Geto Kogen is Japan’s King of Snow according to General Manager Sadahide Sugawara, which is a pretty big title to claim when so many Japanese ski areas get slammed with ridiculous quantities of snow. It’s hard to judge who really gets most, especially when many areas don’t even measure accumulated season snowfall but only accumulated base depth.
On our visit last month it was waist deep & dumping in the tree zones, superb quality dry snow and buckets of it, so Geto Kogen King of Snow seems a pretty good title to us.
Sadahide’s theory is that because the mountains are narrower here than pretty much anywhere along Honshu’s mountainous spine, the snowfall gets concentrated on a smaller area, rather than spread over numerous ranges.
Looking at the architecture at the Geto Kogen base it looks more like a moon base or polar station than a ski resort, and when you see the weather they get it’s easy to see why they built it like that, to withstand the near constant snowfall and often high winds.
When we arrived, hopping on the free bus from Semi Onsen Ryokan a few kilometres down the road and best place to stay in the area, it was dumping and the wind was howling. That meant the gondola to the top was shut, but not to worry – they don’t muck around at Geto, and Hide informed me they would likely open it to the public around lunchtime, after they finished grooming the courses off it, with the wind forecast to ease off.
Then he said, “But we can go up now while they do that.”
Most days I like my job, some days I just love it – getting in some laps on the main Geto Kogen gondola before the public in heliski quality snow is amazing. The only problem with being first into the Geto Kogen powder zones means setting the scoot-out track. They have the lines marked with green or red ribbons on the trees – keep right of green ribbons, keep left of red ribbons. And definitely avoid temptation to drop below the marked trees or you’ll have a long wade out or worse.
Being taller with longer skis I ended up cutting most of the lines out – thigh deep for me was well over waist deep for Hide.
We got 3 laps in before they opened for the public, which included fellow Aussie guests from Warm Onsen who had been skiing the lower double chairs in the meantime, and a guided group on a tour with several Canadians from Red Mountain. Yep, famous Red Mountain BC and they had come here looking for more powder – the lure of Japowder is global.
And at Geto you sure see why, I had one of my best days ever anywhere lapping the deep till legs could take it no more.
The runs are not long, the whole place has just over 400m vertical, with about 250m of that available at from mellow to 45° or so gradients in the tree powder courses before scooting out to run back to the base.
But lapping here no one is complaining. With Hide able to show me not just the exisiting powder zones but also a sneak preview of the new ones they are adding for 2017-18 we made every lap a fresh and deep one.
A few hours of that, with snow falling constantly, and it was time for a rest and to check out the unique on-snow backpacker style accommodation in the main base complex. A night here including dinner, bunk, breakfast, onsen and lift pass is JPY 9,000 or so – bit more on weekends.
After a wander round I sampled the great indoor/outdoor onsen, which includes a huge sauna with big windows so you can steam up while watching the snow pelt down outside Then it was time for the relax room, fold flat chairs with a view.
With a deluxe private onsen room down at Semi Onsen Ryokan I didn’t stay, just chilling out to catch the last bus down – which was driven by the GM himself, Hide, and full of mountain staff who live in the main base city of Kitakami on the Tohoku shinkansen line. Hide was driving the bus as the regular driver was sick.
It’s that kind of place, small and friendly with everyone part of the team.
We mentioned it first back in 2010, and more westerners are catching on since then, but you can still expect plenty of great lines at Geto Kogen King of Snow for yourselves.
The easiest way to book it is via smaller Japan area specialists JapanSnowAccommodation.com who can put you in the backpacker on the mountain or Semi Onsen 20 minutes or so down the road (the Kitakami stations – Geto Kogen free bus picks up 100m from Semi Onsen). Use a JR East Tohoku Rail Pass to get here and then combine easily with Aizu region areas like Alts Bandai & Grandeco to the south or Shizukuishi and Appi to the north.
Getting to Geto Kogen
Simple! Tohoku Shinkansen to Kitakami, 2.5 hrs from Tokyo, then free 50 minute shuttle bus to resort. By road it’s only 17km off the Akita freeway.
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