Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

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

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
  • Hirayu Onsen Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
    1,310 – 1,860 (550)
  • Average Snow Fall
    ?  metres
  • Lifts (2)
    2 doubles      
  • Ski Season
    mid Dec - late Mar 
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 3
    Longest run – 2.5km
    Beginner - 30%
    Intermediate - 40%
    Advanced - 30%
Hirayu Onsen skiing and snowboarding is incredibly unique for a Japanese ski resort. The Hirayu Onsen Ski Resort is possibly the steepest ski-jo in Japan in the off-piste areas, and one of the courses is reasonably steep too. Hirayu Onsen is also one of the smallest ski resorts in Japan when it comes to statistics, with only 3 courses and 2 lifts. Thankfully it’s not like some of the really tiny Japanese ski resorts because it has 550 metres of vertical, and the breadth of lift-accessed terrain is decent, and if you add hiking for 5 minutes your options expand exponentially.

The terrain for experts is phenomenal but the major proviso is whether it has an adequate snow base to cover up the nasties. If there is good snow, another major upside for Hirayu Onsen is the lack of crowds, other than the tourists hanging around the base.

Lifts

The Hirayu Onsen Ski Resort has 2 pair lifts. The lower lift that services the beginner terrain is fixed grip and reasonably slow. The top lift is also fixed grip but they don’t run it too slowly.

Lift Tickets

As to be expected considering the lack of infrastructure on offer, lift passes are really cheap, especially on weekdays. They also offer half day tickets for the morning or afternoon, single ride tickets, and 10 ride tickets, which might be about all you need.

Hirayu Onsen Snow

Hirayu Onsen gets plenty of snow for a Gifu ski resort, but that isn’t really saying much considering that Gifu is not famous for bountiful snow, unlike many of the high profile Niigata and Nagano ski resorts.

Being a typical Japanese ski resort, Hirayu Onsen doesn’t like to boast about its snowfall volumes, so only Puki Yuki knows how much snow it receives. In good seasons the snow base gets up to 160 to 180cm, whilst in lean seasons the base can remain sub 1 metre which isn’t adequate for some of the really steep terrain.

The top elevation (1,860 metres) is very good, although it’s not as high as nearby Mount Norikura Ski Resort, but the aspect is better and the mostly west to northwest facing slopes help to keep your powder dry.

Ski Hirayu Onsen for the Beginner

The lower groomed trail is a good length and is ideal for confident beginners, but it’s too steep for the never-ever skiers that turn up to Hirayu Onsen to primarily soak in an onsen. Rather than charging them for a lift ticket, the resort encourages the novices to learn by just walking up and down the slopes near the base. The ski area could make a fortune if they installed a magic carpet and charged for it! A major limitation of this novice area is that it is shared with the tobogganers. It is frightening to watch!

Hirayu Onsen Skiing & Snowboarding - Intermediates

There is only one intermediate run, the Kamoshika course which is groomed, albeit badly. Whilst it’s a long run, intermediates may get bored rather quickly with the lack of terrain variety. The run is suited to confident intermediates because it has a couple of pitchy sections.

Terrain Park

You’re dreaming.

Advanced Skiing On-Piste

The Giant Course is an ungroomed run that’s steep by Japanese ski resort standards. It has a maximum gradient of 38 degrees, and unlike many black runs in Japan, some of the pitch is consistent.

Off Piste Skiing and Riding

If you want easy tree lines, you’ll find these skiers’ left between the Giant Course and the resort boundary (wherever that is!!), with easy egress back onto the Giant Course. Between the two upper runs is where the gnarly terrain is. It’s essentially a steep ravine with little dam walls, big concrete walls, cliffs, and an avalanche type chute at the top of what we termed “hell gully”. The top has Gazex type avalanche blasting caps across the top, which are quite unique in Japan, and give you a bit of an idea about the terrain. You’ll need your route-finding wits, and some avalanche management expertise.

The best expert terrain is between the black Giant Course and the ravine where there is a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees and a “relatively” easy egress via traverse above the ravine. If you enter the off-piste off the Kamoshika Course past the top of the ravine, you get into extreme terrain in places with small cliff bands.

The only roped off area is the top of the ravine itself, and you probably don’t want to ride concrete anyhow. By all accounts the ski patrollers are reasonably chilled about going off-piste, but you might not want to flaunt your fun to everyone sitting on the lower chair whilst exiting from the gorge.

Sidecountry & Backcountry

As with most of the off-piste at Hirayu Onsen, the sidecountry terrain is not for newbies learning to ride powder and navigate backcountry terrain. Get into the wrong spot and there are serious consequences such as mega cliffs.

Skiers’ left of the resort offers plenty of well pitched lines through the trees. You can push back onto the piste or if you head further left you’ll end up down on the Hirayu Waterfall walking track where you can ski/skate/pole back to the lifts, unless the snow is really deep. If you hike above the resort about 15 minutes, it opens up even more lines in the direction of the waterfall, but you want to exit WAY before the waterfall.

Skiers’ right of the resort offers some lines that drop down just before the toll booth for the tunnel, with easy egress back to the resort. Head further right, and you’ll end up down in town opposite the onsen.

Above the top lift is a large open area that sort of looks like an old piste run, and this is a nice spot to go skinning and skiing if you don’t want to scare yourself.

Otherwise the area has plenty of steep mountains where you can explore. Highway 5 is closed during winter and some skiers and splitboarders use this as a skin track for backcountry touring.