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Thundercat

Mini spring tour Akakan, Madarao, Happo One (March 26-28)

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Monday, 26th, 2012

 

I always enjoy riding on week days to avoid crowds, traffic and all the other minor frustrations of being a weekend warrior. With free lift tickets for Myoko, Madarao, and Happo burning a hole in my pocket I was eager to make good use of them all. We set out early Monday morning for Myoko Kogen, making the drive from Numazu to Akakura Kanko in slightly under 4 hours. No traffic and good road conditions always mean a stress-free drive.

 

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(These snow walls are actually in Myoko Kogen, not some other random part of Japan ;) )

 

 

As we approached Nagano city it was evident that it had been snowing as the white stuff lay all around. Just past Nagano and it was still dancing around in the air, a very good sign indeed. As we neared the I.C. it was obvious that we would be in for some sweet powder turns.

 

Originally, we were interested in hitting up Suginohara but unbelievably, with 290cms on piste, they were already closed for the season (well, with the exception of one last weekend). Instead, we hit up Akakura Kanko.

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We really lucked out this day. It was the first day of spring lift operations which usually wouldn’t be enough to even interest me in considering Akakan. However, with 5-10cms the day before and about 15-20 cms over on the slopes there was a good top-up. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the heavy powder that you usually associate with spring skiing in Japan. The temperatures remained low throughout the day and it continued snowing which meant that the snow stayed nice and fresh until the last run of the day.

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Some technical information about Akakura Kanko during the spring ski season. Lift tickets are 2,500¥ (regular price is 3,900¥). Several lifts on the right side of the mountain are closed. The Champion 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 and the Hotel 2, 5 and 6 lifts are all closed. In fact, the only lifts running are the Myoko Kogen Sky Cable (gondola) and the Hotel 1 and 3. This means that only the bottom left side of the mountain, slightly higher than the gondola, is open for business. All of the runs are beginner or easy intermediate runs (1.5 intermediate runs and 2 beginner runs).

 

There were very few people on the slopes and no line ups at all for any of the lifts all day. In fact, at 8:30am when the lifts opened there were only a dozen cars in the parking lot and probably less than 50 at around lunch time. We were also the only guests staying at our hotel.

 

Along the side of the Hotel B course there are some jumps and smaller features but nothing of note. There are some short side-country runs and a few places to get into the trees but nothing like what is available from the top of the resort.

 

My personal opinion about the spring operations can be summed up with one word, disappointing. Strangely though, because the conditions that day far exceeded my expectations, I had a really good time. If it had been anything other than a mid-winter feeling at the end of March I think I would have cut the day pretty short and headed to one of the nearby onsens for a soak. If the Hotel 5 lift at the top of the mountain were opened I’d say that it would be worth the trip. Unfortunately, as it is, it’s very difficult to recommend unless you are already close by, don’t have to go out of your way to ski there or have a free lift ticket (like I did!)

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Tuesday, 27th, 2012

 

A beautiful morning and a little fresh snow to boot! We set out for Madarao Kogen which is about 30-40 minutes away by car. It was a bittersweet return for us to Madarao Kogen as we were there last year on March 11th, the day of the Tohoku earthquake.

 

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It was a beautiful spring day when we arrived at Madarao Kogen. Deep blue cloudless skies and the accompanying views of the nearby resorts is a nice bonus to snowboarding at Madarao.

 

Although the reports indicated there had been 5cms of snow over night by the time we got onto the slopes all traces had either been scrapped away or burned up by the sun. The top runs were hard and well scraped, mid-mountain was mashed potatoey (with maybe a bit of cream cheese thrown in the mix) and lower was grabby like sticky mochi. It was a very warm day and was evident that the snow conditions were deteriorating rapidly. In fact, part of the Worldcup Mogul run (skiers far right) was closed because of a recent avalanche (sorry no details on what happened there).

 

Some technical information about Madarao Kogen during the spring ski season. Lift tickets are 2,700¥ (regular price is 4,200¥). Several lifts are not running during the spring season; including, the 5, 3B, 11, 12, 13 and 15. This means that while almost all of the mountain is still accessible there are no lifts connecting to the Tangram ski resort next door.

 

In testament to the popularity of Madarao, the resort was surprisingly busy for a week day in the spring. While the lift lines were only ever a few people deep there were lots of people on the slopes enjoying the fine weather.

 

The small park in the middle of the mountain was suffering from the sun and was definitely worse for wear.

 

Personally, I like Madarao Kogen after a nice coating of fresh snow (who doesn’t?) but it’s an otherwise solidly average resort. It’s a bit on the small side and the conditions tend not to stack up to the nearby resorts of Nozawa and Myoko Kogen. That being said, it’s a good alternative to some of its bigger neighbors and there are certainly attempts being made to bring Madarao’s policies more in line with what their customers desires, such as opening and promoting tree riding and ungroomed powder areas.

 

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We spent only a few hours a Madarao before heading to Jigokudani to check out the snow monkeys. It certainly wasn't as impressive without piles of snow everywhere. The monkeys were busy sunning themselves on the surrounding rocks and only a few of them were hanging out in the hot springs.

 

 

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We then set off for our last stop of the trip, Happo One.

 

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Wednesday, 28th, 2012

 

We woke up to a winter wonderland! It had snowed 15-20cms at the bottom of Goryu, a very welcome sight! We hurried off to Happo One for some turns!

 

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A lot has been said or written about Happo and there's not really much I can add except from the perspective of spring skiing. With fresh snow everywhere and a very wintery feel in the air it hardly seemed like spring at all. While Happo reduces the lift operations for the spring season none of the areas are closed and everything is still accessible.

 

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The conditions on-piste could hardly have been better. Even though the snow was slightly heavy at mid-mountain up top it was still nice and powdery (down low it was pretty sticky slush). We lapped up the powder on the upper runs until midday until some strange weather, including thunder and lightning, closed the lifts for a brief time. Luckily, it was time for lunch anyway and by the time we'd finished everything was running as usual.

 

We stayed until last lifts and couldn't believe how lucky we'd been for end of the season turns. Hopefully we'll be able to get one or two more trips out before everything is closed for the year.

 

 

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Great review and photos BM! :thumbsup:

 

& I love this comment, "The top runs were hard and well scraped, mid-mountain was mashed potatoey (with maybe a bit of cream cheese thrown in the mix) and lower was grabby like sticky mochi." In fact, I might have to plagarise that in some of my reviews! :D

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It's all clever marketing. :grandpa:

 

Black Mountain totally fails to mention that he in fact 73cm tall (in high heels) and his father was the Munchkin leader in The Wizard of Oz.

 

;)

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Thanks for the report. Must write up ours soon!

 

What's your route from Numazu to Myoko, BM?

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great stuff dude. Maybe we need a spring thread so we can all figure out what lifts are down, where. Definitely A+ public service info here!

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Nice report BM.

 

Hakkaisan, also Prince, closed very early this season...

 

As for lifts, we're doing our best on the daily reports though obviously that doesn't cover every skijo.

 

Got a few ideas/plans being planned, but that doesn't help right here, now.

 

:friend:

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Its not just lifts as well though. For instance, we tried to get to ryuoo. Turns out, if you dont have a car and arent travelling with a massive tour group, the only way there is by a rather expensive taxi ride from either iiyama or yudanaka (about 6000-8000 yen). Luckily the nice dudes at the office drove us back, but it was kinda tough getting there, seeing a tonne of buses, then finding out that all the public buses and shuttle buses were done for the season. Late season is complicated when you aint got your own wheels :p

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ah no, i aint suggesting the info be supplied by you guys. I was thinking something much more casual and much like the public service stuff BM just put out. Im fairly certain there could be a nice little thread in the making on it (by us as we hit up resorts this month) is all. :)

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For sure. :)

 

I was just mentioning that we are trying to cover the opening info on the daily reports.

Including Myoko. ;)

Worth mentioning if some people reading this are not aware of that.

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Why on earth did Suginohara close up that early??

 

Thanks for the report BM.

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med_gallery_10367_172_184298.jpg

 

It's all clever marketing. :grandpa:

 

Black Mountain totally fails to mention that he in fact 73cm tall (in high heels) and his father was the Munchkin leader in The Wizard of Oz.

 

;)

 

Lol. I'm called Black Mountain (!!) not Black Anthill. I'd estimate those snow walls at about 5.5m - 6m along that stretch of road. There was actually tons of snow removal going on while we were there.

 

Thanks for the report. Must write up ours soon!

 

What's your route from Numazu to Myoko, BM?

 

We drive up west of Mt. Fuji (right along the base actually) and then get on the Chuo expressway near Kofu. From there it's pretty much a straight shot north. Link below.

 

http://maps.google.c...8&via=1&t=m&z=8

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