Sumikawa Snow Park

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Snowcat shuttle at Sumikawa Snow Park
Snowcat shuttle at Sumikawa Snow Park
Simple base facilities
Simple base facilities
Sumikawa Snow Park Miyagi
Sumikawa Snow Park Miyagi
Snowcats take you up to 1,600 metres
Snowcats take you up to 1,600 metres
Cat at Sumikawa Snow Park
Cat at Sumikawa Snow Park
Ski touring up to the top of Mt Zao on the Miyagi side
Ski touring up to the top of Mt Zao on the Miyagi side
Touring past the snow monsters Miyagi Zao
Touring past the snow monsters Miyagi Zao
Kattamine Shrine Mt Zao
Kattamine Shrine Mt Zao
Backcountry terrain Miyagi Zao Sumikawa
Backcountry terrain Miyagi Zao Sumikawa
Sidecountry of Sumikawa
Sidecountry of Sumikawa
Okama crater lake Mt Zao
Okama crater lake Mt Zao
Mt Zao Miyagi
Mt Zao Miyagi
Torii on Mt Zao
Torii on Mt Zao
Mt Zao
Mt Zao
You can get a backcountry guide
You can get a backcountry guide
Above Sumikawa Snow Park
Above Sumikawa Snow Park
Gate to the shrine on Mt Zao
Gate to the shrine on Mt Zao
Who loves snow ghosts?
Who loves snow ghosts?
Mt Zao on the Miyagi side
Mt Zao on the Miyagi side
Flat terrain near the base
Flat terrain near the base

Sumikawa Snow Park

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Hokkaido Explorer Tour

Sumikawa Snow Park

The non-abbreviated version of Sumikawa Snow Park is Miyagi Zao Sumikawa Snow Park, which reflects that it’s one of the ski areas near the town of Zao in the Miyagi Prefecture. Sumikawa Snow Park is probably most renowned for its non-skiing activities, with lots of tourists keen to head up the mountain in a snowcat to view the Mt Zao snow monsters, the rime encrusted trees (Juhyo) that Zao Onsen Ski Resort on the other side of the mountain is also famous for. Another activity is snowshoeing up to the peak of Mt Katta in the Zao mountain range, often referred to as Mt Zao, and there are ski touring routes up there too. 

Pros and Cons of Sumikawa

Pros 
  • Snowcats provide some lift assistance for backcountry ski touring and splitboarding adventures on Mt Zao.
  • The ski resort has very good terrain for beginners.
  • Sumikawa Snow Park has a small amount of off-piste terrain and competition for freshies is very low.
Cons
  • The weather can be brutal up on Mt Zao, so you can’t take nice views for granted. The presence of the many snow monsters gives a strong indication of the typical winter weather patterns, with lots of icy precipitation and strong winds.
  • The ski area is really small, particularly if you’re not a beginner.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
  • There is no accommodation on-mountain.
  • It provides a nice Japanese ski-jo experience.

Sumikawa Ski and Snowboard Terrain

The Sumikawa Ski Area is small with just 9 courses and 300 metres of vertical, with a top elevation of 1,400m and a base of 1,100 metres. The ski area has 3 double chair lifts. The lower two lifts service very, very mellow beginner terrain, whilst the top lift offers some pitch.

Sumikawa Snow Park has 5 courses for beginners that are ideal for novices, although you wouldn’t want to ski on the Sightseeing Course because the snowcats travel along there without the tiller down so it’s “kitty litter”. The 3rd lift services 2 intermediate runs and one advanced course that has two parts to it, and it hits a maximum of 36 degrees at its steepest. Within this top third, there are tree skiing opportunities that are initially pitchy. Off-piste skiing seems to be well tolerated and you’re unlikely to encounter too many other powder hounds putting their paws on your powder.

You can also push out beyond the ski area into the sidecountry but traverse back in well before the bottom of the 3rd lift because it flattens out very quickly.

There is also backcountry terrain above the resort, and you have the option of the snowcat to take you partway up the mountain (see below).

Sumikawa Snow

Sumikawa Ski Resort typically receives moderate amounts of snow, and the base is often about 150cm by late January. The ski area is positioned just on the leeward side of Mt Zao so it still gets lots of precipitation and the snow quality is usually good. The elevation is reasonable, and the slopes are mostly northeast facing which enhances snow quality. Above the treeline, the snow quality can vary significantly. Windblown powder is common, but the wind can also do some damage and some of the uppermost slopes can be a bit like the snow monsters and covered in rime.

Where is Miyagi Zao Sumikawa Snow Park?

Sumikawa Ski Resort is 20km northwest of Zao Town in the southwest part of the Miyagi Prefecture. It is 54km southwest of the city of Sendai, a drive that equates to approximately one hour, and 49km southeast of the city of Yamagata in the Yamagata Prefecture.

A few Yamagata ski resorts with “Zao” in their name are also close by, including Zao Liza World and Zao Sarukura and Zao Onsen just a little further to the NW, but the Zao Echo Line road that traverses Mt Zao is closed during winter. Zao Onsen for example is 64km away by road.

So if driving from Yamagata to Sumikawa, you’ll need to come via the Yamagata Expressway and approach the ski area from the east. You’ll want a decent car because it’s a long steep approach to ski resort. The telephone number for GPS navigation is 0224-87-2610 or it’s on google maps.

There are daily buses to the resort from Sendai and Togatta Onsen.

Other Ski Areas Nearby
  • Miyagi Zao Eboshi Resort is just to the SE but it’s a half hour drive between the two
  • Miyagi Zao Shiroishi is 25km to the south
  • Miyagi Zao Shichikashuku is 46km by road to the southwest
  • St Mary Ski Resort is 30km to the north
  • Onikoube in northern Miyagi is a 2 hour drive away

Accommodation

There is no lodging at the ski area, but you could stay in Zao Town or Togatta Onsen where there are various hotels and ryokan.

Or it’s easy enough to stay over in the Yamagata Prefecture and commute from there.

Ski Resort Facilities

The day lodge at the base is very old-school. It has a cafeteria with simple fare. In the basement is the equipment rentals desk and M Guides for backcountry adventures.

Sumikawa Snowcats & Backcountry Skiing

Sumikawa Snow Park runs several snowcats twice daily from the base at 1,100 metres up to 1,600 metres, and most tourists are there to view the snow monsters, the eerie looking ice-covered trees. It’s also possible to book a guide to take you snowshoeing up to the top of Mt Katta to see the rime covered Kattamine Shrine, and the torii looks particularly cool covered in ice. On fine days you’ll also be able to see the famous Okama crater lake, named for its pot shape, which hopefully will be covered in snow.

The snowcat ride can also be used to gain plenty of vertical for backcountry skiing, and it’s enjoyable to ski tour or splitboard around to view the sights at the top of the Mt Zao range at approximately 1,800 metres. The upper parts of the mountain have some pitch before it flattens out and in certain conditions, it may be possible to ski the really steep lines above Okama Lake. You can engage the services of one of the backcountry guides.

This is not cat skiing per se, because the snowcat doesn’t do laps all day from just the 3rd chair lift which is a shame, but rather the snowcat only travels from the base a couple of times and the trip takes a while.

The snowcat tours and backcountry guides need to be booked in advance.

Safari (Road Trip) Tours

Gassan Cat & Zao Tour
GUIDED CAT ACCESS BC & RESORT TOUR
Customizable From 2 Nights
Ability: Intermediate to Advanced
This short adventure tour incorporates a day of guided resort skiing at Zao Onsen & a day of snowcat backcountry access skiing/riding plus night skiing at a secret local resort that only opens at night! You will be guided by local English speaking Japanese guides who will provide an authentic cultural experience.
Price p/p Sample price is based on 3-night package, twin-share (2 in group).
Base/invoice currency is JPY
Displayed price might vary slightly due to exchange rate fluctuations.
USD 1,536
View Details
 
See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit Sumikawa here

Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours

Myagi Zao Backcountry Day Tours
ZAO MYAGI BACKCOUNTRY GUIDED DAY TOURS
Private groups only | Max 5 in a group
Ability: Intermediate to Advanced
If you are looking for something different & you love backcountry skiing, Ski Gassan Guides offer day guiding to Myagi Zao ski resort in Yamagata. The day is based on 3-runs of cat access backcountry plus some touring if you would like.
Price p/p Sample price is based on backcountry guiding at Myagi Zao resort with a private group of 4 people.
Base/invoice currency is JPY
Displayed price might vary slightly due to exchange rate fluctuations.
USD 125
View Details
 
See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit Sumikawa here
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