Arai ski resort, Japan’s powder legend near Myoko, has been closed for 10 years. But thanks to Korea’s Lotte Group taking over it is back for 2017-18 totally revamped as the sensational new Lotte Arai Resort.
Driving past Arai on our way to Myoko late last February I was blown away by the terrain on offer at this ski area that just appeared almost next to the freeway. So much snow, so few trees, and magnificent untouched bowls begging to be skied. It didn’t look like anywhere else in Japan I had ever skied, so imagine my disappointment when my Niigata Tourism hosts told me it was closed.
Was closed. Not anymore! The lifts were mothballed for the past 10 years, with maintenance but no skiing. Then Korea’s #1 hotel company, Lotte Hotels & Resorts, purchased the area in 2015 and set about turning Arai into the premier destination that the mountain’s unique features always destined it to be.
Their stated goal is to turn Arai ski resort into “Asia’s best mountain resort”, while coexisting with the natural environment.
The raw quality of the mountain gives them a good start, 951m vertical off the lifts plus a hike up the ridge to Mt Ohkenashi and Mt Kokenashi adds 150m to that, around and above a whole zone of avalanche controlled bowl terrain with a north easterly aspect that gets and holds a lot of great snow.
Being first range in from the Sea of Japan means the snow can be heavier than further inland, and it gets socked in, but it also means seriously ridiculous quantities of powder.
Japanese freeride friends of mine who skied it back in the day rate it very highly, and are equally excited it’s back.
There are some long blue and green trails, and a perfect beginner and kid’s area out front of the hotel base, but it’s the powder opportunities in unusually treeless terrain that stand out as the big drawcard for most.
Lotte is a company that doesn’t do things by halves – they are on a mission to go global, with an increasing portfolio of outstanding properties, including their Moscow and New York Palace Hotels. Back home their Signiel Seoul tower is a landmark.
So you can expect a top class experience at their ski in/ski out base hotel complex, which features 257 rooms across two wings, featuring either Deluxe or Superior quality.
Other facilities include a superb spa and indoor/outdoor onsen and pools complex, Japanese, Soba, and Italian restaurants, a bakery, library cafe, bars and lounges.
Non-ski family orientated activities include zip line, snow tubing and a climbing wall. The base has a food court, Salomon Station rental outlet, and there’s another food court at the gondola top station.
Myoko Snowsports, run by Falls Creek identity Tom Langtry and his Japanese wife Nozomi, are in charge of the new International Snow Sports School, with a full range of programs.
If staying at the base is out of your budget then Joetsu City is just down the road with plenty of accommodation, and there will be lots of day trip options from Myoko as the word spreads.
In a nutshell, the new Lotte Arai Resort is the most exciting development in Japanese skiing for many years, be among the first to check out in winter 2017/18.
Getting to Arai is simple – take the Hakutaka shinkansen 112 minutes to Joetsu Myoko from Tokyo, then it’s only 20 minutes taxi or free resort shuttle to Arai. Also it’s only 30 minutes from Myoko Akakura village.
Snow Sports School www.myokosnowsports.com
Packages & info www.skijapan.com www.deeppowdertours.com
Arai snow facts:
How high is Arai? Summit of lifts 1289m +150m hike
What’s the vertical drop at Arai? The base is 329m, for 951m vertical drop off the lifts, 1101m if you hike the ridgeline.
What’s the average snowfall at Arai? 15m plus snowfall, not measured accurately – it’s closer to coast than Myoko so gets even more snow.
What’s the terrain mix at Arai? 11 courses (25% easy, 45% intermediate, 35% advanced) plus 10 avi-controlled freeride areas. Longest course is 5.2km
What are the lifts at Arai? 5 lifts including 1 gondola & 2 quads
How much are lift passe at Arai? Day adult ¥6000, child ¥4800, Jnr ¥3800