Overall Rating

Iwanai Cat Skiing Day Package

Iwanai Cat Skiing Day Package4.5/512
Iwanai Cat Skiing Day Package4.5 out of 5 based on 12 reviews
  • Recommend
    83%
  • Would Revisit
    83%
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Iwanai Cat Skiing Day Package - Reviews

Iwanai Cat Skiing Day Package - Reviews

Siberian Storms

Simon Berry28/02/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    New Zealand
  • Month:
    February

Siberian Storms

Simon Berry28/02/2019
Iwanai delivered one of the great powder days for our group of 5 riders.

Situated on a the north west coast of Hokkaido it is prime position to strike regular snow dumps off the Japanese sea, weather systems coming freshly chilled off Siberia and filled across the sea deliver regular powder to this hill.

Iwanai Cat Ski operates on a ski resort that has unemployed lifts, you explore a deserted mountain with professional guides leading into untracked paradise runs. Riding through open tree glade runs, well spaced trees and a superb powder bowl. Length and pitch of runs is fantastic with 700m plus vert, dependent on the cat drop off points.

Terrain is well varied with plenty of trees to provide vis in storms, dress warm though as the storms rolling through pack a punch with wind chill on the ridges plummeting to -30 conditions. Powder poles for boarders also recommended as some of the best powder bowl lines require a decent traverse.

Sizes of groups can vary, however the guides soon align riders ability and if necessary can split groups so everyone rides at the most suitable pace and ability.

Base facilities are excellent, plenty of space to move about and a hassle free ski and board waxing service is on hand. The hosts are the owner/operators who provide Japanese home cooked style lunches and a full bar for well deserved apre ski drinks. Pick up and drop off shuttle services provided to Niseko and other lodgings nearby.

If you want a great day out skiing fresh Hokkaido powder this is a must, book well in advance to ensure you don't miss out, they have a very functional online service available for this. You may pay a little extra than others around, however the terrain and experience is well worth every bit.

Epic day

Toby Buxton11/02/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    New Zealand
  • Month:
    February

Epic day

Toby Buxton11/02/2019
Had a pretty full day of 8 runs. Terrain and snow were high quality. Iwanai offers a good steep pitch for Japanese mountains. Our guide Kate was the best guide I've had and knew exactly where to take a group of our ability to get the goods. Lunch wasn't bad either 😉. All in all an epic day of waist to chest deep pow pow!

Such a Shame

Robert09/02/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    51-70
  • Home Country
    USA
  • Month:
    January

Such a Shame

Robert09/02/2019
- no one checked to make sure beacons were transmitting.
- lead guide would simply say "follow me" and proceed to take take off at full speed into white out conditions.
- the first 3 runs were down 3 exposed courses (trails) with horrible windslab and 3 foot high wind drifts... in next to zero visibility!
- meanwhile to the right and left of us are protected glades.
- on the 3rd run me and another bloke stayed in the trees while the others cut through them to another wind stabbed run. It was an amazing glade that we rode past the mid station cat pick up all the way to the bottom then hiked 5 minutes to the chair and rode it to the mid station.... once at the cat there was a mutiny in the works... us two had just enjoyed the best run on the mountain... and now they were leaving the zone!!
- during our lunch break at the lodge beer and alcohol was being served... umm... never seen that during cat or helicopter tours in the past.
- the afternoon was brilliant riding and amazing bowl with powder for all.
- the staff are all extremely friendly but lacking anyone with actual guide certification and why in hell would they subject paying guests to 3 runs of horrendous wind slab when the best territory in the resort lies just in between them in mellow glades offering a top to bottom perfection!

Iwanai Cat skiing - what an awesome day

Merrilee06/02/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    Australia
  • Month:
    January

Iwanai Cat skiing - what an awesome day

Merrilee06/02/2019
I arranged for my husband, his brother and friend to go for a day Cat skiing in Iwanai for his 50th birthday. The company made things very easy to arrange, picked them up, gave them an amazing day skiing fresh challenging tracks all day, then some drinks in the evening to re-live the whole day.

I couldn't have asked for a better day for the guys. They had a ball and kept re-living the day for the rest of the holiday! Wish we (the wives) had gone too!

I'd highly recommend this experience.

Iwanei - Jan 26th

Casey03/02/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    N/A
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    Australia
  • Month:
    January

Iwanei - Jan 26th

Casey03/02/2019
Lodge bar
Had a great day w John and crew Jan 26th 2019. Picked up and dropped off by John which was a highlight just listening to his stories. We missed a reset by 1 day so first runs were semi tracked but once we got up top it opened up and we got “those” runs.

Setup at lodge and cat are great so lunch, doughnuts etc all good. Hung around for drinks after and had a good sesh w another rider and the bartender who unfortunately I can’t recall his name. He’s in the back of the picture.

Snow was good, runs good and long particularly when you get up top. So we were very happy with the day. Last runs were the best actually. Going skiers right from top into trees all the way down. Awesome. The bowl at top skiers left also good but found the traverse out longer than turns in bowl so asked to try the other side and was very pleased w that outcome. Bowl has a traverse to get in which on a board saw us eat up time and leave us lower to drop in. Skiers got up much higher on ridge and thus got more out of it than I did. But maybe that’s just me.

I’ve made some suggestions to John from our experience and suspect some if not all will be considered and perhaps incorporated as they grow.

Was great to get out of the crowds at niseko for sure and with more time we’d get down into Iwanei itself. Next season.

We will return.

Very good experience !!

Anjarivo01/02/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    France
  • Month:
    January

Very good experience !!

Anjarivo01/02/2019
Iwanai, allows you to ski either on none groomed sloapes and in genuine forest, all in front of the sea !

The Cat Skiing engine is the most luxury/confortable engine among all Cat Skiing companies that I've experimented in Hokkaido . We're in Japan, hence don't expect long and steep courses, but enjoy the best snow in the wordl ! Iwanai provides excelent guides (head / tail) who really garantee your safety. In my case, I didn't turn on the right tree (it was my fault, you know all trees look like each other) and I've landed in a dead zone and completly lost my way ! At the end of the day, the tail guide managed to join me and the rescue shuttle picked us up just right away. What a relief to see this efficient rescue organization !
About food, you get delicious donuts around 10am and Japanaese/international food at noon.
As I stayed 5 days, the booked hotel was a genuine Japaneese one, all in wood. Stunning and very beautiful.
The only issue is that when I came it hasn't snow for the 5 days but just the day I left. I wasn't lucky.

Powder marred by poor coordination

RL30/01/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Intermediate
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    Hong Kong
  • Month:
    January

Powder marred by poor coordination

RL30/01/2019
First, and to be fair, the positives.

The CAT is new, the lodge at the base is comfortable, and the view out to the ocean is unique and stunning when the weather breaks and you can see it. The powder is lovely. The old runs on the resort are pristine and ideal for intermediates (which is what the operation is billed as - 90% intermediates).

However, the negatives mean that we will be unlikely to come again.

The resort is quite far from niseko, which is where we were based. After we booked no one contacted us to inform us when the transfer would come to pick us up, so we had to email and ask before we got a confirmation of pick up and the time.

The day started early, at 7:20. When the transfer arrived we were told to put our ski gear in the open trailer at the back. It was not tied down or secured in any way despite a 1 hour drive to the resort. Our ski gear was not cheap so we like to treat it well and secure it properly when travelling. Leaving it loose in an open trailer is not ideal.

On the way there we were told about how uniquely Japanese the resort was and how iwanai is part of the truly Japanese areas of Hokkaido. Perhaps it is, but the day is spent with the predominantly western staff, and the food served at the lodge is also an international menu, so from that point of view it is not “truly Japanese”. It felt much like a lodge in niseko.

When we got there, the “safety briefing” consisted of little more than handing out beacons and saying “this is how you turn it on”. Then (to quote directly) “if anything happens, we’ll give you more training then”. A bit late if your friend is already trapped under a few metres of snow...

The day works up the difficulty level of runs. So they start off on easy runs and work up to difficult stuff. The guiding was clear when on the old resort runs, but once the group moved off piste it wasn’t entirely clear which was the easier and which would be the harder routes back to the CAT. As a boarder I was at a disadvantage when we hadn’t been warned about a clear gully and there was a long traverse to make it back out. Had we been told ahead of time to stay higher up, that could have been avoided. However the lead guide was a skier, the majority of the group (18 out of 20) were also skiers, and hence didn’t cater for that.

The biggest let down was the transfer back. At the end of a long day, The driver had to drop off three groups all in the Niseko United area. He took the wrong route entirely ending up in the transfer doing a huge loop which added 30-40 minutes to everyone’s journey. He also could have easily dropped off the groups in a different order which would have shortened the drive by at least 20-25 minutes. He ended up passing everyone’s accommodation and stopping at a place where no one even needed to get off. He then had to loop all the way back. It took over 1 hour 30 mins to get back to the hotel after a very long day instead of what should have been 45 minutes.

The whole tour was the most expensive CAT in and around the niseko area. 70,000 yen. For that price we would expect the driver to know where he was going. The group was also quite large, so to that extent the higher price did not pay for more exclusivity.

The powder was decent. But we will be going back to Chisenupuri which is better value.

Iwanai is a must!

Gareth19/04/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    South Africa
  • Month:
    March

Iwanai is a must!

Gareth19/04/2018
It's going to be hard to beat a day like we had at Iwanai. The team behind the operation are awesome and we lucked into the most epic conditions which turned out to be more of a standard than luck. The powder quality is insane and Iwanai itself is something special. If you're in Japan, this is the only cat skiing mission to go on. More vertical, amazing sushi lunch, fresh donuts and an epic cat to boot.

Cat skiing on the ocean

Tim09/04/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    51-70
  • Home Country
    Usa
  • Month:
    January

Cat skiing on the ocean

Tim09/04/2018
While skiing in Niseko we stumbled upon Iwanai Cat skiing and quickly decided to give it a try
Wow we had a great day...it happen to snow heavy the night before and we had a day of deep powder on a private mountain. Great crew from the States who ran the operation and had been there for decades. Great sushi at the end of the day with a refreshing beers.
Give it a try .....you will love it!

A Great All-Rounder

POWDERHOUNDS.COM07/04/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Month:
    February

A Great All-Rounder

POWDERHOUNDS.COM07/04/2018
Up to the eyeballs in powder
Powder on the former piste
Nice views (when it's not dumping with snow)
A good looking cat
Open piste run
We were fortunate enough to go out cat skiing with Iwanai for two days: the first was fun but the snow not primo; whilst the second day we experienced Iwanai Cat Skiing in all its snowy magnificence!

NB Our ratings are relative to international snowcat skiing operations, including BC Canada where the terrain is significantly larger and extensive safety standards are in place.

Pros
• Iwanai, along with its neighbour Niseko, is renowned for receiving huge snowfalls.
• The vertical skied each day is typically greater than other Japanese cat ski outfits, so it’s great for greedy powder hounds.
• It’s a great all-rounder Niseko cat ski operation in that it has good terrain for strong intermediates as well as advanced riders.
• No powder hound really wants gorgeous views because that means it’s not dumping, but on the infrequent bluebird days, the views across the sea are pretty special.
• The snowcat cabin has been kitted out rather nicely, and it has huge windows so that you can appreciate those views (or at least watch it puking with snow!).
• Some powder hounds like to snort powder for morning tea, but you’ll also get a nice snack and a fabulous lunch.
• The day lodge is a pleasant spot to hang at the start and end of the day, and also to potentially have lunch. You can meet some of the charming locals.
• The proximity to Niseko is a huge pro. You can combine everything that Niseko has to offer with a serene Iwanai experience. And if you stay at one of the local ryokan for a night or two, it provides a lovely quiet Japanese experience.
• NOASC used to run cat skiing at Iwanai but it only involved skiing on the piste (zzzzzzzzz) and the snowcat had an open platform on the back rather than an enclosed cabin (brrrrr). The current operation is soooooo much better.

Cons
• The cat skiing terrain isn’t particularly big. At least it’s a little larger than a couple of the Niseko cat skiing operations, and it’s likely to grow in coming years. And thankfully considering the massive snow dumpage at Iwanai, the resets are frequent, so the terrain size isn’t generally that big an issue.
• The guiding lacked some finesse but this should evolve reasonably quickly over time.
• There is no super challenging terrain, but this is common to most Japanese cat skiing companies.

Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
• It’s a little more expensive than the other Niseko cat ski operations but you get more vertical for your yen.

You can see our full Iwanai Cat Skiing review here.
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