With some of the best vertical and longest runs Japan has to offer, Myoko also enjoys the deepest powder snow due to its proximity to the Sea of Japan, only 20 miles away.
Myoko Kogen is made up of not one, but three ski resorts; Akakura, Suginohara and Ikenotaira. Then you can also throw in the tiny powder-trap that is Seki Onsen, and the freeride mountain at Arai, both of which are close by and easily accessible. Truly, this is Japan's ski heartland - a region famed for its abundant snowfall and the on-mountain experience cannot be bettered. Myoko is an absolute haven for powder junkies with gladed slopes (the tree-skiing policy is relaxed), off-piste riding (excellent guiding is available) and long, long runs (indeed, the longest in Japan at over 8km).
You base yourself in charming, traditional Akakura Onsen - a ski village that resolutely retains its Japanese character, with an authentic main street which has a mix of traditional and new buildings and great restaurants. This is also a region well known for its rich history, culture and traditional Japanese onsens.
Skiing in Myoko Kogen
The central resort of Myoko Akakura is actually two interconnected areas, with the main ski village at its base. The resort is sizeable, varied and experts can be kept happy in amongst the powder or out in the backcountry. Suginohara is well worth a day, with its impressive lift infrastructure and long, perfectly groomed runs. Ikenotaira Onsen is also popular with intermediates, and has some decent tree skiing, along with a terrain park and half pipe. A fourth option is Seki Onsen, which is tiny and only has a couple of creaky old lifts…yet it’s well worth the trip after a big dump of snow, as it’s got some outrageous tree skiing, with a few pleasingly-steep pitches.
Options are bewilderingly numerous, the powder snow is bottomless and, therefore, there is something for everyone in Myoko. Different Snow have created a definitive ski guide to the region, offering a description of each resort and pragmatic advice on how to get between the resorts. We’ll send you this ‘How To…’ guide with your travel documents.
Myoko remains largely a Japanese resort (popular at weekends) and the sparsity of foreigners is advantageous if you want to head off-piste – fresh tracks galore! Getting in amongst the trees is permitted at most of the ski resorts, and they are similarly enlightened when it comes to backcountry skiing. The main resort - Akakura Kanko - has some of the steepest terrain and also great tree skiing. There are gates at the top for accessing backcountry, and then you can hike to the top of Myoko-san (2,454m) and ski right back to the resort. Suginohara has some awesome side and backcountry, but be prepared to do some walking. However, our little ace-up-the-sleeve is Seki Onsen – a bargain-basement, no frills tiny resort with only two lifts and virtually no grooming. When the powder is deep, there is no better secret corner of Japan!
Each of the ski resorts have a few black runs, most of which are left ungroomed, and its fair to say that the pitch on Myoko mountain can be a little more interesting than elsewhere in Japan. However, most expert skiers base themselves in the region to explore the side and backcountry.
The grooming is immaculate and with many wide, long runs intermediates often find themselves in carvers' heaven. This is a region made for cruising - the runs over near the Akakura Kanko Hotel and then the truly epic runs in Suginohara being the stand out attractions. Indeed, this is where you'll find Japan's longest continuous ski run - 8.5 kilometers. I did it top-to-bottom in one go and the memory of the thigh burn still lives with me!
Akakura actually has some great terrain for beginners and they have one of Japan's best English-speaking ski schools operating in the village. And then - for progression - Ikenotaira Onsen resort holds no nasty surprises and has some of the widest, gentlest pistes we've ever seen.
Getting between the linked resorts of Akakura Kanko and Akakura Onsen is via a couple of different traverses, which can be difficult to locate and snowboarders may find one of these routes a bit flat. Other than that, nothing really to fear in the Myoko region.
The village of Akakura Onsen is where you'll stay...and play. And it's a charming little place, not twee or contrived in any way - just utterly authentic. Along the Main Street you'll find several restaurants (cheap and cheerful izakayas are the most prevalent; wonderful places to mingle with new friends and sample lots of Japanese treats) - all good - and one or two bars. This is not the place for rowdy partying and the Japanese guests tend to be early-to-bed...but if you want some great grub, several cheeky sake's and enjoy a friendly, 'local' vibe - then this village may be right up your street.
But this is all after the mandatory après activity....whcih is to take a soak in one of the many onsens, of which there will invariably be one in your hotel. That is to say, every accommodation in Akakura has its own onsen and it is almost compulsory to use it after a long day on the mountain.
Myoko works well for families - largely because it has that local atmosphere that kids respond to. It's welcoming. There’s are several ski-in ski-out hotels in Akakura Onsen, and the village is easy, safe and friendly - a great environment for kids. The restaurants usually have English menus, with Western options (pizza, pasta, burgers...etc) and are used to families. And then there is the ski school - as we said, one of the best in Japan! Ski instructors are Western, the lessons are accessible and they genuinely seem to love kids!