste skiing. There are open tree areas as well as some rather tight tree areas that will test your manoeuvrability skills. Above the ski resort from the top of Mt Komagatake is some nice backcountry for those wanting to skin or snowhoe up on fine days.
Tazawako Snow & Weather
It’s snows a mighty lot at Tazawako, although not even Ullr the snow god or Chione the snow goddess knows how much falls. Like some other ski areas in the region, there can be big winds and the weather can get rather disgusting. You might need to keep your itinerary a little flexible.
Where is Tazawa-ko?
The Lake Tazawa Ski Resort is at Mizusawa Onsen, 11km northeast of Semboku (sometimes spelled Senboku), and 44km west of Morioka. Tazawako is in the far eastern part of the Akita Prefecture, not far from the Iwate Prefecture.
Access to Tazawako is easiest if you have a car or are on a multi-resort tour (see below).
There is no village at the base of the ski area, although there are a few accommodation options just down the road. There are also hotels near Lake Tazawa and ryokans at a couple of onsen villages in the nearby hills. See the Tazawako hotel
page for more information.
Ski Resort Facilities
Tazawako has pretty good amenities for a small ski resort, and a reasonably modern base building. There is a big cafeteria that serves up an amazing variety of food that’s pretty special and good value for money. It’s definitely not just your average Japanese ski resort cafeteria fare. There is also a mid-mountain eatery for light meals and great lake views (weekends only).
Other facilities and services include ski school (Japanese only) and equipment rentals. There is also a children’s play area and child care for ages 2-6, although for some reason it’s only open in the afternoons.
The pro shop on the cafeteria floor sells a mish mash of backcountry gear and outerwear, and rents out avalanche safety equipment.
The pro shop also runs a backcountry guiding services, where you can either get up the hill under your own steam or go snowcat skiing.
The area is renowned for its onsens and many of the hotels and ryokans in the area have their own hot spring baths. Nyuto Onsen is probably the most famous, which is about 7km away from the ski area. “Nyuto” literally means “nipple” and it’s not because many of the onsens in the area have mixed bathing! It’s named Nyuto due to the shape of a nearby mountain, and don’t fear about the mixed bathing because the Nyuto Onsen water is renowned for a milky white appearance that’s not transparent!
Summary of Pros and Cons of Tazawako Japan
- There are very few foreigners that go to Tazawako (except for a few Koreans looking at where the Iris drama show was filmed!), so particularly on weekdays, the fresh powder lines will be all yours for the snorting.
- The tree skiing is pretty good!
- The views across Lake Tazawa are pretty special; that’s of course if the weather is fine.
- Everything is rather inexpensive.
- There are some great onsens nearby.
- Some of the lifts operate in slow motion.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
- “Inclement” would be an understatement to describe the frequent weather during winter, but you don’t get big dumps of snow from fine weather!
- It’s a bit difficult to get there via public transport, but this helps keep the crowds away.
- This place provides an unadulterated Japan ski or snowboard experience. Don’t expect westernised concepts such as après ski or glitzy apartments (with Australian power points like they have in Niseko!) or much spoken English.