Geto Kogen life is pretty simple staying at this Japanese powder paradise resort’s funky ski in/ski out Camp88 backpacker for the whole season. Young Aussie Matt Creighton, girlfriend Lucy & best mate Liam spent the 2017-2018 winter there producing a promo video for the resort. So how was life in the Geto?
Some people say if you dig deep enough you’ll get to China; those people clearly haven’t dug many holes here. Here, if you dig, kept digging and then dig some more, you might just find your skis. They don’t call Geto Kogen the King of Pow for nothing!
I was lucky enough to spend three months at Geto Kogen with my mate Liam and girlfriend Lucy last season. A quick 3 hour Shinkansen ride north of Tokyo, Geto receives a lot of snowfall in a concentrated area. Bowl shaped, the resort also catches wind blown snow from nearby peaks.
Half an hour from the nearest town and Shinkansen station at Kitakami, Geto is a small to medium sized ski resort with just 5 lifts, giving access to some mad tree runs with world-class powder skiing.
Mostly popular with locals and groups travelling through Japan, there’s not too many that spend a season in Geto – in fact we were the first westerners to spend this much time at Geto. We were there to create content for our video production company, Kaptor Projects. We wanted a resort that had stupid amounts of powder, tree runs, no lift lines, and plenty of challenging terrain without the crowds. Geto delivered in spades.
The Japanese have a real knack for underselling overnight snowfall. Quite often we’d awake to reports of 20cm of fresh snow falling overnight to find it was more like 50cm plus and still coming down.
One chairlift opens half an hour later than the rest because they have to dig it out in parts most mornings. They don’t allow you to ride under the chairs (although it’s not marked) because the snow is so deep you will ride into a chair at some points.
The tree runs were our favourites. Newly established, some aren’t cleared very much, but you can almost always make fresh tracks as you explore the area – just keep an eye out for the ridges that can catch you by surprise if you head down the wrong side into a valley. I’ve never eaten so much snow riding as I did in Geto. Fresh pow was a regular thing, and it’s so light it’s great for spraying. We would often be riding up to mid-thighs on the groomers.
Three months of Geto Kogen life is very different from three months in one of the bigger Japanese resorts. Geto has a real local vibe.
It’s not crowded with tourists from Australia, the UK and China like the larger Japanese resorts. Geto gives you a chance to really immerse yourself in Japanese culture.
Best you brush up on your Japanese before you get here because not everyone speaks English. Road and trail signs are all bilingual, but to get the most out of your time at Geto it’s best if you can speak at least some Japanese. A big smile, hand gestures and a positive attitude can make all the difference. We found all the staff and guests were keen to help us and they didn’t even laugh at our attempts to converse in Japanese.
Set in the mountains with nothing but pow to distract you, Geto Kogen life is all about the riding. The dome is it, the hub of the resort where you get a feed, hire your gear and get one of the best soft serves you’ve ever had in your life from the always-smiling Marumo.
Accommodation is pretty basic. We stayed on the mountain in a part of the dome building they call Geto88. Accommodation consists of 88 bunk beds in one big dorm. The bunks are a bit more fancy than your usual bunk, with solid walls on 3 sides and a curtain across the front. They’re fitted with your own light and power point, and each bed comes with a locker to store your valuables.
There are also portable robes to hang your gear on as well as a drying room and storage area down stairs. The Onsen can be confronting for some – it’s a traditional public bath house, with separate male and female facilities. Low stools and hand held shower heads with soap and shampoo provided, you sit in a row and basically hose yourself down and wash before getting in either the indoor or outdoor hot springs. Don’t forget to pick up a towel pack from reception which includes a small towel to cover your bits if you want – sorry girls only one towel included.
Lucy’s favourite room at Geto88 was the Relaxation Room. Next door to the dorm room, the relaxation room has a few rows of comfy recliner beds looking out to the mountain, where you could listen to music and chill in peace and quiet.
Breakfast and dinner is included with your accommodation. Served in a dining room on the ground floor, the furniture is traditionally Japanese. The chairs are more like a cushion on the floor with a low back, and the tables are basically coffee tables, but it all adds to the Japanese immersion. Breakfast and dinner is served buffet style with a simple take only what you can eat policy.
You quickly learn that greed and gluttony are considered rude in Japan. They’ll never tell you directly, because the Japanese are way too polite for that, but you just pick up on the vibe. The food changes every day, but there’s always a real Japanese theme, especially breakfast. Fish, cabbage, rice and miso soup are staples at breakfast. If you’re not feeling adventurous enough to have a crack at warm fish at 7am they have little bread rolls and jam which you can pop into a toaster oven – something we did often as traditional breakfast became a bit much after a couple of months.
Three months in Geto gave us the opportunity to not just ride some great pow but to get a real appreciation for the Japanese people and their traditions.
We weren’t sure what to expect, but we were really surprised at just how friendly and hospitable the Japanese are. They loved having us there, made us feel like part of the Geto family, and went out of their way to make sure we had a great time. Always curious, both staff and guests were intrigued about us and our life back home in Australia and they all wanted to have a chat to put their English skills to use.
If you’re looking for something different and a real taste of Japanese culture in a resort with great pow and no crowds then you’ve got to give Geto a go – what it lacks in luxuries it makes up for in personality.
Geto Kogen life tips
• Learn some basic Japanese (good morning, thank you, please, where is)
• Take cash with you – there’s no ATM on the mountain
• Take your shoes off before walking into the accommodation area
• Take only what you will eat – it’s rude to leave food on your plate
• They can get too much snow which means lifts can’t open – they dig the chairlift out most mornings
• Out of bounds isn’t always marked – use common sense
• Tree runs close at 2.30pm to allow time for rescues if needed
• Bring a good book or laptop to entertain yourself in your downtime – there’s not a lot to do when you’re not riding
Check the resort site here www.geto8.com/english/
Check out the Kaptor Project crew’s work here: