A week based in Katashina Village, on the east side of Minakami
Just a two-hour trip from Tokyo Station sits Gunma Prefecture. With very few foreign tourists, empty resorts mid-week, no lift lines and a ton of undiscovered terrain. Our base for the tour is Oze Iwakura Resort is in Katashina Village, on the east side of Minakami. This resort scores the highest snowfall in the area with light-dry powder, loads of backcountry and side-country options and some nights there’s the ‘nighta’ where you can keep lapping until 9pm.
We have local Japanese guides leading this trip who are also local legends within the core Minakami snowboarding scene. Our lead guide is a sponsored rider for the cult Japanese snowboard brand Gentemstick. You’ll have the opportunity to test-ride these boards throughout the tour. They are a perfect board for the type of snow and terrain you’ll ride.
For the first day on-snow, you’ll ride at our home resort Oze Iwakura, which has the best snow and terrain our of all the local resorts. The highlight – 2 days of private back-country cat-skiing just outside of the Oze Iwakura area, plus 2 lift-accessed back-country days where you’ll ride Nishiyama. All avalanche safety equipment is included for these backcountry days. Throughout the tour you’ll have our photographer/videographer on hand so you can get a couple of shots to take home from the tour.
You’ll stay on-mountain at Oze Iwakura Resort Hotel. It’s an old-school, but comfortable Japanese hotel that’s complete with onsen (hot-spring) and local dining.
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Winter 2025 dates
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Advanced - Backcountry Cat-ski
Freeride - Cat and lift access backcountry snowboarding
Why Travel With Mint
In a rapidly changing travel industry it’s important to know that your travel provider is accredited, accountable and responsible. We are a registered member of AFTA and IATA and conduct business in accordance with the ATAS Charter and Code of Conduct. When you travel with Mint you can have peace of mind that you are booking with a qualified and established travel operator with over 20 years of expertise. And as a full-service travel agent, we are able to take care of your insurance, stopovers and pre or post tour arrangements.
2 DAYS OF CAT ACCESS
We've charted a cat for 2 days of backcountry snowboarding just outside Kitashina Village, on the east side of Minakami.
2 BACK-COUNTRY DAYS
You'll spend 2 days riding Nishiyama with our local Japanese backcountry guides. Use the Oze lift's to reach the summit, desend through the forest, then our vans are waiting at the bottom to collect you and do it all over again.
Ride Oze Iwakura
This under the radar spot is a well kept secret. Not easy to get to, but well worth a trip for the lack of lift lines and a ton of undiscovered terrain.
Get in touch for a detailed tour itinerary and more info
Like any destination, you've got to know where and when to go. In Minakami, it's vital to have mission-ready guides who know the region and to have transport on hand. Our local Japanese guides will put you in the right zones each day according to weather and snowfall and send you home STOKED. Your guides have a lifetime of experience snowboarding in this region and will monitor storm cycles to ensure you’re scoring the best snow.
We've included nearly everything to make this a premium experience. You'll get 2 days of private cat-skiing, 2 days of lift and van access to the Nishiyama zone, a video from the trip, you'll stay in a slope-side onsen hotel in a private single room with breakfasts and dinners are included, all lift tickets and trasnport.
SNOW & CONDITIONS
Mid-February is the best time of year for backcountry snowboarding in this region. The snowpack is deep and stable, the weather is mostly clear and the temperatures still sit below zero. Most days you can expect to ride snow that’s anywhere from boot to knee deep. Even if we don’t get fresh snow overnight, our local knowledge will ensure you’ll ride the best snow conditions on that day.
ABOUT THE REGION
Take the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo, and in just over 2 hours you will be transported to Minakami, a region known for its deep powder snow; unique traditions; food; culture; famed onsen and pristine wilderness. The lack of crowds and very little western influence makes it one of our favourite places to ride in Japan. Our base for this tour is Kitashina village where we can access the surrounding ski resort and backcountry.
Meet your expert team
LOCAL GUIDES & PARTNERSHIPS
Mint opens doors around the globe. Our long-standing relationships with local guides, local legends, professional athletes, local businesses and resorts allow us special access to places and people. Travelling with us, you go behind the scenes to get a close-up view of each destination. You’re enriched by the knowledge of our experts and local guides.
Meet your expert team
Kei is a snowboarding veteran with over 20+ years experience including stints as a test rider for Burton, editor of Japanese snowboarding magazines and head coach for multiple ski schools across Japan. Spend a day riding with Kei and you’ll see why our clients keep coming back to ride with him, season after season.
Meet your expert team
Award winning videographer Jeremy Black will be shooting this tour.
YOUR TOUR INCLUDES
✔ 6 nights Single accommodation at Oze Iwakura Resort Hotel (1 person per room)
✔ 2 guided cat-ski days – includes avalanche safety equipment
✔ 2 guided backcountry days – Nishiyama, includes avalanche safety equipment, transport
✔ 1 guided resort day – Oze Iwakura
✔ All lift tickets
✔ Private transport throughout the tour
✔ Return arrival & departure day transfers from Numata Station
✔ 6 breakfasts
✔ 6 dinners
✔ Photographer / videographer on hand throughout the tour
✔ Fully-escorted tour, guides on hand throughout the tour
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED
✘ Travel insurance
✘ All lunches – expect to pay USD $10 – $15 per meal
✘ Any meals, drinks, snacks not listed
This tour is suitable for advanced snowboarders and skiers. You should be comfortable on black diamond runs, be able to ride/ski off-piste in all conditions, can confidently navigate alpine and treed terrain and maintain a continuous rhythm and pace, even through traverses and flat sections. When you are ready to book, we’ll set up a call to ensure that you’re suited to the tour and the style of travel.
Here’s roughly what you can look forward to:
18 February – Arrival 3:00 pm, meet at Numata Station, Dinner and tour briefing
19 February – Resort riding day Oze Iwakura
20 February – Lift-accessed backcountry day
21 February – Cat-ski / backcountry day
22 February – Lift-accessed backcountry day
23 February – Cat-ski / backcountry day
24 February – Breakfast, Departure 10:00 am, transfer to Numata Station
WHY TRAVEL WITH MINT?
In a rapidly changing travel industry it’s important to know that your travel provider is accredited, accountable and responsible. Mint is a registered member of AFTA and IATA and conducts business in accordance with the ATAS Charter and Code of Conduct. When you travel with Mint you can have peace of mind that you are booking with a qualified and established travel operator with over 20 years of expertise. And as a full-service travel agent, we can take care of your flights, insurance, stopovers and pre-or post tour arrangements.
ARE LIFT TICKETS INCLUDED?
Yes, all lift tickets are included for this tour. Please note that the resorts we visit on this tour are NOT on the Ikon or Epic Pass.
BUDGETING FOR THE TOUR
An estimate of spending money for the week is around USD $150 – $250 to cover lunches, drinks and snacks. Here’s an indication of what you can expect to pay for meals and transport to Myoko:
- Lunches – expect to pay USD $5 – $12 per meal
- Drinks, beers and snacks – expect to pay USD $20 – $30 per day
- Train fare to/from Numata Station (approx. USD 100 one way from Tokyo Haneda Airport)
WHAT TYPE OF TERRAIN WILL WE RIDE/SKI?
On this tour you will ride a mix of backcountry and resort terrain. There’s a range of terrain to access from alpine, playful or challenging tree runs, some with features such as pillows and drops, even a lap or two through the park.
The best thing you can do to get the most out of your Mint experience is to start a pre-trip fitness regime. We’re not looking for you to be an Olympic athlete, but you do need some fitness endurance. You’ll spend five, full and consecutive days on-snow, so you should be physically fit enough to comfortably ski/ride for five consecutive days. Your muscles should be up to this task, and your cardio fitness means you can sustain a consistent pace.
WHAT HAPPENS ON ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE DAY?
Once you’ve signed up for the tour we will send you through a comprehensive guide with details about the tour including the arrival and departure day process, a map of where we meet, recommended arrival and departure times, visa requirements and transportation information.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE ON THIS TOUR?
Each tour is different, but we know that by offering one of the smallest client to guide ratio in the industry allows you to ski or snowboard at your preferred pace, and ultimately leads to a better experience for everyone. When we are on mountain, we have a maximum of 6 people per guide. This ensures you get the most out of your time with us, and keeping the groups small means less time waiting and more time riding powder.
WHO ARE THE GUIDES?
All of our tours are guided by friendly, knowledgeable guides who are passionate about the mountains. Your guides for this tour are Kei Ishiuchi and our local Japanese backcountry guides.
ARE FLIGHTS INCLUDED?
No, flights are not included.
DO I NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE?
Yes. All guests on tour need to be covered by comprehensive travel insurance. Once you have booked on the tour, we strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance.
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE I’VE BOOKED?
Once you’ve booked your spot on tour, we will send you through a booking confirmation and provide updates about the tour including the arrival and departure day process, a map of where we meet, recommended arrival and departure times, flight options, visa requirements and transportation information. We will send out a Pre Departure Guide 30 days prior to departure.
HOW DO I CHECK MY ABILITY LEVEL?
The best way to check if a tour is suited to your ability is by speaking with one of our tour specialists. They will be able to determine if the tour you have selected is a good fit for your ability, as well as suggesting other tour options.
HOW DO I GET TO GUNMA?
We’ll provide you with instructions to get to Gunma. If it’s your fist time to Japan or if you’re unsure about travel arrangements, often we can link you up with other tour guests to travel with.
HOW DO I CHECK AVAILABILITY?
Speak with one of our tour specialists. As this is a small group tour with limited availability, it’s best to get in touch early to avoid disappointment.
DO YOU TAKE SKIERS & SNOWBOARDERS?
Yes. We are ski and snowboard friendly. Please note that this tour is led by a snowboard guides.
CAN I RENT EQUIPMENT?
No, please bring all your snowboarding / ski equipment with you as the rental selection is very limited and outdated.
WHAT EQUIPMENT SHOULD I BRING?
We will provide you with a packing list, but it’s good to know that Gunma can be a cold place in winter, with temperatures typically ranging from +3 to -10°C / 37 to 14°F. We strongly recommend that guests dress in layers of clothing specific for traveling in backcountry areas. Guests will need to bring their own ski or snowboarding equipment for the tour (board, boots, bindings and outerwear). Powder boards and ski’s are recommended.
WHO WILL BE ON MY TOUR?
Your group will be made up of travellers from diverse backgrounds and will be varied in age. Our groups generally mix well due to a shared interest in snowboarding and an eagerness to explore all that Japan has to offer.