Lifts & Terrain
Appi Kogen Ski and Snowboard Terrain
The Appi Kogen Ski Resort receives abundant snowfall and considering the many runs to suit various ability levels, Happy Appi is very happy indeed!
The major strong point of Appi Japan is the groomed runs. The quality of the grooming is exceptional. The resort places a lot of pride in manicuring the slopes, and on Sundays they even re-groom the Shirakaba run at midday. The Appi Kogen Ski Resort is also shrewd enough to know when to stop grooming. Thankfully they don’t groom right out to the sides of the piste, and they leave quite a number of runs ungroomed.
At 282 hectares and 45km of slopes, Appi Japan is a medium to large resort by Japanese standards, but it’s rather small compared to Canada, USA or European ski resorts. As is somewhat typical of a Japanese ski resort, the runs at the top are much steeper than at the base. Black runs at the top transform into red (intermediate) runs which then change into green runs. The only problem is that in some areas (e.g. Second Slopes, Sailer) the lifts run the full vertical, so beginners can’t actually access the green runs without first going down a red or black run, and advanced skiers have to meander along painfully long green trails. The trail to the Sailer gondola in particular provides plenty of time to contemplate life.
Nevertheless, the terrain lay-out has a lot of positives. There aren’t any complete flat spots like you find at many other ski resorts in Japan, and the lifts are well placed such that you don’t have to skate, pole or hike. The only small exception is the short uphill slope to get to the Nishimori Lift.
In keeping with its very conservative and old school ethos, Appi Japan still has 2 runs (and 1 lift) that are for two plankers only. Not surprisingly, these runs tend to retain the corduroy a little longer.
The Appi Kogen Ski Resort has some very good lifts including a couple of gondolas and three detachable quads with hoods, but it also has lots of old double clunkers.
Appi can experience lift queues on the weekends at the base areas, but weekdays are usually absolutely fine.
Night skiing is available if you’re keen and are happy to freeze your bits off. Three lifts are open which service some parts of the beginner terrain.
During regular season, lift ticket configurations include a 5 hour pass, an 8 hour pass, or 2 or 3 days. Lift tickets are some of the most expensive in the country, but you get good value for money considering the infrastructure and facilities on offer. Discounts are available for those staying at Appi Kogen accommodation
, which includes any of the pensions. Kids 0-6 ski for free.
Appi Kogen Snow and Weather
It snows a lot at Appi Kogen, particularly in January and early February when the powder can be rather tasty. The statistic for the average snowfall per season is cited as 8 metres, but the true amount is more than that because Appi records the amount of snowfall each day after they’ve squashed it down with the grooming machine. Everyone else in the world measures snowfall as the amount of snow that falls, but Appi wants to be unique by under-reporting their volume of snowfall! Only in Japan!
The quality of the Appi powder is generally better than the Nagano and Niigata area, but not quite as dry as Hokkaido powder, although when we’ve visited on a couple of occasions the snow has been divine! The theory goes that the precipitation is picked up from the Sea of Japan, and as the storms pass by the Hachimantai area, much of the moisture is dropped on the snow monsters (the ice caked trees). By the time the weather hits Appi, the snow that falls is dry. Well that’s the theory anyway!
Many of the slopes are north facing, which keeps the snow in reasonable condition. Slopes to the lookers’ left are a little more east facing so the snow quality isn’t quite as good. Occasionally the lower elevations get icy and become Crappi Appi. And thankfully the snowmaking facilities are generally only used in December to get the season started.
Like other northern Tohoku ski resorts, Appi Kogen has a propensity for windy conditions which may close many of the lifts. Thankfully there are various alternative activities on offer.
Appi Skiing for the Beginner
The beginner terrain is fantastic. Unlike some other Japanese ski resorts where the green runs are dark green or the slopes are completely flat thereby requiring some skating, the pitch at Appi is absolutely perfect. The runs near the accommodation and resort centre are appropriately mellow, and confident beginners can tackle the Yamabato course.
The only downside for beginners is that some of the great terrain is inaccessible without first going down a black or red run. What were they thinking?!
Intermediate Ski and Board Terrain
Appi Kogen has some really good intermediate terrain, but once again the unusual layout of the lifts prevents intermediates from accessing a major proportion of the red runs unless they are prepared to go down a black run first. Thankfully some of these black runs are groomed so confident intermediates will enjoy schussing down these long runs. The skill-up zone is also lots of fun because it has various waves and banks.
Appi has dedicated areas for novice mogul skiers. Similarly Appi is a great place for intermediates to learn to ride powder, either on the sides of the runs or on the “light powder runs”. The latter are runs that are groomed in the early evening thereby leaving any powder that falls overnight.
Skiing and Boarding For the Kids
Appi is incredibly well suited to children. The little kiddie winks can learn to ski in the dedicated fenced off kids’ area. The area is serviced by magic carpets and attracts a small fee. The park also has lots of play features and other activities for kids.
The beginner terrain at the base area is also perfect for learning whilst Mum and Dad maintain a watchful eye. The terrain parks are also in this area; plenty of fun for the little kids (and the not-so-little kids).
For The Shredder
Like many other Japanese ski resorts, Appi has abandoned the half pipe concept and has retained only a couple of small terrain parks, neither of which have particularly big jumps (but large enough to scare inexperienced leapers). One terrain park has a small kicker, wave and box and is for beginners. The other park is for intermediates with a kicker, rail, and box.
Appi Advanced Skiing
Appi has some good on-piste black runs. The ungroomed runs off the Nishimori Lift have a pitch of up to 32 degrees and are a lot of fun on a powder day; join the queue for the 9am show down!
Another favourite is the long Second Sailer run that has a maximum pitch of 34 degrees. It’s bliss on a powder day or a mogul field if it hasn’t snowed in a while.
For advanced riders, the real fun can be found in the off-piste and slackcountry (see below).
Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain
There are no super steep slopes in-bounds at Appi. That being said, when the snow’s going off, most experts may be content just playing in the powder.
Appi Off-Piste Skiing
Unlike many other Japanese ski resorts that have realised that they need to relax the approach to off-piste skiing in order to attract the much needed international market, Appi has fervently remained old school. Off-piste skiing is taboo and there’s a risk you’ll lose your lift pass if pulled up by the patrollers. It’s really tempting to ski under the lift lines, especially under the Sailer quad, but if you did the locals would probably have a heart attack!
Nevertheless it is possible to ski and snowboard off-piste with lots of discretion. The trees aren’t deciduous so it’s possible to hide amongst the foliage, and if you disguise yourself as the white rabbit (the logo of Appi winter) then the world is your oyster! It’s almost advantageous that off-piste skiing is banned at Appi because very few people go in there to take your freshies. There are lots of good tree skiing opportunities at Appi with the Nishimori area being a particular highlight.
Going out of bounds is obviously frowned upon too. The Nishimori area has superb slackcountry (aka side-country) options amongst the beech trees whereby no hiking is required to get back into the ski resort (although hiking in could be advantageous). Once again the chances of revelling in the steep and deep are very high, and the powder is this area is absolutely superb due to the aspect and elevation!
Mt Nishimori also has some great backcountry skiing and boarding.
Appi Kogen Ski Resort Season
Appi Japan enjoys a very long season from early December to early May as a result of the bountiful snowfall, the north facing slopes, and careful grooming. The best powder is on offer in January and early February. If you prefer sunny days go to Appi in March, but be aware that from the end of the March onwards, some parts of the resort are closed and the activities and transport options scale back significantly.
See the when to ski in Japan
page for general information on the pros and cons of travelling to Japan at different times of the season.