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Powder Odyssey - chase the powder in Northern Honshu

Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita
Ani Ski Resort Akita

Ani

Ani Ski Resort is situated in a wonderfully remote spot on Mt Moriyoshi in the Akita Prefecture. It is ideal for powder hounds that have plenty of time on their hands to get there and score a couple of days of Japow. Ani Ski Resort is just small and has some easily sourced off-piste tree skiing, but the main event is the sidecountry and backcountry that requires some route-finding expertise or a guide.

Summary of Pros and Cons of Ani Akita

Pros
  • Ani is renowned for getting absolutely dumped on with snow.
  • Ani Ski Resort is delightfully off the beaten track when it comes to Japanese ski resorts.
  • There is some easy tree skiing amongst widely spaced beech trees, and some slightly steeper tree skiing if you venture further afield.
  • Lift tickets and accommodation are cheap.
Cons
  • It’s not part of a collection of neighbouring ski resorts and it takes considerable effort to get to Ani. The upside is that not many other powder hounds will make the pilgrimage.
  • The ski area (in-bounds) is small.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
  • Ani scores big storms that bring an abundance of Japow but it can also get absolutely buffeted by big winds that shut down the gondola. Don’t expect much in the way of fine weather during winter, so don’t expect to see the pretty views across to the Sea of Japan unless you go in spring (and you’d much rather a Japanuary showdown of powder!).
  • Ani is in the middle of nowhere so there’s nothing to do except chase powder.

Ani Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Like most of the Akita ski resorts, Ani is small when it comes to piste skiing. It has 5 courses, 663m of vertical (537-1200), and 3 lifts. A gondola runs the full vertical of the ski area, and there is a double chair at the base and another double chair at the top off to the side of the gondola (or gondora as the Japanese like to call them).

Of the handful of runs, 3 are for beginners and 2 are rated for intermediates; one of which has a few small branches off it. There are no advanced courses and with a maximum gradient of only 28 degrees on the intermediate runs, there’s nothing steep on-piste at Ani Ski Resort. The middle section of the ski area has a flat spot, which is particularly painful for slow-pokes on a powder day.

Easy to find off-piste skiing is off the top chair and the lower chair to a lesser degree, and parts of the gondola also provide readily found tree skiing. The terrain below the double chair requires some decent nous when it comes to route finding because it gets pretty steep and there’s a deep gorge. Skiers’ left sidecountry offers some slightly pitchier terrain too, but it’s not fully lift accessed and a degree of egress hiking is required.

There are a couple of English speaking guides who can help you explore the backcountry above the ski area (the peak of Mt Moriyoshi is 250m vertical above the resort) and slackcountry, and there are various sneaky road runs if you’ve got a car pick up arranged.

Ani Snow

Ani is known for its abundance of snow monsters which is somewhat indicative of the type of snow storms it gets: lots of snow; slightly wet coastal snow; and ferocious winds. Ani has good elevation and whilst the slopes are mostly southwest facing, aspect doesn’t have much influence on the snow quality in winter when the sun barely shines.

Where is Ani?

Ani has an isolated location in Kitaakita (north Akita) in the northern part of the Akita Prefecture in the Tohoku region of Honshu. Ani Ski Resort is 88km northeast of Akita City and 114km northwest of Morioka in the Iwate Prefecture. “Nearby” ski areas include:

  • Tazawako – 72km to the southeast
  • Appi Kogen – 126km to the east
  • Hakkoda – 132km to the northeast
  • Aomori Spring – 139km to the north

  • Having a rental car is ideal and the telephone number for GPS navigation is 0186-82-3311. It’s 76km from the Towada IC on the Tohoku Expressway (2 hours) or 2.5 hours from the Morioka IC.

    Or it is possible to get there via public transport. Catch the train from Tokyo on the Akita Shinkansen to Kakunodate station, and then there is a very scenic local train to the Aniai station. From there, your Ani hotel can pick you up (20 minute drive).

    Ani Accommodation

    There are only a couple of Ani accommodation options near the ski resort. Hotel Fusch is 1km from Ani ski resort, and the hosts provide shuttles to/from the ski resort (and the nearest train station). The simple little hotel has mostly western style rooms, some with a bathroom, and a small number of Japanese tatami rooms. It’s very cheap even with half board.

    Aninomori Buna Hotel is another basic hotel near Ani that also offers shuttles to the ski area.

    Facilities & Services

    The usual gamut of services and facilities are offered including lessons (in Japanese), antiquated equipment rentals, a cafeteria, lockers and small retail shop. During spring the resort offers a snowcat service for tourists to see the snow monsters and views.