I used to visit Suginohara often when I first moved to Nagano, as at that time I lived on the northern side of Nagano city and it only took an hour or so to drive across into Niigata and the Myoko area. Now that I live such a short drive from the Hakuba valley, I rarely get across to Myoko and I do miss the place.
I was lucky enough to win not one, but two tickets to use anywhere in the Myoko area in the last ‘Unclaimed Tickets’ Giveaway of the 2013/14 season. Thanks Snow Japan!
I decided to use the tickets to visit Myoko Suginohara on what turned out to be a big powder day, late in the season. As I had two tickets, I decided to treat a friend of mine to a day out. I hadn’t ridden with him in a good few seasons, so he was very glad for the invitation, and even more so seeing as the ticket was free! As always, my wingman, ‘Bushiman’ came along for the ride. He got lucky on the same giveaway.
So it had started puking at around 5pm on Thursday (20th) night and we arrived at Myoko Suginohara car park at around 8:20am on Friday. The drive up there was a little slower than we had expected, as the highway traffic slowed right down around the couple of IC exits before Myoko. After the IC there was not so much traffic at all really.
It was the first day of a 3 day weekend, but the parking wasn’t even close to being full. Score! There was maybe 25cm of fresh on the ground when we arrived and it was coming down hard. Really good, light snow too. It certainly didn’t feel like the end of March up there!
We met my buddy at the ticket window and got our tickets for the day. It was here that we found out the top ‘Mitahara No.3 High-Speed Qhad Lift’ would not be running today, due to the sudden dump of fresh snow. That kind of put the brakes on our plan to ride the lines over the back of the top lift. That said, those lines are steep and the new storm snow on top of the recent rain crust layer would have been sketchy at best. We decided that the best way to enjoy these late season powder conditions would be on the tree lines with less gradient.
No line at the gondola, so we were straight in and on our way to the goods. It was looking deep out there! We took a couple of very mellow powder lines in the trees off the ‘Mitahara High-Speed No. 2 Quad Lift’ that serves the park. The first one was basically a straight line as it was bottomless and gravity was barely enough to get us through! The second one was just using our tracks from the previous line to gain some speed to catapult into the deep and get some nice turns. Pretty fun to warm up but we soon realised that we needed something a little steeper, as there was at least 40cm on the ground up there and our tracks were getting partially covered between laps!
We opted for a longer, steeper line the other side of the mountain. Starting a little lower down and ending near the bottom of the gondola, this is the line we rode until we stopped for lunch. The snow was bottomless, light, fast and it was big grins all morning.
It was snowing so hard that our tracks were almost completely filled in between laps on the gondola. I’d say that it was more like 50-60cm on the ground by the time we stopped for lunch at around 1:30pm. I wouldn’t usually stop for lunch on a powder day like we were having, but I was hungry and ramen was the only thing that could satisfy my hunger. Bushiman and Jimbob were ready to eat too.
Our 40 minute rest and feed was well deserved. We stopped at the ‘Restaurant Downhill’ half way down the ‘Suginohara Connection Trail’ and it was basically empty.
I inhaled a massive bowl of ramen and it hit the spot! Hunger cured and time for a 15 minute rest to prepare for the post-feed lines.
It was around 2:15 when we got back out there, so it was straight down to the gondola again to get a few more of the same line. The run we took down was our only one on a regular course, and the slope was almost empty. In fact, the whole place seemed freakishly quiet for the first day of a three-day weekend…..
We called it a day at around 3:30 and got back to the car to find it buried up to the bumpers. Maybe a good 30cm had fallen in the 7 hours we were there. It was still coming down hard when we left!
It was a great day and I always like riding at Suginohara. It’s a shame the top lift wasn’t running, but we managed to get the goods all day on the lines available to us.