Otoe Powder Cat

Overall Rating

Otoe Powder Cat

Otoe Powder Cat4.5/55
Otoe Powder Cat4.5 out of 5 based on 5 reviews
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Otoe Cat Skiing Hokkaido
NAC Cat Skiing Japan
Gorgeous Central Hokkaido Powder
Big snow falls!
NAC Cat Skiing Hokkaido
Mt Otoe Cat Skiing Hokkaido
Otoe Cat Boarding
It's deep when you step off the cat track!
Deep powder with NAC Cat Skiing
Lunch at a restaurant at the base
Deep powder!
Otoe Snowboarding
Otoe Cat Skiing Japan
NAC Cat Skiing Otoeyama
Lots of face shots
Ideal for advanced riders
An open in amongst the trees
Amazing Hokkaido Pow
NAC Otoe Cat Skiing Japan
NAC Cat Skiing Japan

Otoe Powder Cat

Overall Rating

Otoe Powder Cat4.5/55
Otoe Powder Cat4.5 out of 5 based on 5 reviews

NAC Cat Skiing

NAC Cat Skiing in the Otoe Powder Cat brings together the combination of two key elements for a powder hound: dry central Hokkaido powder and cat skiing. Central Hokkaido in Japan is up there as having some of the best, if not THE best powder in the world, whilst snowcat skiing is one of the finest ways to ride untracked powder.

NAC (Niseko Adventure Centre) used to be based at Niseko Japan, but now they’ve moved the cat skiing operation to Otoe near Kamui Ski Links (near Asahikawa and Furano) because they’ve realised that the powder is much better and powder hounds are looking for Central Hokkaido and Furano cat skiing.

If you want to master the technique of riding powder, one of the Hokkaido ski resorts seems like the ideal place to do it because they are snow factories. However learning to ski powder at some of the ski resorts is becoming more challenging because they get tracked out. Conversely with NAC cat skiing it’s fantastic– lots of fresh lines and no rush to ride it. With Otoe Cat Skiing, you only have to share all that powder with about a dozen people.

Where is NAC Cat Skiing Hokkaido Located?

The Otoe cat skiing occurs on Otoeyama (Mt Otoe) with the meeting point at Apple Land "MICHI NO EKI" OTOE. The meeting point is 31km southwest of the city of Asahikawa, 14km southwest of Kamui Ski Links, and 62km northwest of Furano.

If you don’t have your own wheels to get there and you're staying in Furano, NAC offer transfers from Furano (included in package).

Pick up service to & from Furano:
  • Kitanomine Gondola 7am
  • New Furano Prince Hotel 7:10am
  • Furano Natulux Hotel (downtown Furano) 7:15
  • Furano Hotel 7:20

Snowcat Skiing Terrain

The Otoe Powder Cat area is a former ski resort and consists of some old piste, other open areas below the treeline, some nicely spaced trees, and the odd steep pitch thrown in for good measure.

The vertical tally for the day is dependent on various factors including the weather (which can be rather brutal at times – all that snow doesn’t fall from blue skies!).

There are lots of deep days where you’ll want to have powder skis or a powder snowboard.

See our Otoe cat skiing review for more information.

NAC Otoe Cat Skiing Review

As is often the case, it was dumping in Central Hokkaido the day we went NAC cat skiing on the Otoe Powder Cat tour. The powder was deep and divine! The NAC cat skiing used to be based in Niseko, and they’ve moved it to the Otoe location (near Kamui Ski Links). The terrain is certainly a little steeper than the old Weiss terrain, but perhaps there isn’t as much fall-line skiing available at Otoe.

Considering the amazingly deep dry powder at Mt Otoe, we had a really fun day with NAC cat skiing. However no cat ski operation is completely perfect for everyone. Our review covers different aspects of the cat skiing so you can decide if NAC Cat Skiing is likely to suit your needs. As a guide to the ratings, a 5/5 equates to absolutely phenomenal, 4/5 is excellent, whilst 3/5 is still a very good score.

NAC Otoe Cat Skiing (and most other Japan cat skiing) is very different to the majority of Canadian cat skiing operations (and some in the USA) where the terrain is more sizeable, the runs longer and steeper, and they are well geared up to experts. Don’t interpret that NAC is not a good operation based on some of the terrain ratings below. It’s just that the main target market of Otoe Powder Cat is not the expert rider who is looking for a big day of max vert skiing or snowboarding.

Pros

  • The snow quality is highly likely to be superb, and it may be delightfully deep too.
  • The transport option from Furano is a huge pro so that you can combine everything Furano has to offer with the cat skiing.
  • Otoe Cat Skiing is good as an introductory tour for those new to cat skiing, those reasonably new to powder riding, and low-end advanced riders.
  • The guides are very enthusiastic and patient, and keep the stoke going all day.
Cons
  • A day of Otoe cat skiing doesn’t involve a lot of vertical. The vertical is fine for lower advanced riders particularly if they fall over a bit and use a lot of energy in the powder, but upper advanced to expert skiers and snowboarders may feel that their powder appetite hasn’t been satisfied.
  • As is common to most Japan cat skiing, there is minimal expert and no extreme terrain.
Powder Snow
Central Hokkaido is renowned for abundant and high quality snow, and this is exactly what we found at Otoe Cat Skiing. The powder quality was phenomenal and it snowed heavily most of the day, giving us knee to waist deep, delicious powder. For those of us acquainted with deep powder it was absolutely heavenly (but perhaps for a few people there that day, the deep snow was hell!).

The top of the terrain goes up to about 800 metres altitude (a little higher than Kamui Ski Links), which is high enough for the region without being too high for the snow to get battered by the winds. The north facing aspect of many of the runs is also a huge advantage for the Otoe snow quality.

Overall Terrain
The old Otoeyama ski resort is tiny, but NAC also operate in zones outside of this. As is typical to Japan cat skiing, the overall terrain size is not particularly large. Further limitations include very limited vertical for the day, short runs, and a lot of traversing to get out to the cat track. This is somewhat different to what NAC states on their website “The mountain is a fantastic mix of long bowls … we have a huge area with a maze of runs all over the mountain. There is no long ski outs as the cat is waiting at the bottom of each run.”

The NAC website doesn’t indicate how much skiing to expect, but the day we went out we did 7 runs (which the guides said was pretty standard) and a mere 1,700 metres of vertical. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of only 1.75 top to bottom runs at Furano Ski Resort. There were multiple factors that contributed to the small amount of vertical:
  • The runs were mostly very short (see below).
  • The powder was ridiculously deep.
  • The transitions to get on and off the snowcat were very slow and the guides didn’t encourage guests to keep it moving. It didn’t help that on a couple of occasions the snowcat driver didn’t pack down a track and then reverse back, so we were wading through waist deep powder and trying to put equipment on in deep powder instead of a nicely packed down cat track.
  • The guides made us ski one at a time on the approach to a run (ie before the slope had any pitch), which seemed a little unnecessary.
  • The layout of the terrain and the cat tracks is rather inefficient.
  • At times, they could have foregone taking photos on part of a run and sent the photographer down earlier to cut a traverse track.
  • We lost 2 hours by returning to the base area for a sit down lunch. There was an incredibly long and flat run to go down to lunch which was a big push considering the fresh powder and hell for snowboarders. We then had a long lunch and it was a 40 minute snowcat ride to get back up to go skiing.
  • A couple of snowboarders didn’t meet the minimum ability and fitness level, which is somewhat common on a group tour.
Due to the weather we didn’t go to the top and we were mostly skiing between elevations of about 690m and 400m. A few runs had about 100 vertical metres of fall line and then mucking around and a traverse to get out because the cat roads weren’t at the base of the run but rather off to the side. On one run the snowboarding tail guide set the track out, which wasn’t the best idea on a deep day, because he set the track way too high and we missed more precious vertical.

Despite these elements, we still had a fun day and the above factors are highly unlikely to bother first or second time cat skiers.

Alpine Terrain
The top of the terrain is in the sub-alpine (ie very light trees) which is slightly steeper than other parts of the tenure and a great place to let the boards rip, weather permitting.

We’ve also categorised the handful of old piste as “alpine”, which are the equivalent of a standard blue run. We also did an old lift line which we’ll include under “alpine”. It was plenty of fun, but it was narrow so after 2-3 people had skied it, it was pretty much trashed.

Tree Skiing
Most of the terrain we rode was in the trees, with a focus on riding bowls that were reasonably open. In other areas, the trees were a lot of fun but some inexperienced snowboarders might potentially find them too tight.


Strong Intermediate Terrain


The open piste would be ideal for strong intermediates but there are only a few runs, so most of the group would get bored of that pretty quickly. Fit & strong intermediate skiers with a little powder experience could cope with the rest of the terrain considering the various open areas and the mostly low angle slopes, but the terrain would not be good for strong intermediate snowboarders due to the tightness of the trees and the speed required to get onto some of the traverses (and that others may get very cold waiting for them to put themselves back together after falling).

A huge plus for intermediates is that the runs don’t go on and on (except for the one down to lunch) and it’s not a big day of skiing, so complete exhaustion is unlikely to set in.

Advanced Terrain
The Otoe cat skiing terrain is most suited to advanced riders, particularly skiers and snowboarders at the lower end of advanced rather than being almost an expert. The terrain has some short pitches in the low 30 degree domain, and the trees have enough challenge to provide some merriment. If the runs were more fall line and longer, it would score more highly.

Expert & Extreme Terrain
Like most Japan cat skiing, there isn’t a lot of expert terrain, and no challenging chutes or cliffs for pro riders that are reminiscent of Alaska heli skiing. If you like to huck off features, check out the Rising Sun Guides cat skiing outfit.

Guiding
The guides had a snowsports instructor background and were very enthusiastic, friendly and patient and kept the stoke going all day. They were very good at explaining the run and where to go, and where required, regrouped in an appropriate safe zone. The tail guiding was very strong and clear directions were provided about spacing, and the communication between the two guides was excellent.

As outlined in the overall terrain category, there were a few things the guides could have done to improve the flow of the day and enable more skiing.

Cat
The NAC snowcat cabin had a simple set up with lots of coach seats. As a plus, they all faced forwards to maximise comfort, but there were no hooks or other storage contraptions to hang things up. There was no heater which isn’t always essential, but in Central Hokkaido where temps are often frigid and you’re not pumping out a lot of vertical, a heater would be a nice-to-have. The snowcat also loses half a point for the side door entry, which was a little difficult to get in and out of, and there is no snowcat back-up so in the event of mechanical failure there’s no more skiing.

This may all be a moot point as NAC is getting a new snowcat for the 2018-19 season.

Avalanche Mitigation Strategies
The guides did a reasonable job of conveying to guests the choices they were making to ensure safety. Sometimes this was a little over the top, such as skiing one at time to get to the start of a run which just wasted additional time. Interestingly they dug a pit towards the end of the day, and in a flat spot near the cat track. Backpacks with shovel and prove were not provided to guests, only an avalanche beacon.

Safety Briefing
The safety briefing covered the snowcat risks well and a little regarding what to do if caught in an avalanche (including switching your beacon to search if not buried), but they didn’t actually cover how to use the beacon so some people might not have known how to switch it to search. A scant briefing is somewhat typical of Japan cat skiing.

Frills
The Otoe Cat Skiing includes some nice accompaniments, including the Furano transport service. The meeting spot in the morning was a nice warm room for the briefing, and the lunch restaurant nearby was also a nice place to retreat from the elements outside (albeit potentially not worth the time involved to get there). Lunch consisted of a pork cutlet, soup, rice and salad, and tea and coffee. During the day the guides gave us a cup of tea, but you’ll need to BYO any water or snack requirements.

It’s nice to have a photographer along, and you can look at thumbnails of the photos at the end of the day in the restaurant, but you’ll to pay if you want any of the photographs.

You can also have an onsen at the end of the day, but not if you’re on the transport back to Furano.

Value for Money
The NAC cat skiing is well priced relative to other Japan cat skiing operations, and whilst you may get plenty of snow for your dough, you won’t get a lot of skiing and snowboarding, which may or may not bother you.

The photography service is included but not the actual photographs. This is quite common with North American cat ski operations, but it seems a lot of money to pay 2,000 yen for each photograph instead of paying a set fee for a thumb drive with multiple photos.

Notes Regarding Review

The review is largely based on our experience, but also on discussions with staff, former guests, and information available on their website. Our review has some limitations as it’s not possible to ski every run and in all possible snow and weather conditions. Every guide is not the same and we acknowledge that everyone’s experience will be slightly different. The ratings are from our perspective only. The photos were not taken using professional riders, but rather aim to show an example of a real experience.

Further Information & Bookings

Click here to reserve the trip of your life!

Awesome day with NAC Furano

Kim Flynn
27/02/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Intermediate
  • Rider Age
    18-35
  • Home Country
    Australia
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    3

Awesome day with NAC Furano

Kim Flynn
27/02/2019
We went CAT boarding with NAC in Furano, from start to finish it was an amazing and memorable day. We had Sam as our main guide, Sam was friendly, funny, encouraging, energetic and made sure we got the very best runs. We also had Harry and Yuki assisting us and they were great too. We had an absolute ball and met some great people. Highly recommend NAC in Furano for CAT skiing/boarding. Most of the runs were memorable with good even steepness with only one a bit too tight to enjoy on a snowboard. It’s not your Canadian steeps but it’s certainly not Japenses flats that other Cat skiing outfits get you into. Definatley a highlight of our trip.

Deep Central Hokkaido Powder

18/04/2018

POWDERHOUNDS.COM

Powderhounds Ambassador
Powderhounds Ambassador

POWDERHOUNDS.COM

Powderhounds Ambassador
Powderhounds Ambassador
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    5

Deep Central Hokkaido Powder

18/04/2018
An old lift line at Otoe
Amazing powder
The aftermath of face shots
Short nicely pitched zones
A small bowl with gorgeous powder
The deep Central Hokkaido powder was incredibly impressive and the terrain had some fun little pitches; if only there’d been more powder riding it would have been phenomenal. OK we admit it – we’re very greedy powder hounds!

Pros
- The snow quality was superb and delightfully deep too.
- The guides were very enthusiastic and patient, and kept the stoke going all day.
- Otoe Cat Skiing was good as an introductory tour for those reasonably new to cat skiing and/or powder riding and low-end advanced riders.
- The transport option from Furano is a huge pro so that you can combine everything Furano has to offer with cat skiing.

Cons
- The day of Otoe cat skiing didn’t involve a lot of vertical – only 1,700 metres (5,577ft). The vertical may have been fine for lower advanced riders, particularly if they fall over a bit and use a lot of energy in the powder, but upper advanced to expert skiers and snowboarders may feel that their powder appetite hasn’t been satisfied.
- And as is common to most Japan cat skiing, there was minimal expert and no extreme terrain.

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

You can see our full Otoe Cat Skiing review here.

Powder bliss

Ray Mayers
21/03/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    N/A
  • Rider Level
    N/A
  • Rider Age
    N/A
  • Home Country
    Australia
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    4

Powder bliss

Ray Mayers
21/03/2018
We were tempted by the discount offered by Mt Otoe cat skiing in a convertible cat. I.E. an open top cat and boy are we glad we were tempted. We were blessed with a huge dump the night before and traveling to Mt Otoe from Furano, it was the heaviest snow I had seen.

The guides were the best I had ever experienced and as they had scoped the mountain over the 3 years or so of operations, they knew every knook and cranny.

The snow was deep but light and it was joyous skiing down the great runs on offer.

We got in 8 runs as our group were all experienced skiers and riders. The extra runs just added to a magical day and even had some sunny periods. Don’t let the convertible cat put you off. It was very comfortable and not cold at all and being able to take in the views on the way up the mountains was an added bonus. If you are heading to Furano then you must do a day cat tour. It will change your life.

Great cat riding with enthusiastic team

paul lanyi
26/02/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    51-70
  • Home Country
    USA
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    3

Great cat riding with enthusiastic team

paul lanyi
26/02/2018
Sam the British guide
Yoko and Tom
On a whim, on our 2nd to last day in Furano, we called NAC cat skiing and spoke with super enthusiastic Mio. We asked a bunch of questions and were informed that they had no guests the next day but if three of us signed up, we'd essentially have the cat to ourselves. We took a taxi to the Furano Prince and signed up in 5 minutes. Mio was as lively in person as on the phone.

The next am the 25 person bus pulled up at our pension exactly on time. Hans, the Austrian lead guide (and expert yodler) greeted us and got us on the road with Teppi (sp?) our intrepid driver and cat driver. Along the way to Nac Otoe, we learned that the resort was abandoned and that we would be skiing on old runs and in the trees. After the requisite 7-11 stop, Hans handed out beacons.

We arrived at the beautiful resort with a unique architected building at the base. Quick change into boots and off to the cat we went. Having done cat skiing in BC and Utah, I expected a pretty spartan cat and was pleased to find a comfortable cat with bucket seats. We also met our second guide (Sam, a lively Brit), a photographer, a local bartender along for the day, Mio and Yoko, the co-owner of NAC who turned out to be a 50+ year old ex Olympic Moguls competitor (and man could she turn them!)

The terrain looked spectacular. After our first 25 minute up ride, we did a quick shakedown and voila we got the goods. boot to knee high. Perfect snow. Hans scoped us all out and figured out instantly where we should ski.

The terrain he selected was perfect. We were all hooting and hollering. Not thigh deep as we had hoped for but very varied and beautiful.

Lunch was Bento box at a local Onsen. Yummy! Very filling and thankfully, not ramen. No other Westerners there, in fact, we learned the only Westerners to go there were 'Catters.

May I stress again, only three paying customers on the Cat. So we got freshies every run. We did not experience any super steep terrain, but were not really looking for it. I would imagine after a Japow dump the place would be amazing.

Onsen aferwards was a perfect capper (included in the price). Best onsen of the five I visited. Gorgeous view.

First class operation. Great guides. Hans is as professional and skilled as one could hope for.

What a unique experience -- defunct ski area, great riding, beautiful terrain, very safe, Onsen, Japanese food... Go. Just go.

Unreal powder at Otoe

Jason Kent
15/02/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    USA
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    3

Unreal powder at Otoe

Jason Kent
15/02/2018
Our day was absolutely unreal, fresh snow all day and thigh-high powder. Great runs in mostly wooded areas with some wide open bowls. There were 11 people in our group (10 riders, 1 skiier) and three guides, one of whom took photographs. Most runs were spread out so untracked powder was easy to find. The guides were very friendly and easygoing and set good lines for us. Their regular snowcat was down and they had a replacement cat with an open air standing cabin, it was fine and they gave us a good discount because of it. No discount needed, the day was a bargain at twice the price. Easily one of my favorite snow days ever.
NAC Cat Skiing Package
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Otoe Day Cat Skiing DETAILS
Price p/p From price is per person per day
Base/invoice currency is Japanese Yen
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USD 419

DAY CAT SKIING PACKAGES
Mixed Group or Private Group

Location: Japan | Tour Focus: Guided | Terrain Focus: Backcountry
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Advanced
Price p/p From price is per person per day
Base/invoice currency is Japanese Yen
Displayed price may vary slightly due to currency fluctuations
USD 419
Amazing Central Hokkaido powder and only a max of 11 other guests to share all the powder with. The Otoe cat tour package includes a full day of guided cat skiing and transport to/from Furano (if required) More
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