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I visited Manza Onsen on Saturday 16 Feb. I decided to go for a number of reasons, it's close to Kusatsu where I was staying, a couple of people mentioned it when I did a trip report last year for Kusatsu and the PDF on Manzas English web site mentions an area only open on Saturdays and holidays, which sounded good for some untouched snow.


The drive from Kusatsu takes about an hour, unfortunately in winter the only access is via a toll road, at 1020 yen each way it makes the day a bit expensive.


The weather was, well shit, snowing heavily with limited visibility and very cold. The cold is why I have no photos to liven up this text. It was just to bloody cold to stop, take off my gloves, goggles and glasses to use a camera.


NOTE: please bear in mind when reading about the resort the number 17 and the word days. ie 17 days, thats not the number of days I've skiied this month, not the number of days this season, it's the number of days I've skiied ever. So the little voice in the back of your head should keep repeating, "he's an absolute beginner, what does he know"


According to the Manza website (can be reached via http://www.snowjapan...il.php?resid=60), "Manza Onsen is the place. With a base at 1,800 meters, this is one of Japan’s highest resorts and boasts amazing quality snow". There certainly was some amazing snow there on Saturday, I just wish some of it wasn't all over me and filling up the inside of the car every time I opened a car door.


The map below is from the English version website,




Compare it with the Japanese trail map I picked up at Manza (yes it's a cheese photo as well)





On the Japanese trail map the whole Asahiyama side doesn't exist, one of the reasons I went not happening, I thought the Kumashiro trail looked like a good option for a nice ride. Not sure why that side wasn't open, but I couldn't find any evidence of the start of the trail, dispite spending most of the day skiing the Manzayama trail.


The visibility though out the day varied from none to almost none, so I can't say much about views or even what the buildings look like. I parked at the bottom ski center, there is a ticket office and ski school, along with a small shop, all in an area no larger than my lounge, downstairs is a small (bathroom sized) change area, a couple of lockers and toilets. There is meant to be a rental place there as well, but I never saw it. One building over is a Resturant, with what looked like the patrol base underneath.

The english map shows two other, the japanese one other places to get tickets, if the visibility was better I might have seen the one at the bottom of the manzayama trail, but all I saw was some vague building shapes.


From the base you can ski either down to a pair lift or across to a hooded quad. From the top of the quad it was flat across to another pair lift. There was in fact a large flat area there with a resturant out to the right. (nice toilets, spent a lot of time there unfogging my goggles and glasses. I would ride the manzayama trail for three laps, then head over and down to unfog. There was a building with a toilet at the bottom of the manzayama, but it seemed smoking was allowed inside, only went in once and the place stank, didn't return). The flat area made coming down a pain, as you needed to pole across or unclip.


From the top of the pair lift you had the choose of coming straight down, or heading over to the right to go down to the bottom of another pair lift ie down the Manzayama trail. This is where I spent most of the day, coming right off the Manzayama pair lift and heading down. the trail appeared to have been groomed only in the middle, leaving knee high powder on both sides. There weren't many people over here, in fact I had the runs to myself most of the day, while the runs that headed down from the top of pair lift 5 where crowded.


It appeared that the grooming of all the trails, except Prince trail, had been done only in the middle, leaving lots of powder to the sides. When I eventually gave up, due to my goggles and glasses fogging, at 4:00 there was still large bits of untouched powder beside the manzayama trail. Probably untouched because noone could see it. I thing I did discover is that going from a groomed icy run into knee deep powder at speed is a perfect way to test how good your helmet is :shifty:


What little I actually saw of the resort was good. There are some nice runs, although a few too many flat areas, tree run 4 was good at the top, but as it looped back towards the main area was almost flat, lots of poling, and all the boarders were unclipping.


Overall Manza is a nice place, had great snow when I was there, but the cost of the toll road, and the distance it is from the express way counts againest it. It's a Prince resort, so kids under 12 ride free, which might offset the toll enough to make the trip worthwhile, especially if you are there for a couple of days.After a decent snow fall there would be enough there to keep most people happy for a couple of days.

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