Hachimantai Cat Skiing (aka Hachimantai Cat Tours) is a recent and still largely undiscovered Japanese powder stash gem on Mount Chausu in Iwate Prefecture.
Owner/guides father and son team Ikuo ‘Boss’ Kuragane and Junya Kuragane are both back country ski legends.
Iwate is the second most sparsely populated prefecture in Japan, after Hokkaido. They have one of the best records for COVID-19 infection too.
In the crazy 2021 season most places are uncrowded now, but you can rest assured it will NEVER be crowded out with Hachimantai Cat Tours. They have exclusive access to a long ridgeline with lots of tasty powder bowls that pretty much anyone from intermediate standard up can enjoy.
The cat office base building is in front of the Matsuo-Hachimantai Geothermal Power Plant. If you get lost look for the plume of steam!
Not that you will get lost. Boss and Jun are excellent guides, great skiers, and pretty funny guys to boot. They have enough English to get by, and run an excellent local lodge – Lodge Clubman – as well. It’s a good option to stay at, from JPY 7,000 with breakfast – check more on the link here – and includes a back country gear store. The boys are local reps for a bunch of leading brands, like Rossignol, Dynastar, Lange and Arc’teryx.
Their Hachimantai Cat Skiing operation may be small, but it’s not no frills. The cat has one of the comfiest cabins we have ever ridden in, unlike some of the box seats or even just open to the elements benches we have tried elsewhere.
We lobbed on with a small group of Japanese clients and a Canadian couple from Vancouver making their 5th Japan trip in 6 winters. Yes, even though they have the best of British Columbia just up the road they have become confirmed Japow fiends.
“The snow is just better. We love powder and that’s what we get, every trip!” explained Al Safrata, an expert skier who worked in the snow industry for many years back home in Canada.
The Hachimantai region sits in the lee of mighty Mt Iwate, which rises to just over 2000m and seems to attract a lot of great snow. Up here in northern Honshu the snow quality is excellent – perhaps even drier than at the coastal Hokkaido areas. Welcome to Hachipow!
We had plenty of it, ranging from knee to thigh deep in the more sheltered tree areas and gullies.
The Hachimantai Cat Skiing terrain options along the extensive Mt Chausu ridgeline run from mellow open lines at an easy 20° – 25° pitch to steeper rollers, banks and gullies through birches, beeches and scrubby pines.
Our private group of middle-aged Japanese skiers were happy to keep it mellow, while we (Al and me) scoped different lines to get to the same run out spots with Boss or Jun each lap and everyone ended up happy.
Hachimantai Cat Skiing (Hachimantai Cat Tours) have a few options for different budgets and tastes.
If you prefer to mostly earn your turns, the cat lift plus skinning/hiking tour is ¥20,520 per person including tax for 2 – 18 participants.
A cat day with 4 – 5 runs is ¥27,000 pp including tax for 2 – 9 participants.
Private cat days go from ¥25,920 pp for 7 – 9 up to ¥37,800 pp for 2.
They will pick up/drop of from accommodation in the Hachimantai Resort/City/Appi area as part of the package.
Best to book a couple of weeks in advance, and at least 3 days ahead – the cat can get booked out for scenic tours, especially on weekends; you can send booking enquiry on the link here. Or contact Clubman Lodge via their facebook page. Lodge guests get a special rate on cat skiing and can make the reservations directly on site.
More Hachimantai info can be found on the Visit Hachimantai local government site here.
Where is Hachimantai Cat Skiing?
Hachimantai Cat Skiing is very acessible. Hachimantai Shimokura and Hachimantai Panorama Ski Resorts, and Hachimantai City are only 20 minutes or so drive from the cat ski area, while popular Appi Ski Resort is only about 40 minutes, and Morioka a similar distance. You could easily do it as a daytrip from Shizukuishi too.