Shimamaki Cat Skiing
The finest Japan cat skiing and boarding! Shimamaki Snowcat Adventures on Mt Kariba offer “proper” cat skiing. Unlike most cat skiing in Japan outfits that operate out of abandoned ski resorts on small and mellow terrain, Shimamaki is more akin to a Canadian cat skiing experience whereby the trips are multi-day, the terrain is large and incorporates some steeps (trees and alpine), and there are qualified backcountry guides. The main difference compared to Canada cat skiing is that you score the powder that Hokkaido is famous for as well as a traditional Japanese experience. You can feast on powder up to your eye balls, feast on Japanese food, and stay in a traditional Japanese pension, and soak in the oceanside onsen.
Join Hokkaido Backcountry Club
for a two or four day trip to the dedicated snowcat skiing terrain. Stay overnight in a pension in the coastal village of Shimamaki which is famous for its abundant seafood. Experience the maritime culture of rural Japan while skiing some of the deepest powder Hokkaido has to offer! There has never been a Japan cat skiing experience like this.
The Hokkaido Backcountry Club cat skiing trips depart in the afternoon from your Niseko accommodation each Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
Where is the Hokkaido Backcountry Club Cat Skiing?
The rural ocean-side town of Shimamaki is located on the southwest coast of Hokkaido Japan. Shimamaki is 164km southwest of Sapporo and 96km southwest of Hirafu Niseko
. The drive from Niseko to Shimamaki along the wild coastline is rather spectacular, with many snow covered beaches and rocks.
The HBC cat skiing occurs in a remote area on the flanks of Mt Kariba. The snowcat staging area is about a 15 minute drive inland from the pension/lodge.
Transport between your Niseko accommodation
, the snowcat staging area, and the lodging is included in the package.
Shimamaki Cat Skiing Terrain
The terrain is a far cry from the mellow piste runs found with other Japanese cat skiing! This is the real deal with plenty of terrain variety including open alpine bowls, steep ridges, naturally gladed birch forests, and rolling meadows. And you only have to share all this tasty powder-ridden terrain with 11 other guests and your two guides.
Run elevations are up to 1,520 metres on Mt Kariba, and depending on conditions, each run averages about 400 vertical metres. If your group is of average speed, expect about 6 runs on the first day and about 10 runs on the second day.
You can check out our Hokkaido Backcountry Club cat skiing review
for more information.
Age & Ability
Guests must be 13 years of age or older (and accompanied by an adult if under 18). You should be a strong intermediate off-piste skier or snowboarder as a minimum, and have a good level of fitness.
Staying at this simple traditional hot spring lodge is a fantastic Japanese cultural experience. The pension lodge is the complete antithesis to much of the fancy western accommodation in Niseko, and the many westernised restaurants. The pension is located right opposite the ocean, and it’s quite a unique experience to combine the aromas of the onsen with that of the sea.
The rooms are simple, clean tatami rooms (ie sleeping on the floor in traditional Japanese style) with comfortable futons and space for up to three guests. Private lodging is available with a supplemental cost. Bathroom facilities are shared.
The segregated onsen (separate bath house for men and women) has an indoor and outdoor bath with natural hot spring waters that are renowned for their healing powers (although they can’t heal a case of powder addiction!). In the outdoor onsen, if you peak your head up a little, you can see the ocean!
Right on the coast....
...superb fresh Japanese cuisine....
..outdoor onsen overlooking the sea
Dinner is held traditional style in the tatami dining room, where you can indulge in a large range of beautiful Japanese fare (and your BYO drinks), with freshly caught seafood as a feature. If you really want to get into the Japanese culture, you can wear your provided Japanese pyjamas to dinner! For those who have difficulty eating fish for breakfast, you’ll be pleased to know that breakfast is western style!
The town of Shimamaki is very rural, but it does have a Seico-mart convenience store for stocking up on food and drinks, and also basic emergency services. Guest members should be prepared to bring necessary personal and sundry items, as Niseko is a 2-hour drive to the northeast and there are no other shops or services available in the area.
Simple tatami room
..a great Japanese experience...
..snow 'n' surf.
Tours depart Niseko on Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday
Starts with being picked up from your Niseko accommodation at about 1:00 pm, or you can meet at the HBC office in Niseko. Then it's a 2 hour drive southwest along the coastline of the Sea of Japan to the lodge at Shimamaki. Or there’s the potential to do a slight detour via the Seicomart for supplies such as beers, sake or Chu-His.
After you’ve had time to have a soak in the pension’s outdoor natural hot spring that overlooks the sea, you’ll be treated to a fabulous multi-course dinner that includes fresh seafood and other Hokkaido favourites. This evening will also include a briefing.
Starts with a western style breakfast at 7:00 am, and then on your way to the staging area by 8:30 am. After a cat ride up, you will ski or board your brains out! Typically the group skis no less than 6 runs or 2,400 metres vertical.
Lunch will be served in the snowcat during the 20 minute rides between runs, or at the day camp area (where there are basic bathroom facilities).
..with Hokkaido powder...
..superb terrain options.
Following the cat ride back down to the staging area it's a short 15 minute drive to the private ocean-side lodge.
Day 2 or 4:
Day 2 or 4 (depending on the duration of your package) is a repeat of Day 1 until 5:00 pm when you are loaded in the van and will have some snacks and drinks at a local restaurant in the town of Shimamaki.
For those traveling back to Niseko, we'll load up and start driving with drop-offs happening around 8:00 p.m. at your choice accommodation.
..with powder up to your eyeballs...
..and then more powder.
Price & Inclusions (2017-18)
- 2 days / 2 nights - ¥145,000/ person
- 4 days / 4 nights - Y280,000/person
- Additional days/nights - please enquire
- Single room upgrade - please enquire (subject to availability)
- Book the entire cat (max 12) from ¥520,000/day (cat only)
- Private group accommodation - please enquire
- Pick up from your Niseko accommodation and transfer to snowcat staging area
- 2 or 4 nights accommodation based on triple share
- Breakfast and Japanese-style dinner
- Daily lunch on each cat ski day
- 1 qualified guide for every 6 guests
- Use of beacon, probe, shovel & backpack
- Instruction on how to use safety gear
- 2 or 4 days of cat skiing
- Transfers between the cat ski staging area and lodge
- Return transfer to Niseko
HBC Terms & Conditions
HBC requires all fees at the time of booking for all trips if booking within 60 days of the trip. If booking in advance of 60 days we will take a 25% deposit. We will require the full amount if you are getting an early bird discount.
Full payment for Shimamaki Snowcats is due by October 15th.
HBC does not offer refunds on snowcat tours for weather related problems (extreme avalanche condition, torrential rain etc)
If HBC is asked to find a replacement for the cancelling guest, payments will be refunded once the seat is filled with another guest less an administration fee of 25,000yen
You may sell your seat to another guest, but in order for HBC not to charge you the 25,000yen administration fee, you must collect the money directly from the replacement guest. HBC will not be involved in the transaction.
For non-mechanized tours, cancellation between 60 and 30 days before the trip will result in a 50% cancellation fee. Cancellation within 30 days of the trip for any reason, including injury, will result in a 100% cancellation fee.
Heli bookings cancelled on our part for reasons of weather or safety qualify for a backup lift assisted tour at Rusutsu for 35,000yen. The remainder will be refunded. If you decide not to join this program, you will be refunded 20% of the total.
Runs not skied in our helicopter program qualify for a refund of 13,000 yen per run for 6-run guests and 8,580yen/ min for private charter guests.
Additional heli runs will be billed at 16,000 yen per run for 6-run guests and 8,580yen/ min for private charter guests.
Heli guests not flying or delayed due to weather will be offered a backcountry / resort / or slackcountry tour with the prospect of flying if the weather changes. Guests can also re-book for the following days if there is availability.
Minimum group numbers apply for all tours. In the case of low numbers, we will attempt to reschedule.
Included in all ski packages is the use of backpack, avalanche transceiver, probe, and shovel, as well as avalanche and helicopter safety briefings.
A set menu lunch and apres ski appetizers are included in all heli programs.
We recommend you purchase your own trip cancellation insurance in case you need to cancel for injury or any other unforseen circumstances.
You will receive an invoice email with payment instructions via international bank transfer or PayPal credit card. You do not need a PayPal membership to use this credit card service.
Due to service fees, our preferred method for larger transactions is international bank transfer. All bank transfer details are available on your electronic invoice.
If you choose to complete a bank transfer, please ignore any service charge listed on your invoice and only transfer the amount owing on the balance line of your invoice.
All customers are required to read a release of liability waiver and medical information form before departing. Failure to do so will result in cancellation of the tour without refund.
All participants under the age of 19 must also have a parent or legal guardian sign their release of liability. All minors must be at least 13 years of age and accompanied by a guardian or parent while on the tour.
All tour pricing listed on this website is based on a minimum group size of 3 people, unless otherwise stated. If your group is smaller or larger than 3, please ask about availability.
HBC reserves the right to cancel any tour at any time, typically due to inclement weather or unsafe backcountry travel conditions.
We ask members to be honest about their skill levels. If you have booked and paid for a trip with HBC, but your skills are insufficient for the trip you have booked, we will try to accommodate you with another program if possible but we will not issue refunds.