I visited Maiko after a night of decent snowfall, and knowing that it would be less affected by the strong winds forecast for the area. Staying in Yuzawa (at Yuzawa Kenkouland, the overnight onsen place just below Gala Yuzawa station), I awoke to find it still snowing outside and with plenty of fresh snow on parked cars. Running a little late, I took a taxi to the station (1,030Yen) and then the first (07:40) shuttle bus (which is free) from the stop near the east exit of Echigo-Yuzawa station. It was continuing to snow quite heavily when I arrived at the Maiko resort centre at 08:10 and, after a financial scare (I realized I didn’t have enough money on me but was able to pay for my lift ticket by credit card), was soon heading up the gondola.
Following the advice of other forum members, I headed to the Okusoeji Area, the bowl on the back side of the resort. There are 2 ungroomed slopes there, accessed by a double and a quad lift. I chose the “Gungun” course, the one serviced by the quad (lift B on the map) and as I was up there fairly early, was able to lay down some fresh lines in what felt like a good foot of light powder. The trouble was there was little and at times no visibility, which meant that I was feeling rather than seeing my way down the slope. Not a problem at first but less pleasant once the slope started to get chopped up and bumpy, so I sought sanctuary in the trees. As is usually the case, visibility was better there and I was treated to some good runs, though wind gusts would occasionally blow the new snow from the branches causing a temporary white-out!
I then tried the other side of the bowl, the “Zokuzoku” course, serviced by the double lift (lift C), which is a steeper but shorter slope. It was getting quite windy up there and the run was bumpy, so again I headed into the trees on the skier’s right and they were more fun, though not as good as those on the Gungun side of the bowl.
I then headed back to the top gondola station, with a view to stopping at the Skydome restaurant but when I got there, found it was closed. As I was nearby, I therefore decided to check out the Nagamine Area, which is accessed by a quad (lift D). I found plenty of untracked powder down the sides of the main runs but what was really fun was straight-lining the zig-zag “Ranran” course, by dropping off the sides and taking a quicker line through the trees. Hardly anyone else had done this so I had plenty of options for fresh lines. This was actually more fun than the Okusoeji bowl because although there was a little less snow (though still a healthy amount) I could see where I was going. I therefore lapped this for a few times before starting to head back down, as I’d only planned to be at Maiko for the morning. By this time the gondola had stopped due to the wind, not that I had much time to notice as I was trying to keep up speed on the flatter runs down to the base. As others have said, the bottom section is very flat, so boarders beware!
So overall, I had a fun albeit mixed morning at Maiko. I was lucky with the snow, with plenty of fresh tracks up in the Okusoeji and Nagamine Areas, but not so lucky with the visibility and therefore couldn’t enjoy the powder as much as I would’ve liked, nor the views that the resort is known for. I’d therefore like to go back there one day with a bit more time and some sunshine.
From 10 March, 2014
Snow condition on visit:
About a foot of powder but poor visibility and strong winds.
Things I liked:
The tree runs in the Okusoeji Area and straight-lining the Ranran course in the Nagamine Area.