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Powder Odyssey - chase the powder in Northern Honshu

Ishiuchi Maruyama
Ishiuchi Maruyama
Ishiuchi Maruyama
Ishiuchi Maruyama
Ishiuchi Maruyama
Ishiuchi Maruyama
Ishiuchi has lots of intermediate runs
Ishiuchi has lots of intermediate runs
Terrain park fun
Terrain park fun
Lots of wide open slopes
Lots of wide open slopes
Ishiuchi Maruyama is connected to Gala Yuzawa
Ishiuchi Maruyama is connected to Gala Yuzawa
The resort has an unusual lift layout
The resort has an unusual lift layout
Ishiuchi Ski Resort
Ishiuchi Ski Resort
The slopes are lined with lots of restaurants
The slopes are lined with lots of restaurants
Various slopeside accommodations
Various slopeside accommodations
Skiing Ishiuchi
Skiing Ishiuchi
There are lots of ski resorts in the area
There are lots of ski resorts in the area
Slopeside restaurant
Slopeside restaurant
Mid-mountain restaurant
Mid-mountain restaurant
That's one ugly building!
That's one ugly building!

Ishiuchi

Ishiuchi Maruyama

Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort is a bit of a mouthful so most people just refer to it as Ishiuchi, which is pronounced something like “itchy oochy”!

Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort is inter-connected with Gala Yuzawa, and the two ski resorts are incredibly different. Gala Yuzawa is a big commercial ski resort that was purpose built during the prosperous bubble era, whereas Ishiuchi has grown organically. Ishiuchi Maruyama has retained the soul of skiing in Japan and it has lots of little independently run hotels, restaurants and shops that line the slopes at the three base areas. Some might say that Ishiuchi Maruyama is charming, whilst others might say it’s just plain rundown, especially compared to Gala Yuzawa.

Despite it actually being part of Minami Uonuma city, Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort can be considered one of the Yuzawa ski resorts because it’s only 5km from the Echigo Yuzawa train station (the hub of Yuzawa).

Interconnected with Gala Yuzawa

The top of Ishiuchi is connected via the slopes with Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort to the south, which in turn is connected to Yuzawa Kogen. Whilst this is a far cry from Trois Vallees of France, the three ski areas provide a very large area to explore (by Japanese standards).

On weekends, the crowds descend on the three ski areas due to the ease of accessibility from Tokyo, although Ishiuchi tends to be much quieter than Gala Yuzawa.

Ishiuchi Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Even by itself, the Ishiuchi Maruyama ski area is reasonably large for a Japan resort, with the terrain sprawling across three main base areas (Hatsukaishi, Chuo and Kanko). Ishiuchi has 24 courses, 664 metres of vertical drop (256 – 920m), and 15 lifts (including 5 quad chairs).

The piste terrain mostly consists of cruisy beginner and intermediate runs, and with so many restaurants lining the slopes, you don’t have to schuss very far before you can take another pit stop. Another strength of Ishiuchi is the terrain parks, which include a half pipe or two.

Ishiuchi Maruyama has some advanced rated runs, including a couple that hit 35 degrees for a moment, although other than some bumps there’s nothing particularly challenging about these runs. Unfortunately Ishiuchi isn’t renowned for its off-piste riding and some tasty looking areas are blocked off.

Where is Ishiuchi Maruyama?

The Hatsuka Ishi base is the closest to Yuzawa, only 5km north of Yuzawa and the Echigo Yuzawa train station. The central or Chuo area is a little further along, and then Kanko is further north again. Part of the Minami Uonuma city, Ishiuchi is 200km from Tokyo in the Niigata Prefecture.

The little Ishiuchi train station (Joetsu line) is only 2km from the Kanko base area, but most people travel to Ishiuchi Maruyama from Tokyo by catching the Shinkansen to Echigo Yuzawa station (80-85 minutes) and then one of the free buses to the Hatsukaishi or Chuo base (10-15 minutes - east exit). Or for overnight guests, some of the Ishiuchi hotels offer complimentary shuttles to and from Echigo Yuzawa.

Ishiuchi Accommodation

It’s easy enough to stay in one of the Yuzawa hotels and enjoy the benefits of staying in a town, and take a bus to the ski resort.

Yuzawa Hotel Listings

Or if you want to stay right near the slopes there are lots of Ishiuchi accommodation options, including many convenient ski-in ski-out lodgings. Many of the Ishiuchi hotels and Japanese inns are reasonably inexpensive, and there are also affordable pensions and lodges, and a few self-contained options.

Ishiuchi Accommodation Listings

Facilities

Rather than having a big sterile day lodge with an equally soulless cafeteria, most of the ski resort facilities are small and privately owned. The slopes of the base areas are lined with collections of little cafes and restaurants, and funny little ski rental shops. The amenities are generally not particularly modern but they’re sort of quaint.

Summary of Pros and Cons of Ishiuchi Ski Resort

Pros

  • Ishiuchi is very easily accessed from Tokyo, so it’s ideal for a day trip or a weekend getaway from Tokyo (but you’re unlikely to find completely uncrowded slopes).
  • The slopes are perfect for those who like cruisy runs and knowing that the next hot chocolate (or atsukan) stop is never far away.
  • The terrain parks are reasonably good.
  • The cute little villages provide a lovely authentic Japanese experience, although many of the buildings and restaurants are rather ramshackle.

Cons

  • The ski area has a mish mash of lifts that are laid out rather poorly.
  • The low elevation of the resort can impact on the snow quality when temperatures are marginal.
  • If you’re a bit itchy for some off-piste powder, Ishiuchi probably isn’t the best Japan ski resort for you.

Tours and Packages That Might Visit Ishiuchi

Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours
Snowcountry Progression Packages DETAILS
GUIDED PROGRESSION PACKAGES
2 Nights | 2 Days Guided Instruction
From price based on twin/double-share room mid-week (Sunday night through to Thursday night) and is based on a 2-day/night package.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 459
Book by July 31, 2016 and lock in last years rates
Ability: Intermediate, Strong Intermediate
Improve your skiing & snowboarding skills with a qualified instructor whilst visiting some of Japan's fabulous ski areas (11 to choose from) in the Echigo-Yuzawa region. This package is ideally suited to low intermediate and above skiers and boarders who want to improve skills on the piste & in powder.
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See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit Ishiuchi here