Japan’s 10 Best Ski Runs #3 Maeyama Mt Myoko

Maeyama, literally ‘Front Mountain’, stands right before the majestic 2454m Mt. Myoko.

It’s one of the best, and easiest to access, of the amazing variety of back country runs in the area. Bill Ross has been skiing and guiding in Myoko for longer than any other westerners. His Dancing Snow team can show you the best of the area to suit your abilities.

You don’t even need to ski; we did a hike and ski down then met up with some of our crew not up for a skin up who had arrived at the lunch spot on snow shoes for example.

But for those who ski and board, Maeyama and the Takizawa Ridge above Akakura Kanko ski area are the bees knees of local lines.

Skiing March powder Maeyama Ridge Mt Myoko
Dancing Snow guide finds some March goodness high above the ski area at Myoko © Owain Price

Even more snow than Niseko — an incredible 14m average per season — and a let you at it policy, along with a great village, has made Myoko Kogen one of the most popular choices for western visitors over the past few years.

The resort skiing is great, but take a hike and it gets better. Sure, going up when it’s snowing can be a trudge, but the rewards are more than worth it. Trees, bowls, Japow ..

Beautifully spaced birches and great snow are a feature higher up the local peaks at Myoko © Snow Action

Myoko in mid-season is all about skiing trees — beautifully spaced beech trees above the lifts, the amazingly huge, gnarled dakekamba (Ermon’s birch) higher up the local peaks, most around 2000m. In spring there are great places to go further and higher in the backcountry (and huts to stay in), but the classic backcountry run for midwinter deep powder is right above the Akakan ski area. 

Skiing powder Maeyama ridge, Myoko
Always worth the hike at Maeyama © Dancingsnow.com

The trip to Maeyama begins with a ride up the gondola and the highest quad lift at Akakura Kanko. The climb starts from right off the lift, up through the beeches, then the birches, and then across a steep, open face that is avalanche prone (stick with your guide!). The final climb is along a narrow ridgeline that gives a more and more spectacular view the higher you go: to the north is the sheer face of Mt. Kanna, and countless folding valleys and ridges leading down from Mt. Myoko. 

Skinning up Maeyama at Myoko in a snow storm
It snows a lot at Myoko © Dancingsnow.com

The hike to the top is not a long one, usually under two hours, but it does mean a lot of traversing, not the least to stay on safe terrain. On the top of Maeyama is a small, open space perfect for recharging with lunch (but strong winds often mean a quick ski down to more sheltered space).

The scenery at the top can be stunning — Mt. Myoko, seemingly right above you; the steam vent of the onsen source at Minami Jigokudani; the cliffs of the caldera around Mt. Myoko; Shiga and Nozawa ski resorts to the east; sometimes even Sado Island far off in the Japan Sea.

Ski group on the First Ridge at Maeyama, Myoko
First Ridge At Maeyama © Dancingsnow.com

The descent begins along another narrow ridgeline, one steep drop and then things just open wide up — a safe, open run that can be the best powder run in the whole area. Or a good challenge if the sun has crusted things up, but that’s why we ski backcountry, right?

Then off into the trees and on to Takizawa One (the Waterfall Ridge), for what seems like an endless run weaving among the beeches.

A lot of people ski the route; there are some weekends when the first ridgeline looks more like a ski slope, but that’s not normally the case.

The biggest risk is in assuming the tracks ahead are correct: a lot of those people ahead of you will end up stranded in a deep valley above a waterfall, or exiting too late and trying to scramble across a dam and off to the golf course to the south of the ski area.

Skiing here is all about knowing which ridgeline to take, and which valleys to avoid. Being with a local really is a necessity. 

But when the snow is deep and you’re flying through the trees, it’s definitely all worth it. — Bill Ross

Get the best guiding from Bill and the team at Dancing Snow.

Dancing Snow’s Bill Ross whips up lunch – we met the snowshoe group in the valley © Owain Price