After taking a month off the snow for recovery I was itching to get back on my board. We started our trip on Friday night around 10pm. I decided to leave a bit earlier then planned because of the forecasted snow and the chance of the highway closing. Luckily my run up to Myoko was pretty easy and the highway was relatively clear most of the way. We took the Hokuriku highway along the Sea of Japan and the highway was clear until we turned off the coastline and started heading inland. From here the road turned from black to white. It was amazing how much of a difference a couple of hundred metres of elevation makes.
Since our journey up to Myoko was relatively easy we arrived rather early and had about 3 hours spare before the ski-jo opened. I considered finding a parking area and tying to get a couple of hours rest but my car is tiny and very difficult for me to sleep in. Instead we went to the Onsen Cafe at Ikenotaira, this is open 24hours a day during the winter and they have a communal area with blankets and tatami mats for resting. I couldn't get much sleep due to caffeine and excitement but it was nice to be able to lie down and relax for a couple of hours before heading to the snow.
After getting ready at the cafe we headed off to find our pension and headed to the snow. The pension we stayed in was tucked away down the end of a tiny street near the Allen pair lift. It was about a 5 minute walk to the lift which was nice and close but that was about all, the pension was really run down and needed a good clean and renovation. It was cheap so I wasn't expecting much. The snow on the other hand was very impressive. There had been a bit of snow overnight, enough to close the main highway from Tokyo. Since the Tokyo crowds couldn't get to Myoko the slopes were really quiet and it felt like we had arrived on a weekday. This made for an enjoyable day on the slopes with plenty of powder stashes on piste. Ikenotaira isn't very steep so it was good the snow was only about knee deep(20-30cm). This day was very enjoyable, the only down side was having to ride a slow cold lift to back up the mountain from the restaurant.
The next day we woke to even more snow and headed up the slow lift again. Unfortunately due to strong winds the hooded quad that serviced the top of the mountain was closed so it was a day of riding slow lifts on reduced speeds in strong winds. The lifts were terrible but the snow was amazing, it was almost too deep in certain parts and that was on piste. I didn't even bother trying to hit the tree lines. I saw many people attempting but they just got stuck and had to dig/hike there way back to the piste. Even on the piste if you feel over on a flatter section of the course it was difficult to get up and get going again. The snow was just too deep.
Although the wind was bad the snow was amazing so it was a bit of a mixed weekend. Still it was great to get out on the snow again. I had been to Ikenotaira once last season and had a very enjoyable experience. I would definitely recommend checking it out at least just for a day if you are in the Myoko region.
From 15 February, 2014 To 16 February, 2014
Snow condition on visit:
The snow conditions on this trip were... crazy! An unusually big snow storm hit this weekend. Anyone who was in Tokyo will remember it because it basically stopped the city. Needless to say the snow at Ikenotaira was amazing. The first day there was about 30cm of fresh snow, the second day even more.
Things I liked:
The snow was nice. The Alpen Blick restaurant has all you can drink with your lunch for 1000 yen (not sure if this is a good thing or not). The resort was not very crowded but I did get lucky there. Some nice tree runs towards the top.
Things I didn't like:
There are not so many steep lines. There are 2 hooded quads that are good but the rest of the lifts are old and slow.