Tohoku Region Is a Mecca for World-Renowned “JAPOW” Powder Snow!
As winter approaches, skiers and snowboarders eagerly head to the snow-clad mountains of Tohoku, exclaiming, “This is what we’ve been waiting for!” In recent years, snow enthusiasts from around the world have gathered in Tohoku in pursuit of JAPOW.
JAPOW is a coined term that combines “Japan” and “powder snow” to convey the superb quality of snow in Japan. In particular, the Tohoku region stands out for its comparatively lower average winter temperatures compared to other Japanese regions. The inland areas where ski resorts are clustered are renowned for their abundant snowfall. The snow consistently falls with minimal humidity, increasing the likelihood of the slopes being blanketed in soft and velvety JAPOW. When you visit a ski resort in Tohoku, you can enjoy the ultimate powder skiing experience that feels like you’re floating on a cloud!
Additionally, in the Tohoku region, there are ski resorts where you can glide through forests covered with broad-leaved trees, allowing for tree runs. Set against a mystical forest veiled in silver, you can partake in thrilling freeride adventures.
The wonder and thrill of JAPOW cannot be appreciated until you’ve experienced it firsthand. To begin, we’d like to introduce three ski resorts that are the pride of Tohoku.
Geto Kogen Resort is the Leading Ski Resort For Deep Powder Snow & Tree Runs
Geto Kogen Resort in Kitakami City, Iwate Prefecture, will celebrate its 30th anniversary in the 2023-2024 season. Located in one of the snowiest regions in Honshu, this ski resort is a regular top-ranking contender in the annual ski resort snowfall rankings. Its snow quality is characterized by a dry powder with low moisture content, and at times, the snowfall can reach up to 5 meters. The resort is renowned for its powder reset rate, which is considered to be among the best in the world.
The vast slope features a fan-shaped layout with the Center House at its center, providing a total skiing distance of 14,100 meters across 14 distinct courses. Skiers can enjoy a variety of slopes, including wide long courses, panoramic courses with views of Mt. Chokai and Mt. Iwate, and steep slopes with excellent powder snow on ungroomed runs. The course layout guarantees skiers the convenience of always returning to the Center House, regardless of their chosen course.
Another attraction of Geto Kogen Resort is its extensive tree run area, boasting one of the highest numbers of trails in the country. Under the concept of Grow Up Tree Run, a total of 14 fields with varying levels of difficulty have been developed, accommodating skiers ranging from beginners to highly advanced. Skiers can challenge themselves based on their skills and abilities, progressively improving their proficiency as they conquer these fields! The joy of tree runs lies in the ever-changing snow conditions dictated by natural contours and the fluctuating levels of difficulty, depending on the chosen path, making it, even more, enthralling with every run.
In an effort to provide a variety of options for visitors, the ski resort provides multiple special programs. For example, those seeking the pristine powder snow ahead of the crowd can make use of the First Tracks Program, permitting early access to untouched slopes by boarding the gondola 10 minutes prior to its regular operating hours. Additionally, by joining in guided tours such as the Heavy Snow Tree Run Guide (for experienced skiers) or the Tree Run Experience Program (for beginners) visitors can conquer the day’s prime spots under expert guidance with the help of seasoned guides familiar with the terrain.
Starting from the 2023-2024 season, all gondolas and lifts will be transitioning to a smart gate system. Passengers can board gondolas and lifts seamlessly carrying lift tickets (IC tickets) in their pockets, enhancing the convenience and comfort.
After relishing the snow at the ski resort, the best thing to do is take a dip in the hot spring to warm the body from the core. At Geto Kogen Resort’s Center House, you’ll find a bathing facility known as Geto Kogen Onsen Usagimori no Yu, featuring natural hot springs. You can bathe while enjoying the breathtaking view from an open-air bath, located at an altitude of 640 meters, or you can relax and stretch out in the indoor bath. It’s the perfect remedy to rejuvenate your body, which will be tired after your adventures on the snow-covered, icy mountains.
The Geto Onsen Ezuriko Line prefectural road, which provides access to the ski resort, has many hot spring facilities along the route, so it is nicknamed the “Geto Kogen Hot Springs Line.” During the winter, you can enjoy visits to hot springs such as Geto Kogen Onsen, Seminezaka Onsen, Mizukami Onsen, Semi Onsen, and Irihata Onsen. Mizukami Onsen, Semi Onsen, and Irihata Onsen also offer accommodations, so it would be a great idea to arrange a tour that combines a stay at a hot spring inn with skiing and snowboarding.
Spring Valley Sendai Izumi Ski Resort Offers Excellent Slopes and Après-Ski Activities
Spring Valley Sendai Izumi Ski Resort is located about 40 minutes by car from the city center of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, the gateway to the Tohoku region. It’s well known as an urban ski resort close to the city. The ski resort is equipped with a large parking lot, and public transportation is also convenient, with direct access from Izumi-Chuo Station on the Namboku Line of the Sendai Municipal Subway by direct bus.
The ski resort offers a diverse range of 12 courses that cater to both beginner and advanced skiers despite its compact size. These include a long course with a maximum length of approximately 1,400 meters, a thrilling mogul course with a maximum incline of 36 degrees, and the popular Rhythm Fun Park, which boasts the largest number of obstacles in Miyagi Prefecture. The park features an array of obstacles laid out from top to bottom, ensuring an enjoyable descent. In particular, the kicker and jib items offer options for all levels, from beginners to advanced. Additionally, the resort offers a snow activity area called Snow Adventure Kingdom, which is popular among children and families. The resort is designed to cater to a wide range of preferences and skill levels, and it consistently maintains high-quality powder snow for an exceptional skiing experience.
A major attraction that draws skiers and snowboarders is the daily night skiing. Normally, night skiing runs until 10:00 PM, and on Fridays and Saturdays, it is extended an extra hour until 11:00 PM, known as an “Eleven Nighter.” Additionally, there are special occasions when all-night events are organized, lasting until 5:00 AM! During the daytime, visitors have the opportunity to explore downtown Sendai, and as the sun sets, they can transition to the slopes to enjoy snow activities. The ability to plan a fulfilling day, enjoying both the city and the ski resort, represents the unique charm of a conveniently located city resort.
The slopes offer a spectacular panoramic view, offering a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean on clear days. During night skiing, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the cityscape, and as the night deepens, they can experience an extraordinary skiing experience under the starry sky.
If Spring Valley Sendai Izumi Ski Resort is your choice for a skiing and snowboarding getaway, we recommend that you also enjoy a stroll through Sendai City. Nestled in the heart of the Tohoku region, Sendai is a major city conveniently located about 90 minutes away from Tokyo by bullet train. The city boasts a balance between urban functionality and abundant nature, with mountains and the sea in close proximity to the city center, and hot springs bubbling up within the city. The city is also abundant with greenery, earning it the nickname the “City of Trees.”
Upon disembarking at Sendai Station, you’ll be greeted by a vibrant atmosphere with towering buildings. You might come across a popular market in one area, a lengthy arcade street perfect for window shopping in another, and further down the road, you’ll encounter the beautiful Zelkova tree-lined street of Jozenji-dori Avenue, a symbol of the City of Trees. Taking a leisurely stroll through the city lets you explore its various facets.
If you’re considering a year-end visit to Sendai, we encourage you to experience the annual event known as the SENDAI PAGEANT of STARLIGHT. This event, held every December, illuminates the zelkova trees along Jozenji-dori Avenue with LED lights and is considered a winter tradition in Sendai. The spectacle of hundreds of thousands of illuminations forming a luminous tunnel is nothing short of magical. Strolling beneath these sparkling champagne gold lights allows you to create unforgettable memories.
Hoshino Resorts Nekoma Mountain is One of the Largest Slopes in Japan
Starting from the 2023-2024 season, Fukushima Prefecture has unveiled its newest ski resort, one of the largests in Japan, known as Hoshino Resorts Nekoma Mountain! This expansive resort extends across Bandai Town and Kitashiobara Village in Fukushima Prefecture. A gondola lift now seamlessly links the Alts Bandai on the southern slope of Mt. Nekomadake with the Nekoma Ski Resort on the northern slope. This interconnected setup offers guests the freedom to enjoy 13 lifts, 33 distinct courses, and a ski area encompassing 189 hectares.
The southern area (formerly known as Alts Bandai) provides skiers with a comfortable setting to savor their experience amidst the scenic backdrop of Mt. Bandai and Lake Inawashiro. The courses include the challenging Kyusha Yonkyoudai (Steep Slope 4 Brothers) for advanced skiers, the breathtaking intermediate course featuring a view of frost-covered tree tunnels, and a wide course suitable for beginners to make big turns. There are also various types of snow parks, including a Flow Park that anyone can enjoy, an area aimed at stepping up skills, and a park with a planned installation of a 20-meter-class kicker for world-class competitions, so guests can enjoy the park in a variety of ways.
On the other hand, the northern slope of Mt. Bandai (formerly known as Nekoma Ski Resort) stands at an elevation exceeding 1,000 meters and features a distinctive terrain that results in abundant snowfall known for its light, powdery texture. Due to the snow’s slow melting rate, visitors can enjoy a long season of approximately five months, from early December to early May. The courses offer a variety of options, ranging from wide, gentle slopes suitable for beginners to exhilarating ridges with varying degrees of steepness, as well as a single steep slope perfect for high-speed runs. Additionally, there are plans to install GS and slalom pole courses so you can practice alpine skiing.
Both areas receive ample snowfall, and the powdery snow that blankets the slopes is famous for its fine texture, often referred to as microfine snow. This snow’s light and delicate quality has captivated many snow enthusiasts. The northern area, in particular, enjoys significant snowfall, and during the peak months of January and February, a Powder Guarantee Area is accessible the day following substantial new snowfall, ensuring guests the opportunity to relish the finest JAPOW conditions.
Following a full day of enjoying the microfine snow, we highly recommend you unwind with a soothing dip in a hot spring. There are numerous hot springs in close proximity to the ski resort. In the southern area, you’ll find the Hoshino Resorts Bandaisan Onsen Hotel, offering ski-in and ski-out convenience, and the opportunity to relax in hot springs sourced from the slopes of Mt. Bandai. Additionally, in the Urabandai area near the gate in the northern area, there are many hot springs with great views. Moreover, there are abundant hot spring resorts like Aizuwakamatsu, Inawashiro, and Bandai Atami, perfect for a stop on your way back from a day of skiing. Following an active day, make it a priority to rejuvenate and recharge by soaking in the soothing hot springs!
Rental Plans & Snow Activities Will Leave Newcomers to the Ski Resort Highly Satisfied
Ski resorts in the Tohoku region provide an extensive array of services and activities designed to accommodate beginners with limited skiing and snowboarding experience. They offer the option to rent all essential gear, including clothing, boards, and accessories, allowing visitors to arrive without any equipment. Furthermore, some ski resorts accept online reservations, offering reassurance to those who prefer to plan their visit in advance.
At the ski resorts, a diverse array of activities awaits beyond skiing and snowboarding. For instance, at Geto Kogen Resort, you can partake in activities like snow rafting, snowmobile tours, and snowshoeing tours. At Spring Valley Sendai Izumi Ski Resort, there is a snow activity area called “Snow Adventure Kingdom,” featuring exciting snow tubing and a 30-meter sledding course. Additionally, at Nekoma Mountain, you can engage in activities like snow rafting and enjoy designated areas for sleds and striders (with rentals available).
Experience the joy of snow through a wide range of activities at the ski resorts in Tohoku, offering attractions suitable for both novices and seasoned skiers!