White Valley is a small, local hill in Tanigawa Onsen (hot spring) in Minakami. It is known by many of the locals as “Little Tenjin” in reference to the larger and more famous Tanigawa Tenjindaira located just above White Valley. Besides it’s location, White Valley and Tenjin have a number of other similarities. Both get a lot of fresh powder and both have nice ungroomed walls. In fact the majority of White Valley is ungroomed which is their major selling point with their website inviting you to come enjoy “a premium powder day”. The views are probably pretty good, but when I went it was snowing hard so I can’t say for sure.
White Valley is small. There are two lifts but the bottom lift is short and acts mostly as a connector to the much longer upper lift which was much more popular. There is a short run to the bottom of the hill from the lower lift which was mostly being used by families and beginners. Despite being small the runs from the top of the upper lift are a decent length. From the top of the upper lift riders are treated to a nice ungroomed wall with a traverse line across the top. There was also a nice ledge which acted as a jump for some energetic riders.
At the bottom of the wall there is a bit of a bottleneck with riders able to either get back on the lift at it’s mid point or choose from two trails heading to the bottom of the lift. Going straight ahead was steeper and more popular and the trail to the left went into a valley and was a decently long natural half pipe.
There were also some opportunities for off-piste riding. The majority of which being accessed by traversing across the upper wall onto the ridge line then dropping back down to the courses from a variety of angles there.
I chose to go to White Valley the day I did because the forecast was for a lot of snow fall and high winds. I figured the lower elevation more sheltered White Valley might be more pleasant than some of the higher elevation hills in the area which turned out, for the most part, to be true. Upon arrival I was greeted by a parking attendant asking for 1,000 yen. I guess this is normal but spending so many days at Kawaba with their free parking garage has spoiled me a bit. I think weekdays are free.
When I arrived the upper lift was not yet open but people were already waiting in line. I decided to get one warm-up run in from the lower lift, hitting some powder on the side of the course before getting in line. Talking with people in line had me excited. A lot of people like White Valley and almost everyone had a powder board or skis.
My first run was great! There were maybe 30 – 40 people in front of me so the direct powder lines were gone but I traversed across the upper wall and dropped a fresh line down to the bottleneck where I realized no one had turned left yet! fast fresh powder for me almost the whole way down.
After that I noticed the off – piste area after the wall traverse was being ridden and decided to check it out. The upper part was a little wind blown and icy but dropping through the trees was nice. I continued dropping lines from here for most of the day. My only complaint was that the tree runs weren’t a bit longer.
Looking for fresh powder and something a bit longer I ventured farther down the ride line than any other rider had and realized you could drop under the bottom of the lower lift from there. It was also pretty steep. Besides my first run , these were my best of the day. They were also a bit dangerous. I wouldn’t recommend going alone.
All and all I had a fun day!
I would mostly recommend White Valley to intermediate riders who want to get into riding powder. I would also recommend it to advanced riders who don’t like going off – piste and don’t mind not having a lot of variety of runs or riders who are just getting into off – piste riding and don’t want to ride anything too long or dangerous. Because the lifts were a bit hard to get on and off of I wouldn’t recommend it to first time riders. The bottom area is good for families as long as everyone is comfortable getting on and off the lifts.
Things to do besides riding
White Valley is in the nice hot spring town of Tanigawa Onsen. It is a beautiful valley with great views of some of the steeper mountains in all of Japan. I think it would be an excellent place to stay. There are also a nice variety of hills to ride relatively close proximity. There is also an excellent public bath, 湯テルメ (Yu Terume), in Tanigawa Onsen which I highly recommend. Central Minakami is also close by and has almost everything you could want; good restaurants, hot springs, rental shops, great views, places to drink, etc.
Overall if you don’t mind a small hill and like places with a local feel then you might enjoy White Valley.