Shizukuishi Ski Resort is the little Prince of Powder that delivers big lines and less people. Tucked away in northern Iwate Prefecture, the slopes are often empty.
Shizukuishi Prince Hotel is actually the smallest of Japan’s famous and award winning Prince ski resort hotels but it has all the facilities you need, and some bonus options like the sunrise cat tour skiing down the old Women’s Downhill course from the 1993 World Ski Championships, or easy day trips to neighbouring areas.
Plus they are adding new facilities and options – see below for more on that, it is getting on the radar with good reason. Still plenty of ‘aspirin powder’ to go round, check our lowdown and check out Shizu soon ..
Snow Action’s Dave Windsor did the cat tour last year.
“I’m not normally one for waking up at 6, but the opportunity to jump in a cat at sparrows and ski super fresh is enough to get me out of bed and load up at the breakfast buffet. From there we jump in the hotel mini-van and head over to the #2 carpark where a rumbling racing red Pisten Bully awaits.”
“After a 20 minute ascent in the belly of the roaring beast we ski/ride 4 kilometres back down with a choice of a single continuous untouched corduroy groomer, freshly relaid by the cat on the way up, or plenty of fresh snow on either side of it.”
“We were in luck as it had snowed a bit overnight, so we spent most of our time in the adjacent fresh snow slashing big easy turns through the aspirin pow.”
“What took 1993 World Champion Canadian Kate Pace Lindsay only 1 minute 27 seconds to descend took us a leisurely half hour or so. The initiative is in its 4th year and going strong. Rightly so too, as you get to ski first tracks with a small crew of up to 15. It’s not overly taxing, a long blue run effectively for most participants who simply ski the groomed track.”
It’s available 3 times a day (7:30, 9 and 10:30) for only ¥3,000 or an extra ¥3,000 for the sunrise tour. Shizukuishi offer the sunrise tour and the morning trips on a first-come-first-serve basis, and advise that weekend bookings should be made at least 7 days in advance so as to guarantee your spot. After 4 seasons the word has spread.
The course ends next to where the high speed Shizukuishi quad takes off back at the main mountain area. Being out early for the cat means you are also out on the piste early too – and there’s plenty of it, with 11 trails spread across 160 acres to be precise.
The longest is the thigh burning 4.5km Downhill Trail – a fast red run through 702 vertical metres. For mine the best skiing was off the Sunshine lift at the top of the hill that feeds into the only 2 blacks – Giant Slalom Trail and Slalom Bahn Trail, and a fun red – Sunshine Trail. The combination of the three provides a 3 km run with gradients topping out at 32°.
Some of the best tree lines, without hiking up the old gondola line to the former summit, are off skier’s left from the top chair.
Our #1 Shizukuishi terrain tip is to check out some of the old ski runs, still only partially overgrown. These are partially accessible simply via traversing into them, heading out skier’s right from the Giant Slalom trail. Much better though is to make the easy skin up the old gondola line to the former summit to get the full shot at them.
Local expert Mikoto Mikawa has shown us plenty of what he calls “secret spotto” over our past three visits to Shizukuishi.
There’s another great tree zone hanging a hard left heading down off the main Sunshine Trail from the top above the top station of another of old long closed chairlift. Just beyond this are the trees, with a nice pitch and plenty of natural features. You eventually pop out back onto the Downhill Trail.
The surrounding area is pretty wild, even by Japanese standards, with 40 volcanoes in the Towada-Hachimantai National Park. There are geothermal geysers and mud baths as well as great onsen to visit there.
Overall it adds up to make Shizu one of Japan’s best small to medium resort options, with the convenience of ski in/ski out and kids ski free to 12 years a huge bonus for families.
Shizukuishi accommodation and hotel facilities
Shizukuishi is operated by the Prince Hotel Inc, ranked in the top 3 of the World’s Best Ski Resort Companies as announced by the World Ski Awards™, who you probably already know them for their more famous bigger resorts like Naeba, Furano or Shiga Kogen.
With an extensive wine, sake and whisky list and amazing a la carte menu, the Kobushi French restaurant is a culinary highlight, focusing on locally sourced ingredients.
A lot more low key is the Prince Room on the first floor overlooking the slopes, serving big buffet breakfasts, lunches and dinners with an extensive selection of western and Japanese options. Restaurant Alyeska at the top of the ropeway offers an on slope option for lunch.
Shizukuishi improvements and options
The new Nanakamado Izakaya in front of the hotel offers delicious dishes and an all you can drink option, which certainly ups the aprés ante – previously there was none apart from the ubiquitous karaoke room.
Making a quick return visit in 2019 we were pleased to see the improvements, and the new buzz – from being the only westerners there on our first visit a few years back we met a mix of Aussies and Kiwis enjoying the place.
Adding extra options including day trips with an interchangeable ski pass for nearby Amihari Onsen and Iwate Kogen Snow Park add to the variety, and provide the incentive to stay a few nights rather than just one or two.
Shizukuishi is fully self-contained, with just the Shizukuishi Prince Resort Hotel at the base, for ski in/ski out access. Midweek the slopes are often almost empty.
Facilities include an impressive indoor/outdoor onsen with a fish pool over the edge of it.
There are 74 Superior rooms on the 8th and 9th floors and 177 Standard Rooms on the lower floors.
Where is Shizukuishi Ski Resort?
From Tokyo there are 2 shinkansen options: take the Akita shinkansen to Shizukuishi, 160 minutes & 20 minutes bus or taxi to the resort; or take the Tohoku shinkansen to Morioka 140 mins then the Prince shuttle bus to the resort (50 mins), which is free for guests if booked more than a day in advance.
Aomori to Morioka is 73 minutes by Hyabusa shinkansen, or just under 2 hours if you are coming down from Hakodate in Hokkaido.
It’s an easy 30km drive off the Tohoku Expressway at Morioka. Hanamaki regional airport is an hour’s drive away.
Shizukuishi Ski Resort & Shizukuishi Prince Hotel