Where to ski in Myoko Kogen

Myoko’s reputation for powder snow doesn’t need to be sold. Add variety, verticality, fluency in English and local culture, and you need look no further than Myoko Kogen for Japow’s quintessential ski adventure.

As the brand new exhibit at the Myoko Kogen Visitor Center next to Imori Pond points out, the area is “one of the snowiest places on earth”, with an average of about 14 meters per season (a little more during the 2021/22 season). Siberian storms gather moisture over the Sea of ​​Japan and lash out at resorts near the west coast before heading to other places, such as Hakuba. As such, waking up to waist deep snow is not uncommon. So it’s a good idea to know which station might suit your style on any given day.

Myoko Kogen is not just a ski area. Depending on your definition of “Myoko”, you could be talking about a mountain, a city, or a number of ski resorts. Below is a breakdown of the main resorts, followed by essential information on how to get there.

Myoko Kogen Ski Resorts

Akakura Kanko/Akakura Onsen

Akakura Kanko is one of Japan’s oldest resorts, having opened in 1937. “Akakan” has one gondola and six quads and offers a great variety.

The maximum altitude is 1500 m and the longest distance is 4.5 km. You will find terrain for everyone with 40% beginner, 30% intermediate and 30% advanced.

Myoko Snowsports operates its ski school on the champion side of Akakan. Therefore, if you are visiting with a young family, you may want to familiarize yourself with this region. Akakan also has a terrain park.

Akakura Kanko. 📷 Nathan Eden

Connected to Akakan is the ski resort of Akakura Onsen, above the small village of the same name (what many consider to be the “center of town” if it exists). With 14 lifts and 17 courses, it’s quite a big resort in Japanese terms, especially for those who don’t have much experience. Half of the runs are for beginners with 30% intermediate and 20% advanced.

Akakura Onsen has many of the same facilities and features as Akakan, including children’s facilities and a terrain park, but unlike Akakan, it offers night skiing.

Given how close and easy it is to ski between the two main resorts, you might even want to consider Akakan and Onsen as one resort. Of course, you can get a joint pass at a reasonable price for these two connected stations. Many choose this option because it allows skiers and boarders to start at one and finish at the other – useful if you want to start the day with a coffee at your favorite café and end the day with a beer at the bar in your choice, or if you just want more bang for your buck in an entire day on the mountain.

Home to a beacon security checkpoint, backcountry access at Akakura resorts involves bending your boots up a deep and steep descent into the resort.

Akakura Onsen, Myoko

Akakura Onsen. 📷 Nathan Eden

For more information on Akakura Kanko, click here.

For more information about Akakura Onsen, click here.

Ikenotaira (Alpen Blick Resort)

Sometimes referred to as a family resort, Ikenotaira is home to open terrain. As well as being a fairly gentle introduction for those just dipping their toes in the trees, Ike bills itself as a resort open to what might be called “alternative snow activities” such as snowmobiles, skates and scooters, in addition to being a prime area for snowshoeing.

Due to wide and gentle slopes, there is plenty of space and rarely feels too crowded. There are a few advanced runs but they are ideal for beginners and intermediates; 40% beginner, 45% intermediate and 15% advanced.

Ikenotaira, Myoko

Ikenotaira. 📷 Nathan Eden

Although there is something for everyone on the right day, a powder day may not be the day as there is probably not enough slope to accommodate the depth if you are woke up waist deep in snow. And just like the trees and trail stuff, the Ikenotaira backcountry is perhaps a bit better suited to beginners and intermediates than advanced riders.

For more information and the route map, click here.

Suginohara

Although some might argue, Sugi is home to Japan’s longest run at 8.5km, but it’s the park’s incredible horse riding that’s the highlight. You’ll find plenty of rails and other features to keep you interested for hours.

Suginohara, Myoko

Suginohara. 📷 Nathan Eden

Sugi offers backcountry access into the Mount Myoko crater and, with some steep depths and slopes, offers impressive views. There is the option of returning to the station or hiking into the crater and up to Myoko-san (with the help of an experienced guide, of course).

(Start: 40% Int: 40% Adv: 20%)

For more information and the route map, click here.

Monkfish Arai

Along with Madarao/Tangram, Lotte Arai is one of those resorts included or excluded when the boundaries of Myoko Kogen become blurred. What is certain is that he is quite close to Akakura and more than worthy of inclusion. The number one thing that separates Lotte Arai from many other Japanese ski resorts is skiing above the treeline in wide bowls. Off-piste action is permitted in avalanche controlled areas.

Lotte Arai, Myoko

Lotte Arai. 📷 Nathan Eden

The second point that might set Arai apart in the eyes of first-time visitors is the different aesthetic of the resort itself, sometimes referred to as Disneyland-esque due to its pastel-infused vibe. It probably won’t feel too much like authentic Japan, but has amazing facilities and Myoko Snowsports also operates a wing of their ski school, which means English-speaking families are well catered for.

(Start: 36% Int: 36% Adv: 21% Expert: 7%)

For more information, click here.

The best of the rest

Equally close in the opposite direction to Lotte Arai from Akakura are both Madarao Mountain Resort and Tangram Ski Circus. These two connected stations offer enough variety to comfortably call them a destination in themselves, but can also make for a very convenient day trip from the main areas of Myoko Kogen. The main attraction here is tree skiing, but there is also good side and back country.

The eclectic Seki Onsen is one for deep days and, though tiny, punches above its weight in terms of powder and steep tree skiing. Beyond that, a day trip to nearby Togakushi Ski Resort is best paired with a walk through the row of giant cedars on the way to the Upper Shrine of Togakushi Shrine. Kurohime can offer a gentle alternative for families, while further afield Nozawa Onsen is less than an hour away (depending on road conditions).

Getting to Myoko Kogen

Myoko Kogen is about 3.5 hours northwest of Tokyo, just inside Niigata Prefecture, slightly beyond Nagano Prefecture and its prefectural capital of the same name. Once in Tokyo, take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station or Ueno Station to Nagano City. Change here to the local train to Myoko Kogen Station.

Myoko Kogen Station

Myoko Kogen Station 📷 Nathan Eden

There are of course other options. Namely, Snow Shuttle, Chuo Taxi or car rental. Once in Myoko, if your hotel does not provide shuttles to the four main resorts each morning, there are buses, there are also buses to Madarao/Tangram, Lotte Arai, Seki Onsen and others. For drivers, if your hotel has parking, getting around by car offers the most freedom, allowing you to tailor your day to your wants, desires and snow conditions. Pro tip; take the Shinkansen to Nagano City and rent a car from there rather than Tokyo. Nagano rental companies will assume you are traveling to places like Myoko and will therefore include winter tires and the appropriate insurance.