When I first came to Japan, the resorts on my snowboarding radar were Niseko, Hakuba and Myoko. Although less well-known than the first two, I’d read about the latter’s great tree runs and vowed to go there. Five seasons on and I finally made it there courtesy of a last-minute Tokyo nightbus trip. If you happen to go there the same way, be prepared for a 2-3km walk up the road to the gondola station after being dropped off in what feels like a village car park. What added to the feeling was that I was the only person who got off the bus! Thankfully I saw a large blue road sign at a nearby junction and recognized the kanji for the resort, so headed that way and then scored a lift from an old guy whom I asked for directions, another good example of Japanese "o-mo-te-na-shi".
The resort base is a small, unassuming place, certainly in comparison to the resorts mentioned previously in this review and when I arrived (7:20) I was the only non-staff member there! A large, international resort this is not, which is not meant to be negative. In fact, I’d say it’s a big plus!
I was lucky enough to arrive after a decent amount of snowfall. Riding up the 8:30 gondola I could see lots of powder off the sides of and between the groomed runs and by the time I got to them, there were already a couple of lines down them, so I quickly added my own in what felt like a good foot plus of light powder. Not knowing the resort but having read the reviews, I headed over to the Mitahara Zone and waited for the 2 quad lifts to open (at 9am and 9.30 respectively), which gave me a couple more powder runs on the neighbouring slopes. Quite a queue had formed (by Japanese standards) by the time the top quad (Mitahara Lift No.3) opened but it was worth the wait. There are three runs down from the lift, two mogul runs and a groomed run. There was enough snow on the mogul runs to make them do-able on a board, at least early on but what was far, far more entertaining was the trees between and either side of those runs. I had been warned about unseen cliff drops so was careful to scout out safe lines from the lift but was soon finding some great lines in there. As the morning wore on, you had to go in further for fresh tracks but I was still getting plenty by early afternoon, when I had to head back down for the bus. To do so I returned to the gondola side of the resort, the Suginohara Zone, which I hadn’t yet ridden, and was surprised to find yet more untracked powder off to the sides of the groomers, more or less all the way back down to the base. My legs were burning after that but it was a good end to the day!
I had to be back in the car park by 4ish (to catch my 4.20 bus) so, after changing and repacking my board bag, decided to hike back down the road, which was somewhat entertaining given the continuing snowfall and absence of any pavement. Then, whilst waiting for my bus, I noticed a local bus going up to and then returning from the resort, so think I could have got that and saved myself the walk. Maybe it’s timed to fit in with the Tokyo bus schedule but I didn’t have the chance to check any timetables so can’t be sure.
I really liked Myoko. I was lucky with the weather and being a Friday, it wasn’t busy. However, I can imagine that it feels quite different at the weekends, with the facilities at the base becoming very crowded very quickly. For intermediate to advanced skiers/riders, my advice would be to do as I did and not bother with the Suginohara Zone. As well as the steeper top runs and inviting trees, the Mitahara Zone has a row of restaurants beside the bottom of the lower of the 2 quad lifts (Mitahara Lift No.2), so there’s plenty of options for a pit-stop without returning to the base area.
Overall, Myoko gets top marks from this satisfied punter! It reminded me a little of Inawashiro resort in Fukushima, both in terms of layout and the trees runs. Both are great, medium-sized resorts for those looking for something a little different from the larger, more famous Japanese resorts. Highly recommended, especially on a weekday!
From 07 March, 2014
Snow condition on visit:
+30cm of powder!
Things I liked:
The tree runs in the Mitahara Zone
Things I didn't like:
The two parts of the resort are not linked very well.