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.
After receiving a couple of free passes thanks to SnowJapan, I planned a trip to Yamagata Zao in late February. Unfortunately my trip coincided with one of the biggest storms of the season which forced me to cancel (most of the lifts ended up closed that weekend). I didn't get a free weekend to reschedule until April so thought I would head down to get in some spring riding.
Arriving at Zao mid-morning the conditions were great. Blue sky and very
Living semi-locally to this resort I was disappointed it took me so long to visit. A regular customer at the nearby Appi resort, I had heard all year that when Appi is too windy, Shimokura is the spot. Come March 8th I found out that what I had heard was right on.
We got there nice and early the day after a 30cm dump and found that the valley the resort was in was perfectly sheltered from the wind which was
Coming from Iwate prefecture, this resort is almost as close as the bigger resorts like Appi and Geto to Morioka. Like these other locations it cops plenty of snow but not the crowds, perhaps due to the absence of regular public transport.
I went by car, but there is a shinkansen station that would only be a ￥2-3000 taxi from the resort so it's not unreachable. Also there are a number of accomodations nearby ranging from dormitory to pension to
I headed down to Jangle Jungle over the weekend and whilst the conditions weren't ideal it seemed like a pretty fun, youth orientated mountain. The music was pretty good the whole time and there was a DJ booth in the main building so I assume sometimes they have people play live sets. It was just pop music while I was there though.
It's a small resort with only 2 quads and 1 pair lift but from these there was a fair
Himekayu is a family resort within close driving distance of Mizusawa.
The lift passes are really cheap, with the resort only serviced by two pair lifts, but there was never any line. There was a fair amount of variety in the few wide runs that they have and there were no ungroomed sections so an intermediate-advanced rider would probably get bored here very quickly unless they were keen to get into the park.