Tohoku

Want to escape the crowds and experience authentic Japanese culture? The Tohoku region is located in the northern part of Honshu Island and is scattered with ski resorts, about 580km north of Tokyo. The area is rich in traditional Japanese culture and famous for its festivals and numerous natural onsen. This region is home to ski resorts including Appi Kogen and Zao Onsen.

 

‘Check out the Juhyo or ‘snow monsters’ at Zao, fir trees clumped with ice and snow which take on odd shapes from the heavy snowfall and freezing winds’

 

Zao Onsen is one of Japans oldest resorts located in the Yamagate Prefecture, faous for two things. Firstly as a hot spring resort (unsurprising given the name), as secondly for the Juhyo or ‘Snow monsters’ that appear every winter on the upper slopes. More spectacular than scary, the name of ‘snow monsters’ is given to the ice trees as they take on interesting shapes from the heavy snowfall and freezing winds. In fact, Zao is one of only a few places in Japan where these ice trees can be seen. In terms of terrain, Zao is a large spread out resort with long runs and great terrain for intermediates. There are also relatively few foreigners, adding to its appeal.

ZAO ONSEN RESORT STATS 

Season: Dec – Apr
Altitude: 1661m top
Terrain: Beginner 40% / Intermediate 40% / Advanced 20%
Lift system:
Vertical: 881m
Longest run: 10km
Average Snowfall: 
Terrain Parks: 

 

The epitome of backcountry powder heaven and a must do for any experienced backcountry enthusiast.   Located in the northern part of Honshu, the snow is lighter than that of other Honshu resorts, but not quite as dry as Hokkaido. A huge amount of terrain awaits from the top of the ropeway, but with unmarked regions, questionable visibility at times, and lots of ‘dead spots’ that will mean a long hike out, we highly recommend a guide even for the most advanced explorers. Hakkoda has notorious weather patterns with heavy snow storms coming unimpeded from Siberia and blissfully bluebird skiing… all possible in the one day, so as they as say ‘when it’s good, it’s good’

HAKKODA RESORT STATS

Season: Dec – Apr

Altitude: 1584m

Terrain: Beginner 0% / Intermediate 20% / Advanced 80%

Lift system: 1 quad + 1 ropeway

Vertical: 680m

Longest run: 7km

Average Snowfall: 14-20m

Terrain Parks: N/A

Appi Kogen is a large commercial resort and arguably the largest resort in northern Honshu. Appi is an excellent choice if you like plenty of very long, wide, runs down the fall line. The highest point is around 1300m and vertical is around 800m. Great for advanced skiers, the upper sections of Appi are reasonably steep and whilst it does mellow out lower down, you don’t get the flat spots you sometimes get at other Japanese resorts.

APPI KOGEN RESORT STATS 

Season: Dec – Apr
Altitude: 1328m
Terrain: Beginner 30% / Intermediate 40% / Advanced 30%
Lift system: 18 lifts
Vertical: 828m
Longest run: 5.5km
Average Snowfall: 8m
Terrain Parks: Yes + halfpipe

 

Truly off the beaten path, Geto Kogen is a fun resort to smash for a day or two as part of a longer Tohoku snow trip. Uncrowded, huge snow dumps, and plenty of areas to play in, Geto is a brilliant little spot.

GETO KOGEN RESORT STATS

Season: Dec – Apr

Altitude: 1070m

Terrain: Beginner 40% / Intermediate 40% / Advanced 20%

Lift system: 1 quad + 2 gondolas

Vertical: 430m

Longest run: 3km

Average Snowfall: 15m

Terrain Parks: N/A