Hachimantai Japan

Keywords: hachimantai, ski, resort, japan, shimokura, panorama, iwate,
Description: The Hachimantai ski resort is located in northern Honshu Japan in Iwate; a little gem of a ski area for powder hounds.

Hachimantai Ski Resort consists of two ski areas that share a common lift ticket. Hachimantai Resort Panorama and Hachimantai Resort Shimokura are not interconnected via the slopes, but are linked via a 5-minute free shuttle bus service.

For powder hounds, Hachimantai Shimokura is worthy of hitting up for a day of fresh powder lines, as an adjunct to visiting the various other ski areas around Morioka.

The Hachimantai Shimokura Ski Resort is rather small with only 7 courses (marked trails), 550 metres of vertical, and 3 lifts; 1 triple chair and 2 double chairs. All 3 chair lifts are fixed grip but they run at a decent pace.

Despite the trail stats being 30% beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% advanced, and the bottom lift servicing a green run, intermediate and advanced riders largely frequent this ski resort. One black run off the top lift, the Wall of Shimokura, has a maximum gradient of 37 degrees (for a nano-second!) and due to low skier traffic it moguls up slowly.

Like most Japanese ski resorts, advanced riders will want to play in the trees, and like most non-westernised Honshu ski resorts, it’s not (officially) permitted. It’s easy enough to discretely ride the short off-piste tree runs on the skiers’ left of the lifts. The trees are reasonably widely spaced and there are lots of pillows, tree forks, and other natural features to hit or leap off. The best off-piste & side-country terrain is to the skiers’ right of the lifts, but it’s rather difficult to get to it in a clandestine manner without being noticed by a whistle blowing party pooper.

On weekdays you might only have to share the ski resort with a handful of army dudes, and generally you don’t have to share the off-piste with anyone except your powder buddies.

The Panorama side of the Hachimantai Resort is slightly bigger with 14 courses, 590 metres of vertical and 4 lifts, including a high speed quad chair lift. Even though the trail stats indicate a spread of terrain for different ability levels (40% beginner, 40% intermediate and 20% advanced), the terrain is very gentle and is best suited to beginners and low-end intermediates. The red and black rated runs are best described as beginner and gentle intermediate runs at best. As an indication, the steepest point of the “steepest” run is only 20 degrees.

Many of the Japanese ski resorts don’t get too excited about maintaining accurate snowfall stats to aid with marketing BS, and the Hachimantai ski resort would be no exception. The resort possibly gets around 7 metres of snow on average per season, and importantly the quality of it is usually excellent. Many of the Iwate ski resorts are renowned for the amazing powder which they call “aspirin snow”, which is nearly as silly as describing powder as “champagne” (which is yellow!). And to make the aspirin even better, the resort is largely north facing so the powder generally stays in super-aspirin condition! And wait there’s more…. pretty much no one skis in the trees so the powder is highly likely to be untracked and bottomless.

The base areas of the two parts of Hachimantai Resort are 3km apart by road. The Hachimantai Resort sits on the flanks of the imposing Mt Iwate (which shows off on fine days), and the Hachimantai Resort Shimokura Ski Area is 15km west of the town of Hachimantai in the Iwate Prefecture. Hachimantai Resort is 47km northwest of the city of Morioka and the Morioka Shinkansen station (which is 544km north of Tokyo ).

It’s possible to get there from Tokyo by catching the Tohoku Shinkansen (bullet train) to Morioka which only takes 130-180 minutes. From Morioka station, there are buses to Hachimantai Onsenkyo, but the public transport systems are not really adequate to travel around the area. Having a car is the best way to get to the resort and your accommodation and to explore the various ski resorts in the region. Otherwise going on a multi-resort tour such as the Powder Odyssey Tour or Japan Explorer Tour which includes transport, is a fabulous way to get the most out of the Iwate ski resorts.

There are various other ski resorts near Morioka on the flanks of the Mount Iwate volcano. Some are destination resorts (e.g. Appi Kogen ) whilst others are best suited to a one day powder fix. The weather around the region can be very fickle and the big snow storms are usually accompanied by big winds, but considering that Mt Iwate is a big bertha, the weather can vary from one resort to another (Hachimantai ski resort is probably a good place to visit on windy days versus Appi Kogen which is more exposed). One of the advantages of being on the Powder Odyssey Tour is that the guides can assist in chasing the pow at the resort with the best conditions.

Appi Kogen is 26km by road to the north of Hachimantai Ski Resort, whilst Shizukuishi is south of Hachimantai on a 57km road that travels around Mt Iwate. Geto Kogen is also in the region.

There is no on-mountain accommodation but there are various Hachimantai hotels nearby or you can stay at Appi Kogen accommodation or the flagship Shizukuishi Prince Hotel .

The Shimokura ski resort has one building at the base that houses the amenities for skiers and snowboarders. These include basic ski and snowboard rentals, a simple retail shop, lockers, and a little café that sells Canadian style cinnamon buns – the aroma lures you in! They have a “Canadian” cafeteria and bakery upstairs and you could be forgiven for thinking they might sell poutine or other typical Canadian ski resort food. Alas they just trick you – the fare is definitely Japanese.

The Panorama ski area has reasonably good ski resort facilities and also offers family friendly activities such as tobogganing, snow tubing, banana boating and snowmobiling.

  • The Hachimantai snow quality is often divine.
  • The Hachimantai ski resort is well and truly off the beaten path of Japanese ski resorts that foreigners usually visit, so cultural experiences are high on the agenda, and there are only trifling gaijin to steal your fresh powder.
  • The ski resort is generally uninhabited, especially on weekdays, and the few locals and army dudes aren’t likely to head into the trees.
  • Hachimantai Shimokura probably only has enough terrain for one day, yet there are various other ski resorts near Morioka that have plentiful offerings for powder hounds.
  • The region has lots of great onsens for a soak after a big day of pow.
  • The terrain size at both ski areas is rather small and with the exception of beginners, it’s really only good for a one hour visit if you stay on-piste or one day if you head off-piste at Shimokura.
  • If the patrollers (the powder police) are guarding the terrain off the top lift to the skiers’ right, it limits the off-piste terrain even further.
  • It’s unlikely that many foreigners (with the exception of Misawa air base folks) would visit the mellow Panorama ski area for beginners. Hachimantai doesn’t cater well for your average English-speaking beginner.
  • There are no ski-in ski-out accommodation options, day spas, or shops selling bling bling gear (if that’s your thing!).

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