We picked Myoko-Kogen as our ski destination this year mainly because we patronise Tomi Sushi a lot and their walls are filled with posters of monster snow capped mountains advertising Myoko-Kogen. And we were not disappointed! Snow was definitely not an issue, the slopes were dusted with new powder snow everyday!
Myoko-Kogen is made up of 4 ski areas: Suginosawa, Ikenotaira, Akakura Kanko & Akakura Onsen. The last 2 are connected by a small trail and there is a free shuttle bus linking each mountain. You can buy separate lift passes for each, a Big-4 pass for all or the Shin-Akakura Onsen pass which gives access to the last 2 mountains. We skied 3 days in Shin-Akakura and 1 day in Suginosawa. Though it looks close on the map, the shuttle bus took 30min to get to Suginosawa from Akakura Onsen, so set off early to make sure you have enough time to ski. Also, most of the bus time tables are in Japanese, it’s important to check the route as well as the correct departure and arrival venues. The shuttle bus we took went on a 15min loop around town, went back to the same place where we boarded before heading off to Suginosawa! At least we had a seat!
Most of the slopes are beginner to intermediate level – however Akakura Onsen is home to the steepest ski run in central Japan “The Wall” at 38° and getting down is a real challenge for an intermediate skier like me. H on the other hand is an expert and conquered it like a pro. The runs are generally very wide and on a clear sunny day, the 8.5km trip down the longest ski run in Japan on Suginohara’s mountain is extremely rewarding – the views are amazing!
Akakura Onsen is where the main village is, so that is the best bet for restaurants and hotels. Getting a hotel was not easy – I think alot of the hotels open their doors to students on school ski holidays so book early to secure something decent. Food wise I found the village offerings were rather basic when compared to our trip last year to Nozawa Onsen.
Take the Shinkansen Asama from Tokyo to Nagano (90min) and change to a local JR line (JR Shinetsu) to Myoko-Kogen (40min). Train timings can be found at Hyperdia and it’s best to plan the best timings to avoid having to make more than 1 transfer.
Food is generally very basic and it is not that expensive to fill your stomach. Most places don’t speak much English, but should have an English menu. The point and order method always worked for us. A few things we enjoyed were Koyama’s yakiniku don, the udon at Udon no Fu, and the 2 crêperies we enjoyed were Parfait Crepe and Gelato Okura. Don’t forget to try the home made ice cream at Gelato Okura as well… Oishi!!
Where we stayed
We stayed at Refre Akakura, who only recently opened their doors this season. We had to book through Japan Snow Access and according to them, the Refre used to be a resort house of one of the biggest foodstuff company, but closed the business last season. They are off the main road and having only 9 rooms here guarantees that it is very quiet. There are indoor and outdoor onsens which were great if you didn’t managed to book one of the en-suite rooms. Their Japanese breakfast was a great way to fuel up for the day and their keiseki dinner though not extravagant was very warm and heartfelt. Yoshi and Reika were extremely helpful and friendly and made our stay very enjoyable. There is a short cut up the slope to get on the run down to the Chuo Triple lifts. There were 2 days where it snowed so much in the day that it was possible to ski right back down the slope to our front door! Ski in but not ski out!
¥9,400 per person a night for the combination en-suite room.
549-23 Akakura, Myoko-shi, Niigata-ken