After hearing good things about Gassan from some Japanese friends, I bit the bullet and decided to head down for opening weekend. My friends were not lying and I was not disappointed.
Driving up from Yamagata city on Sunday morning, it took about an hour to get there. The last part of the drive was spectacular going up the mountain, hairpin after hairpin with snow walls up to 8m high surrounding the narrow road corridor.
The car park was a little over half full and after taking some photos of the amazing surroundings we geared up and headed for the main building. There was a cat giving lifts between the car park and the main building but we decided to walk as it was only about 500m walk.
￥3,300 for the lift ticket and we were on our way. There is only one pair lift operating at Gassan although I believe they get a couple of rope-tows operating higher up the mountain later in the season. Once at the top of the pair lift there's a small flat area with a hut that wasn't open. Most people were sorting out their gear here ready to hike up one of the surrounding peaks.
We decided to just climb up the nearest peak to the lift as that's where the majority of the crowd was going and we didn't have any proper hiking gear (backpacks/poles/snowshoes) with us. Most of the people making the trek up this or one of the other peaks was fairly well prepared with all the gear including avi beacons (not sure these would have been necessary given the conditions). It took only about 20 min to reach the peak where we took some more photos. There were about 3 main peaks that all had people climbing them and it was of mix of people with no gear, snowshoes, skins or just hikers with no boards or skis.
We strapped in and headed back towards the base. the further down we went the better the snow got, but the whole way down we were just carving big lines across the vast face. The top half was a mix of corn and ice and the view was spectacular with blue skies and snow covered mountains as far as you could see.
We spent the rest of the day just lapping the lift which led to a course running down a valley. This had good banks up one side and some well spaced trees on the other. The weather was great all day and we didn't get bored at all.
Looking at some of the pictures in the restaurant, it seems as though the courses will develop over the season to have a few mogul courses and maybe some kickers. I can't wait to go back.