Shizukuishi Ski Resort, little Prince of Powder

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Shizukuishi Ski Resort is the little Prince of Powder that delivers big lines and less people. The Shizukuishi Prince Hotel is the smallest of Japan’s famous and award winning Prince ski resorts, but loses nothing for that. Tucked away in northern Iwate Prefecture the slopes are often empty, and the famous ‘Aspirin Powder’ (as the locals call it) is yours for the taking. Dave Windsor did the lines.

Shizukuishi sunrise cat tour
Shizukuishi’s sunrise cat tour is fun for intermediates too, cruise the cat’s track or take it fresh © Grant Gunderson / Prince Resorts

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 on a single continuous untouched groomer with access to plenty of fresh on either side of it. We were in luck as it’d snowed a bit overnight, as it seems to do most nights in Japan.
The corduroy couldn’t have been sharper – as we created it on the way up, though we spent most of our time in the adjacent fresh slashing big easy turns through the aspirin pow.
Available 3 times a day (7:30, 9 and 10:30) and only ¥3,000 it’s well worth the early wake up call. There’s also a sunrise tour for the early birds at an extra ¥3,000. If you’re lucky enough to time it with a big dump then you’ll ski fresh untracked pow or cord top to bottom on the otherwise closed Kotakakura women’s downhill course from the 1993 FIS Ski World Championships. What took the 1993 champ, Canadian Kate Pace Lindsay, 1 minute 27 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 and like most of Shizukuishi it’s perfect for an intermediate skier.

Ski back to hotel Shizukuishi Ski Resort
Can’t argue with powder to the door convenience at Shizukuishi! © Owain Price

“That was awesome. I want to do it again!” exclaimed Cara, a consultant with the original J-land snow tour operators, Deep Powder Snow Holidays. Deep Powder have offered Shizukuishi Ski Resort for a while, and Cara gave it the nod of approval as very recommendable to clients.
“I think Shizukuishi is a good place for a few days. I liked the groomers and the fact it’s ski in ski out. And last night’s dinner in the French restaurant was delicious.”
Shizukuishi offer a sunrise tour and three morning trips on a first-come-first-serve basis, and they advise that weekend bookings should be made at least 7 days in advance so as to guarantee your spot.

Shizukuishi sunrise cat tour
Worth getting up for © Grant Gunderson / Prince Resorts

The course ends where the high speed Shizukuishi quad takes off so it’s up we go.
Being out early for the cat means that we’re 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 three provide 3 km of knee deep, with gradients topping out at 32°.
The best tree lines, without hiking up the old gondola line to the former summit, are off skier’s left from the top staying left of the chair.
But our big Shizu terrain tip – check out some of the old runs, still only partially overgrown, that are accessible via traversing and more so by hiking/skinning up the old gondola line. You will find some great snow heading out skier’s right into these.

Powder skiing Shizukuishi Ski Resort
Our tip: get into the old ski runs area like Mikoto Mikawa © Owain Price

Another ski travel agent, Karen from Wollongong, also gave Shizu the green light.
“I enjoyed all the time in the powder and I’d head back there again for sure. I like that it isn’t westernised. It’s got some really good runs. And the ropeway that looks like an old bus is pretty cool. I like the feel of Shizukuishi, but a few more restaurants could’ve been better. It’d be perfect for 3 or 4 nights. I liked the hotel, the skiing and the snow.”

The surrounding area is pretty wild, even by Japanese standards, with 40 volcanoes in the Towada-Hachimantai National Park, and geothermal geysers and mud baths as well as great onsen to visit there. Overall it adds up to make one of Japan’s best smaller resort options.

Shizukuishi Ski Resort Trail Map
Shizukuishi Ski Resort Trail Map

Shizukuishi is operated by the Prince Hotel Inc, who were ranked in the top 3 of the World’s Best Ski Resort Companies as announced by the World Ski Awards™ in November 2017. 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. We dined on Marinade Sea Bream, Beef Consommé, Herb Crusted Roast Cod Milt (aka sperm), and a far more appealing apple pie; whilst the austere sommelier in full tuxedo took care of the liquid refreshments, which included an excellent local craft beer – Baeren Alt Bier.
A lot more low key is the Prince Room on the first floor overlooking the slopes, serving big buffet breakfasts and dinners with an extensive selection of western and Japanese options (I’m not so sure about the lunch as I was having too much fun in the snow to bother coming back), though we did have a quick pit stop at the Restaurant Alyeska at the top of the ropeway for some chocolate and an espresso.

Enjoy delicous food © Prince Resorts

Where to stay at Shizukuishi Ski Resort

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 usually empty.
facilities include an impressive indoor/outdoor onsen with a fish pool over the edge of it, a superb french restaurant, and spacious rooms with great views.

Shizukuishi Ski Resort onsen
The onsen is excellent at Shizukuishi © Prince Resorts
Shizukuishi Prince room
Spacious rooms have views of farmland and mountains © Prince Resorts

Where is Shizukuishi Ski Resort?

From Tokyo 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 Prince bus to resort 50 mins, 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
www.princehotels.com/en/ski/shizukuishi
Packages
www.deeppowdertours.com