The winner of the 'most new stuff at a Japanese ski resort' award this year has to surely go to Ishiuchi Maruyama. And actually, the extent of the new facilities being introduced this season at the resort means that it would probably have won such an award in many of the years since the famous 'ski boom' of the late 80s!
Ishiuchi Maruyama is located in Minamiuonuma city, just to the north of Yuzawa town - and close to SnowJapan HQ! - in Niigata Prefecture. It has been around since 1949, but there are some big changes the resort year. Here are the main headlines:
- a new hybrid 'Gondola & 6-person' ski lift called Sunrise Express
- a new Snow Land area
- a new triple lift called Tyrol Triple Lift
- a new base Resort Center
The biggest news is the new Sunrise Express hybrid gondola + 6 person chair lift, which is being described as 'the world's most advanced combination ski lift'. It may not be the longest (at 1,178m in length), but it certainly looks very slick and is packed with features. This new lift replaces the old main Chuo quad lift and Chuo triple lifts. It goes up from the Chuo Area base to where the top of the triple lifts used to be, which is in the middle section of the resort and about 300m above base. So just to be clear, it does not go up to the summit.
The new lift line has 19 Gondola cabins with big windows all round and tan leather spacious bucket seating. There are also 57 six-person chairlifts which are hooded and have...heated seating! Basically there is one gondola cabin for every three chairlifts, and riders can choose which they want to ride. If you ride the 6-person lift, there's a moving 'loading carpet' to make getting on easier. Basically you are brought to a point on a short moving walkways where you are stopped to wait for the lift to come up behind you.
The new modern technology in this lift is claiming that it will be an extremely smooth and quiet ride.
A new Snow Land area is also going to open up close to the top Sunrise Express station with various children and 'playing in the snow' activities.
A Sunrise Express return lift ticket (1500 yen) is being introduced for people who just want to ride that lift for sightseeing or to use the Snow Land. Riding the new lifts is included in the normal ski lift tickets, which are seeing an increase in cost this season for adults - but actually decrease in price for children. It seems like they want to appeal to families with children and sightseeing tourists with the new Gondola - as well snow riding types.
At base, a brand new Resort Center has been built close to the Chuo base on part of the Chuo car park area. This building will have an information counter, rental shop, general shop, locker and changing rooms, lounge space, ticket counter.. as well as an official Goldwin shop.
For most ski resorts the introduction of a brand new triple lift would be the top headline news, but with so much else being introduced at Ishiuchi Maruyama this year the new Tyrol Triple Lift almost seems like a footnote. This new 3-person lift in the central area of the resort is apparently going to improve access to the 'Monster Pipe' and the Kanko Number 3 Express lift. (The old single lifts in that area were taken down to make way for this new lift).
The resort has introduced a new logo and is also promoting the slogan 'JAPAN'S NEW CLASSIC'.
Phew! We have been watching them working on these things over the last six months and they seem to be on time and almost ready to go. Well done, Ishiuchi Maruyama.
It really is great to see so much investment and development and we wish them all the very best for the upcoming season. We are definitely looking forward to trying out the new facilities once they open and will try to post some photographs of the new lifts in action either late this month or early in January. Keep your eye on our Yuzawa Now daily reports for other mentions in the coming few weeks.
Ishiuchi Maruyama plans to open for the season on Friday 21st December 2018.
>> More images on the Resort Spotlight page here