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No.181 (2/11/11)

The Greatest Terrains In Tohoku Region

By Keiko H. Johnson
Staff Writer

As my children grows up and become interested in winter sports, I warmed up to the idea of stretching out my rusty bones and muscles that I had not used for a few years and went to hit the slopes. The great powder snow in Tohoku is well known and I have known many winter sports advocates on the slopes during the snowy season. The harsh winter with the bitter cold temperature, which the region has it all, are essential to produce the best quality of powder snow. Having stationed in Misawa made it possible to explore the great powder snow of Tohoku that continuously attracts people from all over the world.

One of my favorite terrains which I visit often is the Hachimantai Panoramic Ski Resort in Iwate prefecture. As I consider myself more of a recreational skier than that of an adrenalin seeker, I rather ski on relatively moderate well-groomed slopes, and Hachimantai serves my needs. The terrain in the area is suitable for family with small children and/or fewer experiences in winter sports. It may, however, lack in excitement for the advanced level skiers. Being one of the family oriented ski resort, Hachimantai Resort Hotel located on the bottom of the slope offers the ski/snowboard-training program for children called SKIDS CAMP. The family oriented terrain with the best quality of powder snow highly contributes to fast progress in all level skiers. The main high-speed chair lift has a covering that keeps the wind and snow from bushing onto your face while on it.

While Hachimantai is one of the moderate ski slopes in the area, ski slopes at Mt Hakkoda are, on the contrary, considered as extremely difficult ski slope to ride in the region. The best powder and the magnificent view of Tohoku’s nature are the advantages you gain while you weave down the slopes on the blue sky day. If you are well experienced as an advanced level skier/ snowboarder who pleads to hound the feeling of adrenalin rushing through your body, Mt. Hakkoda is definitely the best place to go. If you are not both mentally and physically prepared, though, to deal with upright diamond backs with the untouched deep powder snow on the ground, I do not recommend you to go. Even for those well experienced, it is best to find a guide who has sufficient knowledge of the area. Since the dry fresh powder snow level is high, visitors should take their snowshoes in order to walk up the mountain.

In addition to those two mountains for skiers/ snowboarders of particular skill level, there are a few mountains with trails suitable for any skill levels. The mid to high-level skiers /snow boarders seem to choose Okunakayama, as each terrain at this mountain is designed to comply with each skill level. If you are not confident; you can stay at the moderate slope located at the bottom of the main slope. If you are ready to kick it up a notch on the powder to weave down the narrow trail, take the second lift and go higher up on the mountain. The thrilling drop on the upright black diamond can be enjoyed at some parts of the mountain as well. For stunts skiers and snowboarders, it is worthwhile to visit the snow park with ramps and pipes by the beginners' hill. If you are fond of a long distance on the trail, Shizukuishi is one of the places I may consider to visit. The resort offers not only a 4.5 km downhill trail with 789m vertical rise, but also a variety of trails where both beginners and experts can enjoy winter sports. Shizukuishi Ski Resort is located in front of the Shizukuishi Prince Hotel.

When I do not have enough patience to sit in the car for hours, Makado Onsen Ski Mountain is our first choice. On the way to Aomori, Makado Ski Mountain comes into view on your left just before getting to Asamushi Onsen. The length of a slope is much shorter than those of Hachimantai or of Appi, but I like the friendly atmosphere of local community and people. Half way down the slope is the relatively steep drop that some beginners may struggle to pass, but it is neither too difficult nor impossible to ride on. The second chair lift drops you off at the top of the beginner’s slope mild enough to practice on skiing or snowboarding. Another one of mountains located within the short driving distance from Misawa is Yakiyama/ Towada ski mountain. This local ski mountain has slopes similar to the one that of in Makado. The first lift takes you up to the top of the mid-level slope and then, the second lift takes you to the top, where all of the beginner/ mid-level slopes are located. This is a good place to go if you don’t have all day to ski.

The closest of all ski slopes to Misawa is Shichinohe town Ski slope in Shichinohe town. Shichinohe Town manages this local ski slope. It is one of the smallest local mountains I have visited. It is a great place to start off of the season to get into the swing, especially for those who have been away from winter sports for a great amount of time.

The last ski resort I am introducing here is one of the famous ski resorts: Appi Kogen Resort invites many skiers and snowboarders every winter. The countless amounts of slopes are designed for skiers/ snowboarders of all level. The clean and well maintained ski lodge provides varieties of food and drinks. The snow park created at the bottom of the slope offers many events small children can enjoy.

Winter activity season in Tohoku has just started and will be available until April. At any of the mountain in the region, you will enjoy high quality of snow. If you have never tried any winter sports before, it is the time for you to go out and hit the slopes. I have been skiing for a few years, and I just exposed myself to the world of snowboarding. I absolutely enjoy being out on the snow and feel the fresh air on my face while skiing or snowboarding.

The Insider's Picks!
SKIDS CAMP in Hachimantai

By Nao H. Kauffman
Chief Editor

On January 28 and 29, I went down to Hachimantai Resort. I would like to introduce a great program for children from there, especially beginners. It is called “Skids Camp.” This is a special program for age three and up to 12, who have never experienced playing in the snow, skiing or snowboarding or those who want to improve their skills and techniques. Well-trained instructors divide children into small groups and assign them to a perfect course, where they teach your children step-by-step while you enjoy skiing or snowboarding. The lesson starts with a fun dance and exercise for warm-up, which really got my children into the program. My family has been using this program since last season. My older son instantly got along with his instructor and group mates and even spent lunch break together without us. He was only five years old at that time. My younger girl was only three years old last year, and still could manage how to stop in the snow, and got on the small lift for the first time. By the end of the day, I could clearly see they confidently improved themselves and safely enjoyed skiing. Certainly, it was worth it to have them experience and properly learn skiing from well-experienced instructors. If you have even younger children, there is a special lounge for skids campers and their family at the resort for free. There will be a trained nanny who supervise children and assist you while you need extra hands. What a nice privilege for Skids Campers and their family!

Green: Very Beginner, Playing in the snow and learning how to handle the equipment and properly stop during skiing or snowboarding.
Yellow: Beginner, Learning how to turn within the snow park called SKIDS PARK. Then, to the family slope!
Red: Beginner to Intermediate, Stably snowplowing and challenging 2km slope.
Bronze: Intermediate, Mastering stem Christie turn and parallel turn.
Silver: Intermediate to Advanced, Adjusting tempo and turns on the long slope
Gold: Very Advanced, Catching on speedy turns

Just make a reservation a day prior to your visit at 0195-78-2577. Check your children in 30 minutes prior to the lesson starts. Check the price chart.

Skids Camp Lesson Fees (Lift Tickets are included!):
Without Rental, Half-day 2H at 10 a.m. 4,700 yen Full-day 4H at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. 6,800 yen
Rental included, Half-day 2H at 10 a.m. 6,000 yen Full-day 4H at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. 8,000 yen
12-1 p.m.: Lunch break *Lunch can be ordered for additional fees, 700 yen at reservation and upon check-in. (curry rice, beef stew rice, or beef rice bowl)
3-4 p.m.: For additional fees, Junior International Ski Test will be offered for six level medals!

3 Full-day Skids Camp Tickets are also available for only 18,000 yen. (Siblings can share the tickets. A full-day rental set costs 1,400 yen per person, which is a half-price) What is more, parents will get a full-day lift ticket for only 2,500 yen per person, which normally cost you 3,700 yen! Just ask for the tickets called Kaisuuken(回数券) or skids camp season pass (50,000 yen) and request your special discount for the lift ticket.

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