Iwappara is one of the larger Yuzawa area ski resort options. It’s not so good for dedicated powderhounds but great for families and cruising fun. Plus it boasts truly awesome pizza at slope side La Locanda del Pittore.
After our last powder morning for the season at Kandatsu it was getting towards midday when we got to Iwappara.
It’s much bigger and much sunnier than Kandatsu. The main slopes tilt south east and were already getting slushy. Our driver got lost finding the base access, so we had to wade through slushy snow to the closest lift. You shouldn’t need to do the same – there are slopeside hotels and the shuttle buses drop you right there coming from Yuzawa station or in town accommodation.
We did a couple of quick laps to check out the very cruisy and wide lower half of the mountain to build up our appetite and thirst levels for a special lunch stop.
Mike Harris from Canyons.jp, who run English language ski schools and guiding across Yuzawa, Gunma and Nozawa, had told me the best pizza he had had anywhere was at a slopeside Italian place near the base of Iwappara.
Mike makes a great guide, and after 20 years living in the area his local insider knowledge is spot on.
It’s true, La Locanda del Pittore make the best pizza I’ve had in Japan, on snow or off.
The pizza chef was working up a sweat tending the wood fire oven and the fridges groaned with hams and cheeses. Everything at La Locanda del Pittore is authentic, right down to the wine list.
Yummy pizza, delectable dessert, a lively chianti and heart starter espresso later we were ready for some serious slush busting. Or a siesta.
You don’t need a guide at Iwappara. The whole resort is basically one massive open face that has a nice 35° pitch on the top half, before mellowing out down to the restaurant zone and slopeside hotels, over a decent 585m vertical. Good cruising. Great views too, perfect for selfies.
The Mountain Manager kindly sent two young instructor girls to show us round after lunch. The top half of Iwappara is a bit steeper, with some big slushy bumps that proved too much for one of the girls who had a huge stack in them.
We had a lot fun working off lunch with some fast slush buster laps up here. You can’t get japow days every day, but we weren’t complaining.
This little clip with the Iwappara instructor girls and George shows it how it is.
Our verdict: grab the 5 hour pass for ¥3,000 and have a long lunch at the pizza place. Put the full day ticket savings to a 2nd bottle of Italian red and hasta la onsen baby to mangle a few cultural metaphors.
Yuzawa has plenty of funky izakayas and the slot sake bar in the shinkansen shopping complex for later on.
Iwappara, Yuzawa and Niigata useful links
For Niigata Prefecture info head to http://enjoyniigata.com/en/
For local Yuzawa info www.e-yuzawa.gr.jp
For Iwappara resort site go here
For English language snow school/guiding in the Yuzawa region check www.canyons.jp – they are also at Nozawa and Minakami so you could pre book from there.