Tohoku Skiing and Snowboarding
If you’re a powder hound who wants to get off the beaten track of international skiers and snowboarders, where there is very little English spoken and cultural immersion (and onsen immersion) is at an all time high, and there are abundant freshies that are easily accessible, Tohoku skiing or snowboarding is for you!
By skiing in Tohoku, you can experience the real Japan and satisfy your appetite for riding fresh powder.
The best way to get the most out of Tohoku is to go on a multi-resort tour and sample lots of the Tohoku ski resorts and chase the conditions. Contact us
if you would like some advice on tours around Tohoku.
Tohoku Ski Resorts
Tohoku is the region in northern (northeast) Honshu, the main island of Japan. Tohoku consists of 6 prefectures: Aomori, Iwate, Akita, Miyagi, Yamagata and Fukushima which is east of Niigata Prefecture and northeast of Gunma.
What is common to many of the Tohoku ski resorts is that there are very few westerners (if any at all) and no-one riding off-piste, so there are fresh powder lines galore. And some of the Tohoku ski areas are so deserted mid-week that it almost feels like your own private ski resort! Much of the Tohoku skiing and snowboarding is at resorts that are small, have minimal advanced piste terrain, and only have enough off-piste terrain variety for one day of riding, but when you have a van, a guide and a driver, you can sample lots of different resorts.
Off-piste riding may be considered taboo at some of the resorts, but with care and discretion you’ll be rewarded with abundant freshies in the trees.
Ski Areas Near Morioka and Mt Iwate
There is a collection of ski resorts in northern Tohoku in the Iwate Prefecture including Shizukuishi, Hachimantai, Appi Kogen, and Geto Kogen.
receives ridiculous amounts of snow – it’s a powder magnet. It has great well spaced tree skiing off a series of ridges. This is one of our favourite powder skiing destinations in Japan.
has a Prince Hotel at its base and is very typical of a Tohoku ski resort: small, nice tree skiing, and a nice onsen.
is small and has great side-country if you can appear invisible.
is an upscale resort (with some westerners) with amazing groomed runs, but barely anyone rides off-piste (because it’s not allowed) so it’s worthy of a visit for at least a day.
(in the Akita Prefecture) is another of our favourite Japanese powder skiing spots. 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!
Further south in the Yamagata Prefecture is Zao Onsen
. Zao Onsen is a reasonably mainstream ski resort that attracts some gaijin but they don’t tend to ride off-piste, and other pluses include that it’s an onsen town and there are spectacular snow monsters (when there is visibility).
Mt Bandai Ski Resorts
Further south, the imposing Mt Bandai in the Fukushima Prefecture is surrounded by a variety of ski resorts. These ski resorts can be a little busy on the weekends with locals, although the Japanese generally won’t be any competition for the freshes in the off-piste areas. The Bandai ski resorts are mostly rather small and have some nice tree skiing.
is our favourite powder skiing resort in this area.
is a well known ski resort (by the Japanese, not by international skiers generally) with well developed facilities. The terrain is pretty typical of a Tohoku ski resort.
is mellow in many places and with a little exploring there are some steeper lines.
has amazing tree skiing but only when the powder is fresh because it’s mostly south facing. The town of Inawashiro can be a good spot to use as a base to explore the Bandai ski resorts.
has a good range of off-piste and sidecountry terrain.
The most northern prefecture, Aomori, has various ski areas, with the most famous being Hakkoda
, which is an amazing backcountry-type ski area that is serviced by a ropeway. Hakkoda absolutely gets dumped on with snow which is a major pro, but the associated con is that the weather can be brutal and the ropeway closed when the big blizzards come in. To get the most out of the backcountry of Hakkoda, you may wish to visit in late February or March. Hakkoda is 135km north of Appi Kogen, so it’s a decent drive.
is a nice resort for tree skiing and to get away from the hordes that populate the high profile Japanese ski resorts.