Lifts & Terrain
Minowa Snow Resort
It won’t take you long to study the trail map at the Minowa Snow Resort, because it’s a small and rather simple ski resort with only 3 lifts. There are two sides to the ski area and two corresponding base areas. The base area at the Hotel de Premiere Minowa
has the beginner lift (B) above it, and above that is the A lift and steeper terrain (keep your expectations low if you’re looking for steeps!). The other side has the Rest Centre at its base and the long C lift which mostly services the intermediate terrain. In between the two sides (and outside the resort boundaries) are plenty of trees for powder fun!
Minowa Ski Season
The Minowa ski season is a long one and generally goes from mid November to early May, thanks to its relatively high elevation. Early season the top lift might not be open, the off-piste areas might not be adequately covered, and in case you’re there to look at the pretty little snow ghosts, the trees might not be adequately snow caked in early season either.
Minowa might not have quantity covered when it comes to lifts, but at least they’re of decent quality. The long C lift is a high speed quad chair with a hood for nasty weather days. The beginner lift is a high speed quad chair, and the top lift is a double that goes at a reasonable pace too.
Most of the Japanese ski resorts don’t like to cite snowfall statistics to boast about their abundant snowfall, and Minowa is no exception. Minowa seems to get plenty of snowfall and big weather, so snow volume is not problematic. With a top height of 1,500 metres (and the base at 1,050m), the elevation is high relative to some of the neighbouring resorts, which tends to keeps the snow in great condition. The aspect is OK with respect to snow quality with a mostly westerly aspect, and some of the sidecountry (to skiers’ left) has a more NW orientation.
Minowa Skiing For the Beginner
The main beginner runs sit conveniently above the ski-in ski-out hotel, so novices can easily flake out when they’ve had too much! More confident beginners can also ride the other two lifts and do loops around the resort.
For the Intermediate
Minowa has a great intermediate run with nice pitch that runs parallel to the C chair, so you can show off your perfect technique to everyone sitting on the chair. However once you’ve finished showboating you might get rather bored, because there are only two other red runs.
Minowa is unlikely to attract Olympic champions to the terrain park. If you’re lucky there might be a
box and rail set up.
Advanced Skiing Minowa – On-Piste
Apparently 20% of the piste terrain is for advanced riders, but with only two really short black runs, you’re left wondering if someone needs to go back to maths school. Both black runs are not particularly steep and are not groomed, so they could be good for intermediate riders wanting to master their off-piste skills.
To further limited the black piste terrain, one of the two runs was closed when we visited.
Off Piste Skiing and Riding
Advanced and expert riders will find all the fun in the off-piste areas, with the A chair providing the main focus of merriment. If visibility is a little low, bring your A game for the open areas in the zone under the chair, because the wind can create all sorts of interesting features to leap off or run into!
The tree skiing off the A chair is A for awesome! Drop in to skiers’ left of the chair or go down the cat track and drop in wherever takes your fancy! There are also plenty of other trees to explore.
For such a little ski resort, there is a fair bit of tree skiing available, although it would probably only take a few groups of gaijin to smash it up by lunchtime.
Minowa has phenomenal sidecountry, and for those with route finding experience or a guide, it’s super easy to access and to get back, particularly for skiers.
The skiers’ left side-country includes some very steep faces at the top, with the open slopes being rather avalanche prone. The skiers’ right sidecountry is topographically gifted and seems to go on forever, so you can just keep heading further out to find freshies. The ingress comes in via the Yokumuki Onsen ski area, which is no longer operational.
As is always the case with the backcountry, be in the know and/or take a guide, have buddies, and don your avalanche safety gear