Ani Ski Resort on Mt Moriyoshi in remote Akita Prefecture is an absolute ‘Japow’ classic that is still off the radar for most international skiers and boarders. It gets slammed with great snow, and offers plenty of great tree runs off the single gondola and bonus short double chair at the top.
So much snow, so few people! Ani Ski Resort, the last stop on our Tohoku Powder Line tour, delivers in spades on both fronts.
Unless you are drinking buddies with my plumber mate Trev, who has been everywhere, you have likely never heard of Ani. It is tucked away in Akita, the northwestern prefecture below Aomori at the top of Honshu. From the summit you can see Mt Iwate, Aomori’s highest peak.
Being that far north means the quantity and quality of the snow are not much different from what you get in western Hokkaido areas like Niseko and Rusutsu. But unlike those super popular areas there was absolutely nobody at Ani when we visited early March.
A top Japanese ski and mountain guide Yu Sato, who I skied with in Alts Bandai, Nekoma and Grandeco in the Aizu Region further south, had been raving to me about how good Ani was, so it was great to finally get here and ski it for ourselves.
Our timing was not so great, as at this mainly one gondola area the howling wind did us no favours by shutting that down. Fortunately my job running Snow Action, however crappily paid, has some perks – the Ani boys fired up a snowcat and drove us up to ski it anyway, arigatouō gozaimasu!
The ski options at Ani Ski Resort
Apart from the long top-to-bottom gondola there’s a short double chair at the top, accessing some awesome treeline powder runs, and one cruisy blue groomer. There’s a nearly 3km long cruisy green run groomer all the way down from the top of the gondola too, the Paradise Course, which on a nice day provides a scenic long trail over the whole 663m / 2,175′ vertical (almost exactly the same as top-to-bottom at Thredbo for Aussie readers). A couple of shorter ungroomed intermediate alternatives run off it along the way.
Another double chair at the base accesses a couple of beginner and intermediate level groomed runs, so there is something, albeit not much, for all standards.
At Ani Ski Resort it’s a cabins gondola, not a single ropeway (cable car/tram) lift like at Hakkoda or Asahidake. That makes for continuous skiing, without the frustration of waiting for each cable car and maybe getting stuck if one or more go full.
Obviously we were here for the trees and the powder, and while conditions weren’t as frosty perfect as the pictures we got a good scope of the terrain. There are some great tree lines, not too steep, but not too flat either, perfect for keeping your speed up in. Either side of the double chairlift line is good, or bomb straight down the cleared out lift line if no one has been there first. The top chair is only short, but it gives you lapping opportunities.
Guides for back and side country skiing at Ani Ski Resort
Good as they are, that only scratches the surface of the available options. The real action here is hitting the back and side country.
Friendly and knowledgeable local guides like Takuma Takasugi have plenty of options available. These include roadrunners skiing all the way out to roads around Mt Moriyoshi, which rises to 1453m above the top of the gondola. Taku’s wife usually does the road pick ups.
Taku grew up in Ani, and has been guiding here for the past 4 seasons. He speaks more than enough English to get by, and he charges as a skier, so if you are up for it I highly recommend his services – we had a great day with him.
Heading down past the double chair the going gets steeper and deeper in a ravine, but if with the guide there is a run plus walk out route you can follow.
There are some easy close hikes to the snow monster field above and beside the top station. In spring they run a snow cat trip from the base up to the monsters.
Off skier’s left from the top there’s a sweet side-country line down over a mini frozen waterfall, with a hike back up to the Paradise Course long groomer. If you were here for a few days you could do guided trips for a day or two and then get to know a few of the close lines that feed back into the base, but exploring more and doing roadrunners really opens things up and the guide costs are very reasonable.
Pre-book guiding via email to Taku email@example.com
Accommodation at Ani Ski Resort
To stay the closest hotels are the Hotel Fusch and Buna Hotel, both just a kilometre from the base with shuttle service available to the base and from Aniai station.
We stayed at the Fusch, where the lovely little owner prepares amazing feasts – way too much food actually, so we got her to do less, for example for breakfast scrambled eggs, salad and toast without the more Japanesy breakfast additions. Her merchant seaman husband has filled the hotel with exotic stuff picked up on his travels, so it’s quite an eccentric place. The rooms are small but warm and it’s great value.
There are some nice onsen hotels within 45 minutes drive, and more 30 minutes away in Aniai town near the railway station 30 minutes from the base.
Aprés ski is non existent at the resort or the hotels there and there’s not much else to do at all – come for the powder.
More Akita region properties can be found on booking.com – like at kukonadate, which works traveling between Tazawako and Ani for example.
Where is Ani Ski Resort?
Getting there actually quite easy, despite the apparent remoteness.
Fly into regional Oodate Noshiro Airport, 80 minutes drive away.
Or use the trains – take the Akita Shinkansen to Kakunodate, 144 minutes from Tokyo or 65 minutes from Sendai, then ride the famous little local train from Kakunodate to Ani on the Akita Nairiku line.
This is rated as one of Japan’s most scenic train trip, popular with internationals and locals in all seasons. We met a lady from Hong Kong who comes 4 times a year to see the different colours each season. It goes through a nearly 6km tunnel, and is quicker and easier than self-driving, but if you are one person can drive the car round and the rest of the crew can ride the train. Little kids will love it.
Tohoku Powder Line – Ani Ski Resort
Ani Ski Resort is the most northerly stop on the Tohoku Powder Line 3 resort classic Japow tour route.
For Geto Kogen check our feature here.
For Tazawako Ski Resort check our feature here.
The Ani resort site is here
For Akita Prefecture the official English site is here www.akitafan.com/en/