Skiing in Tohoku Japan

Skiing in Tohoku Japan

Tohoku Skiing and Snowboarding

If you’re a powder hound who wants to get off the beaten track of international skiers and snowboarders, where there is very little English spoken and cultural immersion (and onsen immersion) is at an all time high, and there are abundant freshies that are easily accessible, Tohoku skiing or snowboarding is for you! By skiing in Tohoku, you can experience the real Japan and satisfy your appetite for riding fresh powder.

The best way to get the most out of Tohoku is to go on a multi-resort tour and sample lots of the Tohoku ski resorts and chase the conditions.

Tohoku Ski Resorts

Tohoku is the region in northern (northeast) Honshu, the main island of Japan. Tohoku consists of 6 prefectures: AomoriIwateAkitaMiyagi; Yamagata; and Fukushima which is east of Niigata Prefecture and northeast of Gunma.

What is common to many of the Tohoku ski resorts is that there are very few westerners and not too many people riding off-piste, so there are often fresh powder lines galore. And some of the Tohoku ski areas are deserted mid-week that it almost feels like your own private ski resort! Much of the Tohoku skiing and snowboarding is at resorts that are small, have minimal advanced piste terrain, and only have enough off-piste terrain variety for one day of riding, but when you have a van, a guide and a driver, you can sample lots of different resorts.

Off-piste riding may be considered taboo at some of the resorts, but with care and discretion you’ll be rewarded with abundant freshies in the trees. At other Tohoku ski resorts, the tolerance for tree skiing continues to increase and some even encourage it.

Ski Areas Near Morioka and Mt Iwate
There is a collection of Iwate ski resorts in northern Tohoku including Shizukuishi, Hachimantai Shimokura, Appi, and Geto Kogen.

Geto Kogen receives ridiculous amounts of snow – it’s a powder magnet. It has great well spaced tree skiing off a series of ridges. This is one of our favourite powder skiing destinations in Japan.

Shizukuishi has a Prince Hotel at its base and is very typical of a Tohoku ski resort: small; nice tree skiing; and a great onsen.

Hachimantai Shimokura is small and has great side-country if you can appear invisible.

Appi is an upscale resort that has amazing groomed runs, and some designated tree runs, and some additional sidecountry further afield, although that requires a snowcat and extra yen.

Okunakayama Kogen is a small unknown ski area with a liberal approach to off-piste skiing and riding. It’s fun on a powder day, although because it’s small, it doesn’t cope with too many people chasing powder simultaneously.

Tazawako (in the Akita Prefecture) is another of our favourite Japanese powder skiing spots. Tazawako Japan is growing in popularity and there will be a few other feisty powder hounds trying to get to the freshies, but relative to Nagano it’s a dream. Tazawako is a spot where you can get cultural immersion as well as powder submersion!

Ani is also in the Akita Prefecture and a little further afield. Ani offers some great tree skiing and sidecountry for those with route finding nous or a guide. It’s a bit of an effort to get there, which helps to keep the crowds down.

Yamagata Prefecture
Further south in the Yamagata Prefecture is Zao Onsen. Zao Onsen is a reasonably mainstream ski resort that attracts some gaijin. A major plus is that it’s an onsen town and there are spectacular snow monsters (when there is visibility).

There are also various other Yamagata ski resorts.

Aizu Ski Resorts
Further south, the imposing Mt Bandai in the Fukushima Prefecture is surrounded by a variety of ski resorts that are part of the Aizu region. These Aizu ski resorts can be a little busy on the weekends with locals, although the Japanese generally won’t be much competition for the freshes in the off-piste areas. The Bandai ski resorts are mostly rather small and have some nice tree skiing.

Minowa is our favourite powder skiing resort in this area, although in recent years they've been slack with lift operations.

Alts Bandai is a well known ski resort (by the Japanese, not by international skiers generally) with well developed facilities. The terrain is pretty typical of a Tohoku ski resort. It’s inter-connected with Nekoma, which has a good aspect and nice off-piste and sidecountry terrain.

Grandeco is mellow in many places and with a little exploring there are some steeper lines.

Inawashiro has amazing tree skiing but only when the powder is fresh because it’s mostly south facing. The town of Inawashiro can be a good spot to use as a base to explore the Bandai ski resorts.

Aomori Prefecture
The most northern prefecture, Aomori, has various ski areas, with the most famous being Hakkoda, which is an amazing backcountry-type ski area that is serviced by a ropeway. Hakkoda absolutely gets dumped on with snow which is a major pro, but the associated con is that the weather can be brutal and the ropeway closed when the big blizzards come in. To get the most out of the backcountry of Hakkoda, you may wish to visit in late February or March.

Aomori Spring is a nice resort for tree skiing and to get away from the hordes that populate the high profile Japanese ski resorts.

Tohoku Ski Tours

Safari (Road Trip) Tours

Tohoku Storm Chaser
GUIDED SAFARI - NORTHERN HONSHU
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Ski Areas + Cat Skiing
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Get away from the crowds & the tracked out snow, and also experience Japanese culture, food & unlimited powder on this Tohoku tour. Chase the best snow on the day in the far northern parts of Honshu, using the lifts as well as touring gear at times Share
Price p/p
USD 3,514
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 Early bird pricing - take off 30,000 yen - book before Aug 31
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
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Tohoku Indy Trip
HOSTED (UNGUIDED) SAFARI - TOHOKU
8/10 Days | 7/9 Nights | 5/6 Ski Areas
Ability: Intermediate to Expert
Venture away from the masses on this 8 or 10 day hosted (unguided) powder trip in northern Tohoku. The package includes all lift passes however if you have an Indy Pass the price is discounted. All accommodation, most meals & private ground transport are taken care of. Share
Price p/p Price per person in Japanese yen based on 8 night tour for 2025, early bird
USD 2,042
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 Early bird rates in effect until Aug 31
See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit TOHOKU Region here

Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours

Central Iwate looking at Amihari & Iwate Kogen from Shizukuishi
TOHOKU GUIDED TOURS
PRIVATE GROUPS ONLY
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
These PRIVATE guided trips will maximise your Northern Tohoku powder experience. Minimum 3 nights/3 days guiding. Options of cat skiing, in-resort powder hunting, lift-access sidecountry & backcountry touring options. Resorts include Shizukuishi, Geto Kogen, Tazawako, Ani, Hachimantai, Amihari & Appi.
Price p/p Rate per person for private group of 5 for 3 night 3 day trip
Base/invoice currency is Japanese Yen
*Displayed price may vary slightly due to currency fluctuations
USD 1,290
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Morioka Freeride Tour
GUIDED FREERIDE TOUR
7 Days | 6 Nights | 5 Days Riding
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Advanced
Stay in the city of Morioka in Northern Tohoku & explore restaurants & bars by night. By day get guided to powder stashes at nearby ski areas within the off-piste and lift-accessed backcountry zones.
Price p/p
USD 2,150
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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
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See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit TOHOKU Region here

Single-Base, Single-Ski-Area Tours

Zao Guided Day Tours
ZAO RESORT GUIDED DAY TOURS
Private groups only | Max 6 in a group
Ability: Intermediate to Advanced
Ski Gassan Guides offer a full day of resort guiding around Zao Onsen. Navigating Zao's huge terrain and 28 lifts can take days to master. Ski with local guides that know all of the secret stashes!
Price p/p Sample price is based on resort guiding at Zao Onsen with a private group of 5 people for 2024 season.
Base/invoice currency is JPY
Displayed price might vary slightly due to exchange rate fluctuations.
USD 84
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See all Single-Base, Single-Ski-Area tours that visit TOHOKU Region here