Lifts & Terrain
Tomamu Skiing and Snowboarding
Tomamu Resort has a variety of piste terrain suitable for most levels of riders except experts (as is generally the case in Japan). The face above the sky-scraping towers (lookers’ right) is most suited to intermediates, whilst the area above the resort center serviced by the gondola (lookers’ left) has pistes for a range of abilities as well as a great terrain park and a kids-specific play area.
Whilst some other ski resorts in Japan ban off-piste and tree skiing, Tomamu's jewel-in-the-crown is the permission to ski off-piste amongst the well gladed trees near the Powder Express Lift and at Powder Heaven. You can get in amongst the Hokkaido powder instead of being teased by it from afar. The only downside of the powder program is that you have to complete a consent form each day, and wear a helmet and armband, which has to be returned every afternoon. At least it’s better than in years gone by when you had to wear a poxy-looking bib!
Gone are some of the clunky old pair lifts and the suicide single chair at Tomamu. Tomamu has streamlined the lift operations and now most of the terrain is serviced by express quad chairs (the hoods are a god-send on those foul weather days) and a 4-person gondola (or gondora as the Japanese like to call them!).
Tomamu Snow and Weather
Temperatures at Tomamu remain fairly low with an average of minus 10 degrees celsius during winter (during January it’s often bitterly cold), so the Tomamu snow falls light and dry. One of the negatives of the resort is that most of the slopes within the resort face south to southeast. After a few fine days, the off-piste slopes can become a bit sun baked.
Tomamu Resort has snowmaking guns to supplement the natural snow cover on some of the main trails.
Tomamu Ski Terrain for the Beginner
The bottom third of the vertical of the mountain is very gentle so there are various easy slopes on which beginners can practise. Most of the bunny slopes are located near the Resort Center and above the Tower Hotel, and for more adventurous beginners there is a winding slope that travels from the top of the gondola down to the base.
Intermediate Ski and Board Terrain
The mountain has 13 good intermediate groomed runs (some are very short), which are just adequate to keep an intermediate rider entertained for a decent while. For intermediates wanting to experiment off-piste there are lots of spots where they can dabble in the powder without being too far away from the safety of the groomer.
For The Shredder
The resort generally has a very well maintained quarter-pipe, and a couple of small terrain parks with a few kickers, rails and boxes.
Tomamu Skiing On-Piste - Advanced
Tomamu has a handful of black courses (ie runs) that are ungroomed and often develop into bump runs. But you don’t come all the way to Tomamu to waste your time on these runs!
Off Piste Skiing Tomamu
The real joys for advanced riders are the off-piste areas which are absolutely awesome. Generally these have well gladed trees as well as some bamboo to add some fun obstacles. In a few places the trees are tight but the powder rewards are worth the effort of having to do all those turns.
Tomamu rates all their off-piste areas as "expert", although considering none of the areas are palm-sweatingly steep and there are no drop-offs or cornices, they are more aptly rated as advanced.
In order to ride in the designated off-piste areas, riders need to register at the desk in the Resort Center. Requirements include signing a waiver, wearing a helmet, having a fully charged and operational mobile phone, and wearing an armband. You might also have to listen to a lecture about skiing and snowboarding safely. All off-piste riders have to return their armbands by 3:30pm each day, otherwise the patrollers will start a full scale search effort. OK maybe they’ll ring your mobile phone first, but to say they’d be a little pissed if you were sitting in the onsen at 4pm would be an understatement!
Sidecountry & Backcountry
Whilst the snow within the resort is sometimes sun-baked, there is very good news for powder hounds outside of the resort boundaries. The patrollers may not be happy about you entering these areas, but the temptation for pristine powder amongst the trees may be too great. You can often get fresh tracks in here days after a snow fall, and the snow stays very dry. You may only get about 150-200m of vertical, but it's worth it just for the beautiful powder.
Those with skins or snowshoes can continue on down to the valley floor – absolute bliss! The Tomamu backcountry is a major highlight of the area!
There are also frontside side-country opportunities to the skiers' right of the resort (in and around the old ski area), but scope your line well or you may unwittingly end up down at the train station.