More Is More: Five days, Five Myoko Ski Resorts

Variety is the spice of life, and more is definitely more as we* found discovering 5 Myoko ski resorts in 5 days.

Or 6 actually, if you count the inter-connected Akakura Kanko / Akakura Onsen areas individually. Not bad for friends on a mission to see and ski more on this our third Japanese ski trip after previous visits to Furano in Hokkaido and Nozawa Onsen not far from Myoko.

NB: The Myoko area has got even more snow than usual this winter, with over 18m at Akakura Kanko and over 21m snow to date at Lotte Arai as at 24 Feb, 2022

*by the Whittle family in conjunction with Niigata Prefecture

Wall of snow at Lotte Arai Resort, Myoko as they hit 21m snowfall for season on February 24, 2022
Lotte Arai near Myoko hit 21m snowfall for the season on Feb 24, 2022! © Myoko snowsports

For most people precious snow holiday time is limited, so fast access means you don’t waste any of it. Arriving at Haneda overnight with Qantas a quick trip on the monorail to Hamamatsucho plus a short subway line ride to Tokyo Central had us on the shinkansen to Myoko in no time at all. Our pre-arranged hotel car pick up had us settled into our Akakura ryokan in time to explore the numerous local eateries for lunch.

Massive snowfall hits Myoko Febraury 2022
Ho hum just another Myoko street scene .. © Myoko snowsports

The welcome from the ryokan staff was amazing. They hire a small number of bilingual staff for their winter ski season to assist overseas visitors who are super helpful.

After lunch we took a short walk to Myoko Snowsports to have our skis fitted. We had been advised to bring our own boots, as sometimes the Japanese boot selections are a bit lacking for many bigger, flatter Aussie feet. We needn’t have worried, they had plenty of boots big enough if you prefer to leave your boots at home.

Happy crew © Whittle Family / Niigata Prefecture

The range of skis was amazing, and the staff spent some time discussing our skiing ability and preferences above and beyond what you might get in other resorts. We opted for some all-terrain skis, with the option of changing them over if the conditions turned to powder.  The staff were incredibly welcoming, were all incredibly well trained with great and importantly, consistent, advice.  

When one of our adult sons was having some boot trouble with his own pair we were recommended to Joey, a brilliant boot fitter from Jindabyne who spends his northern winters in Myoko, just up the street from Myoko Snowsports. He can work magic for all those boot niggles small or large.

To get the most out of our time at the Myoko ski resorts we opted for Myoko snowsport’s 5 day Multi-resort programme. After getting geared up we met our guide Clay, who asked us about our ski experience and our expectations for our visit. We discussed some options for where he would take us on day one. Then we dropped into the Panorama Cafe to discover a fabulous array of après drinks and light meals. It’s a popular place for many of the overseas clients at the end of a day’s skiing or boarding, or before heading off for dinner. Or sometimes, just staying put. We discovered the local Myoko brew, and it was a hard pick which was best – I think I preferred the Pilsner as it had that wonderful clean Japanese finish.

Eat local, drink local © Whittle Family / Niigata Prefecture

We headed back to the ryokan before wandering out to find our first meal. The variety of choices along the main street of Akakura is just amazing. That first night we opted for some ramen. It really didn’t matter because as we were to find out, the food was amazing everywhere. Then with a little stroll around the town we found a tiny little crêpe shop with the nicest crêpes you ever imagined with your choice of what-ever filling you could think of. Akakura township has a Japanese feeling but with a wonderful welcome to families and groups from overseas.

Back at the ryokan, after an onsen, we tucked in for the night on the super comfortable tatami mat beds, with expectations of some exciting days ahead.

So much variety on offer at Myoko © Niigata Prefecture

We awoke to see the sun shining on Mt Myoko and could only guess at what wonders lay awaiting us for the day. Being at a new and totally unknown (to us) resort, we thought the 5 day multi-resort programme would be a good fit because as advanced level skiers we didn’t need to waste time trying to work out the best areas to go. It proved that and more!

Our guide Clay knew all the Myoko ski resorts, and had carefully considered the best place to start given the weather, snow conditions and the challenges of each.

The Myoko area has a number of separate resorts around the base of the [almost] dormant volcano that is Mt Myoko. These are from south to north: Suginohara, Ikenotaira, Akakura Kanko and Akakura Onsen, plus the much smaller but challenging Seki Onsen on the slopes of the volcano itself, and nearby Lotte Arai Resort.

Our first runs were at Ikenotaira. We quickly realised our choice to have a guide was the right one. Not only did Clay pick the best runs, but he was also ready with useful technique tips and guidance even though we are all at different levels of skiing.

Having a guide helps you find more of this © Whittle Family / Niigata Prefecture

No surprise that our boys, who had started in Australian snow when they were 5 years old, are way ahead of their parents who didn’t even see snow until they were in their 20’s.

We spent the next four days exploring all the wonderful resorts around Myoko, much of it on groomed runs but with more and more adventures into drifts of powder. Our final day was at Lotte Arai, where we Clay introduced and coached us into the powder. No surprise our sons were way more adept that us, but we’re slowly getting there.

Having been to a fire festival some years previously at Nozawa Onsen, when we heard there was to be one at Suginohara we arranged to head over there to enjoy some local culture. The event started with a flare run and ended with setting alight straw pyres covered in prayers and wishes for the local families. Locals dressed up in period costume helped make this a wonderful cultural experience.

After five days of skiing I had some sore muscles. But an experienced physiotherapist is based in town, on hand to provide immediate treatment and able to help me with airline requirements too.

We really maximised our enjoyment heading to Myoko and discovering the different areas with a local insider’s knowledge thanks to our guide Clay. We highly recommend Myoko as a destination, all the individual Myoko ski resorts, and the great welcome and service you get from local businesses whether Japanese or ex-pat Aussie owned.

Fire Festival Myoko Suginohara
Fire Festival Suginohara © Whittle Family / Niigata Prefecture

Myoko / Niigata More Info

The Enjoy Niigata English website has some excellent information about visiting the Myoko area

Myoko sidecountry © Snow Action