Lotte Arai Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

  • Vertical (m)
    329 – 1,280 (951)
  • Average Snow Fall
    16  metres
  • Lifts (5)
    1 gondola
    1 hooded fast quads
  • Ski Hours
    8:30am - 8:00pm
    mid Dec - early May
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 11
    Longest run – 5.2 km
    Beginner - 25%
    Intermediate - 45%
    Advanced - 30%

Lotte Arai Ski Resort Terrain

Just because there are glitzy facilities and the ritzy hotel buildings at the base, don't be fooled into thinking that Lotte Arai is not a ski resort for freeride loving powder hounds. Lotte Arai Ski Resort certainly has all the ingredients for an ideal powder hound destination: copious snowfall; a range of advanced terrain; uncrowded slopes; and no blanket ban on off-piste skiing and snowboarding.

The Lotte Arai ski terrain has various elements that combined, make it somewhat unique for a Japanese ski resort.

  • It's not super super steep, but it certainly isn't lacking in the pitch department.
  • Off-piste skiing is permitted across much of the resort (when it's deemed safe by the ski patrollers).
  • In addition to glade skiing, the off-piste terrain includes lots of open sub-alpine areas, and when there's a base of 5-6 metres at the top, you can't even see any trees! You don't find that at too many ski resorts in Japan!
  • The terrain shape and the massive snowfalls make avalanche risk rather high at times.
The size of the skiable terrain at Lotte Arai Ski Resort is officially 197 hectares including the 12 off piste zones, but it feels much bigger than that. Yet considering there are only 11 pistes, it can also feel rather small, because even the off-piste skiers and snowboarders have to do repetitive loops on parts of the courses to get back to the lifts.

Lifts

The lift infrastructure at the Lotte Arai Ski Resort is excellent. Firstly there's the Arai Gondola with a mid-station that runs up from the base and covers about two-thirds of the ski resort vertical. The semi-standing gondola is spacious, which is rather rare in the Japanese ski resort world. Two detachable quad lifts service the upper two-thirds of the mountain, and the hoods are a welcome relief on the often snowy days. Further down, a fast double lift mainly services an intermediate run (which is open for night skiing), whilst a fixed grip double lift services a nice beginner run at the base.

Lift Tickets

Lift tickets are rather pricy relative to many Japanese ski resorts, but you get good value considering the lifts and terrain on offer. Other than afternoon and night skiing tickets, there aren't any other lift pass configurations that you commonly see at other Japanese ski resorts to save some yen.

If you want to spend more money, you can pay extra for "first class tickets" which provide priority lift access, although with the exception of a big powder morning, jumping a non-existent lift queue seems like a bit of a waste of money.

Crowds

As the word spreads about the joys of Lotte Arai, it may get a little more skier traffic. Day trippers from Myoko will increase, but it's unlikely to get too busy considering the limited number of hotel beds on the mountain. When we visited Arai not long after it opened, it felt almost deserted!

Lotte Arai Snow

The statistic for seasonal snowfall at Arai Ski Resort of 16m is probably just a guesstimate on the resort's behalf, but it could be assumed that Arai receives a little more snowfall than the Myoko ski resorts that are slightly further inland. Arai Resort is located only 22km from the coast, so the storms bring plenty of moisture from the Sea of Japan. Allegedly, one of the reasons that the Arai Mountain Resort closed back in 2006 was because there was too much snow and they couldn't keep up with the monumental task of snow removal and managing avalanche risk.

With respect to the Arai snow quality, it's rather coastal like nearby Charmant Hiuchi so "fresh is best", although powder resets are big and common. Many of the Arai ski slopes face east, so the powder is reasonably well maintained, except near the base (which is at only 329 metres) where the snow has a tendency to soften easily when temps rise.

Arai Skiing for the Beginner

Arai doesn't have a lot of beginner terrain but it's probably more than adequate. Novices can start on the slow double chair which provides access to a gentle green run at the bottom of the ski area. Shattered first-timers can easily retreat to the hotel or the cafeteria in the gondola building for a rest.

The next step is a ride up to the gondola mid-station, and then after that, there's a green run off the Kokenashi lift, although it's a reasonably narrow track without a lot of margin for error, and faster skiers are likely to try to overtake you.

Intermediate Skiing Arai

If you think that variety is the spice of life, then you won't find the Lotte Arai Ski Resort particularly spicy because there are only 4 intermediate runs. At least they are reasonably long. The blue runs are steeper than your average blue run at other Japanese ski resorts, particularly the "Myoko Long Run Lower", although there is a green branch you can take if you want a lesser gradient. This run is open for night skiing.

Terrain Park

This is something that the resort may develop in the future.

Advanced Skiing On-Piste

Like many of its Japanese counterparts, advanced riding on-piste is not a highlight of Lotte Arai and there are only 4 black ungroomed runs. Thankfully these are a little steeper than the average Japanese ski resort black run.

Off Piste Riding and Skiing Lotte Arai

Arai has an array of off-piste terrain and it's not just all tree skiing, as is common in Japan. The off-piste includes wide open slopes, areas with a small amount of vegetation, naturally gladed trees, and more tightly spaced trees. Most of it is lift accessed, and you can also hike up from the top lift to get access to the Okenashi Bowl.

The off-piste areas are divided into 12 named zones, and after decent snowfall, the patrollers work to get these areas open. They get them open too slowly for some people's liking, in part because the patrol team is rather small. At least Arai has a couple of highly experienced Canadian patrollers (and an avalanche forecast consultant) as well as a couple of good local patrollers, unlike some Japan ski resorts where the patrollers' skills are a bit laughable. Despite the patrollers' expertise, the resort has a history of avalanches so if you have avalanche safety gear, you should ride with it.

There are also a couple of permanently closed areas inside the resort boundaries that are known to regularly slide (so don't go in there, even though it looks really really tempting).

So unlike some Japanese ski resorts where limbo-ing under a rope may be OK (because the patrollers are nuff nuffs and don't know the first thing about off-piste skiing and mitigating real risk), Lotte Arai is not the place to do it. Firstly you've hopefully already got the message about avalanche risk, but secondly you'd be very visible (there aren't a lot of trees to hide amongst) and the patrollers and other staff have a very low tolerance of riders going into closed areas. Your lift ticket cost a lot of money, so you probably don't want to lose it.

Sidecountry & Backcountry

There isn't really any sidecountry at Lotte Arai, as the terrain shape isn't conducive to funnelling into a drainage that returns to the ski area.

Keen backcountry riders can head over the back of Okenashiyama, and even down to Charmant Hiuchi if you wish.