Oze-Iwakura Ski Resort great value ski in/ski out

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Oze-Iwakura, or White World Oze-Iwakura to give it the full title, is an excellent medium size Gunma ski resort less then 3 hours drive from Tokyo. It offers great snow and great ski in/ski out value, with a choice of the 4 star Iwakura Resort Hotel or Iwakura House at the base.

powder skiing Oze-Iwakura Gunma
Oze-Iwakura has some nice powder lines

Gunma has remained relatively off the radar for foreigners compared to the now hugely popular Nagano and Niigata Prefecture resorts like Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen, Myoko, Naeba-Kagura and Shiga Kogen. 

So you can still get a lot of powder lines with less competition for them here, especially midweeks.

Tenjindeira near Minakami is getting better known, but the Katashina Village area is just that little bit further off the shinkansen and freeway routes, so has received even less attention from western skiers and boarders.

View to the small village at Oze Iwakura
View to the small village at Oze Iwakura © Alister Buckingham www.skijapan.com

Size-wise Oze-Iwakura is more like Madarao, a smaller area that exploded in popularity thanks to a pro-active tree course and powder policy.

If the same happened here a similar effect would likely follow, because there are a decent amount of tree lines available if they opened them up. The powder courses on the trail map now have gradients up to 40°, and getting a bit lost late in the day I found some nice spots with knee deep snow begging to be slashed cutting between runs.

Oze-Iwakura gondola
The Oze-Iwakura gondola accesses nearly the full vertical

The healthy vertical drop of just under 700m from the top back to the hotels at the base is served by the usual Japanese mix of fast and slow lifts. The gondola is easily the best of them, accessing nearly the whole vertical and most of the terrain.

Further over the back side you need to ride successive pair lifts to ski the black runs and trees on offer there – slower, but well worth it, especially lapping here on pow days.

Oze-Iwakura trail map
Oze-Iwakura offers 18 courses for all levels

It’s not quite as high as nearby Marunuma Kogen, but with a top altitude of 1700m the snow quality at Oze Iwakura is usually good. The season runs mid-December to early April.

Long groomers over 3km long keep intermediates and cruisers happy.

Quality grooming at Oze Iwakura
The grooming is excellent at Oze-Iwakura and locals queue to be at it first thing

They take a lot of pride in the grooming and locals certainly appreciate that. The only lift line we saw was for first run on the quad chair at the base, all to be first to carve up the corduroy in true carve-meister style.

Carving turns at Oze-Iwakura
The locals love their carving © Alister Buckingham www.skijapan.com

Off most lifts there are easy options so groups of different standards can hook up at the bottom and keep skiing together.

Oze-Iwakura also boasts easy night skiing on the base quad chair.

It’s the largest of the Katashina Village area resorts and a good base for a few days to experience the area sampling a few of them.

The 2,200 space car park is an indication things do get busier weekends – at under 3 hours drive from Tokyo that’s understandable – so midweek is the obvious time to visit.

First run at Oze-Iwakura Ski Resort
For locals first tracks means first shot at this © Owain Price

Family facilities at Oze Iwakura

There’s a perfect beginners area at the base than includes an indoor slope starter option for little kids too.

Overall Oze-Iwakura is very convenient and well set up for families.

The kids get a choice of snow sliding options from snow trikes to tubing off the magic carpet lift.

Kids snow options at Oze-Iwakura
Oze-Iwakura kids area offers plenty of sliding options

 

Oze-Iwakura accommodation options

The Iwakura Resort Hotel is a comfortable 4 star ski in/ski out option that features 36 rooms sleeping up to 200 guests.

Choose spacious Japanese/Western or Western rooms (both styles with ensuite) or Japanese rooms (with toilet).
A Japanese dinner featuring fresh local ingredients and a buffet breakfast are included.
The natural onsen with high alkaline content is great for recovery.
The hotel also has a lounge bar, although aprés is limited to what you can bring to the table yourselves, like many smaller Japanese resorts.

The little village has several buildings that look ripe for takeover and development to fill the gap if you’re looking for a snow change move.

Iwakura Resort Hotel rates (includes taxes, dinner & breakfast)
¥ 15,270 per person per night 2 share (¥ 17,430 Saturday nights/holidays)
deduct dinner = less ¥ 2,160; deduct breakfast = less ¥ 1,080

More on their English info page here.

For bookings and packages check with Japan snow experts:

Japan Snow Holidays Japanholidays.com.au

Travelplan Gunma deals/info

Oze-Iwakura Resort Hotel
Iwakura Resort Hotel

 

Oze Iwakura Resort Hotel Japanese/Western combination room
Japanese/western combination room at Iwakura Resort Hotel

 

Iwakura Resort Hotel twin queen bed western room
Iwakura Resort Hotel twin queen bed western room

Iwakura House

This is an excellent value budget option right beside the slopes at the top of the small Oze Iwakura village center.

It offers 40 twin bed rooms, all with an ensuite and a little kitchenette complete with a one ring electric stove, so you can make simple meals in your room. Doing Japan on the packet noodle diet? This ones for you!
It also has a daycare facility, laundry and a small onsen bath.
Iwasaki House rates (includes taxes, no meals)
¥ 5,292 per person per night 2 share (¥ 5,832 Saturday nights)
Add dinner ¥ 2,160 breakfast ¥ 1,080

Iwasaki House at Oze-Iwakura twin room
Iwakura House House twin room

 

Oze-Iwakura lift prices

Lift prices at Oze-Iwakura are great value, especially for 2 days or more – a 3 day pass works out less than $AUD 50 a day for example.

Adult  ¥4,500 day /  ¥7,800 2 day / ¥11,200 3 day

(plus night skiing  ¥5,200; night skiing only  ¥1,800)

High School ¥3,400 day /  ¥5,800 2 day / ¥8,100 3 day

Primary School  ¥2,400 day /  ¥3,700 2 day / ¥5,600 3 day

Rentals

Ski or snowboard full set or clothing jacket/pants

Adults & high school ¥3,500 day, primary school ¥2,500 day

discounts for multi day hire

For full rates check the resort’s English language web page on the link here.

Where is Oze-Iwakura

Easiest way to get from Tokyo to Oze-Iwakura Ski Resort is on the daily Katashina Snow Express direct bus from Tokyo Station at 7:15am, around 180 minutes, then the shuttle connection up to the resort.
By train take the Joetsu shinkansen to Johmo-kogen, around 75 minutes, then shuttle bus, around 80 minutes, to to Oze-Iwakura.
By road take the Kan-Etsu Expressway 125km to Numata Interchange, then Route 120 & Route 401 32km up to the resort. This takes from around 170 minutes in good traffic conditions.

Oze-Iwakura access map

Oze-Iwakura location map

Oze-Iwakura & Katashina Village more info

Useful links include:

Oze-Iwakura Ski Resort official site

Katashina Village Katashina Village Tourism site

Gunma PrefectureGunma Tourism site