Japan’s Best 10 Ski Runs #6 Moiwa Powder Bowls


Sure, Moiwa’s powder bowls can’t be described as a local’s secret anymore.

Looking back, it’s amazing they stayed so relatively undiscovered for so long. But you can still get some awesome lines there.

Guide skiing 50cm fresh snow on Moiwa Bowls, Niseko
Not too shabby for guide Naoto Sato © Owain Price

On a day when the frontside at Hirafu was swarming, Moiwa was virtually deserted. The liftline of just 20 or so waiting for the avalanche all clear had a decidedly local flavour. We bumped into Chad Johnston from Slow Life Lodge and a couple of Aussie Niseko ski shop owners sneaking out for a session well away from where 95% of their customers ski and ride.

We had lined up an interview with Moiwa owner and powder fiend Shinsuke Terasawa before skiing (see below) which was was fortuitous – he hooked me up with local legend guide Naoto Sato.

View of empty main run at Moiwa, Niseko
Busy pow day at Moiwa © Owain Price

Naoto didn’t object to Snow Action tagging along. He had just one Asian client for the day who kindly didn’t object. An Asian Aussie in fact, she turned out to be Lisa Chen, of Lisa Chen Real Estate in inner Sydney, another powder fanatic who loves Niseko and had been coming back for several seasons to ski with the same guide. She made a nice change in ski models from our regular hirsute hipster A-team lads, and proved handy as a translator too.

With only 20 odd people to share the mountain (this was 2013!), there was no need to stampede out to Moiwa’s bowls, so we warmed up with a lap on the ‘groomer’, nicely topped with 20cm or so of fresh powder.

Then we worked our way out, usually the first, or at worst the second lot of people to get to every line we took. There are three main bowls to hit.

If you get lucky and the weather lifts you get an awesome view back up to The Peak at Niseko.

View back to The Peak at Niseko from Moiwa Bowls
View back to The Peak at Niseko © Owain Price

The further you go at Moiwa the more traversing, and a longer runout. The good steeper (but not steep) clean lines make up in quality of snow for their lack of length.

Depending on your fitness, and where you are staying, you could cut back to Annupuri and work your way back to the central zone after a session here. Heading out to the furthest Moiwa powder bowl you will likely run into crew running out of Aunnupuri back bowls off The Peak (the long way round) or off the top of Niseko Annupuri area (the shorter cheat route).

It’s not included in the Niseko United pass, but adding a day or two here is well worth it. Moiwa’s great value 4 hour pass would suffice for most people doing that. That’s plenty of time to do several laps hitting all 3 Moiwa powder bowls.

Their ‘Silver Ticket’ cuts in at just 60, which is fair enough, since most of us go silver long before that anyway – believe it or not, I was still too young when this shot was taken.

Another good lift deal is the Kiroro – Moiwa – Kamui season pass. They call it the ‘Japan Powder Pass’ and the Earlybird deal for 2020-2021 is JPY 61,000.

By road Moiwa is 20 minutes or so drive around from Hirafu.

Snow Action's Owain Price with Moiwa owner Shinsuke Terusawa
With Moiwa CEO Shinsuke Terusawa; can’t beat the Silver Ticket value! © Misaki Tani

Meet Mr Moiwa, Shinsuke Terusawa who is a great guy with the pro-powder attitude we love. He was a worthy recipient of Snow Action’s 2013 Japan Ski Boss of the Year award.

How many years have you been here?

I am living in Tokyo. I spend half the month in Tokyo and half the month here. I operate this Moiwa Ski Area about 4 years. 

And it was your idea to make it powder -powder-powder focus here?

Yes. Number one priority is safety. And number 2 is powder.

Do you ski or snowboard yourself?

I am ski.

You like to ski powder?

I love to ski powder!

When did you start skiing?

I start when I am 6 years old.

How long have you been coming here before you bought the resort?

Oh, about 10 years.

What’s the main advice you have for people that come to Moiwa? 

Read the information by Niseko Avalanche Information. Their leader is our star – Shinya San. He’s our pride, and he’s a great man in Niseko [see our chat with Shinya on the link here]. This year snow is deep and heavy, very dangerous situation. Many cracks. Seven days ago in this area (he shows me on the map on the wall) very deep, make very deep cracks, and two people fall in – our patrol saved them. But this area is very good conditions today.

– Owain Price

Powder skiing Moiwa Bowls, Niseko
You may not get it as lonely as Lisa Chen did, but Moiwa is still well worth checking out © Owain Price