Join us as we explore the last frontier of big mountain snowboarding in Japan
Ride the big winter storms that the Minakami region is famous for with our local guides who will show you just why the backcountry here is as good as it gets in Japan.
Minakami is our base for the tour – a mountainous onsen town within easy reach of Tokyo. The town lies in the shadow of Mount Tanigawa – one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains. Measuring 1977 meters at its highest point, the mountain gets buried in deep, powder snow during the winter months. To access the mountain, the Tanigawa Ropeway delivers visitors to Tanigawadake Tenjindaira resort, halfway up the mountain. This area is our focus for the tour, as it offers incredible freeride options, some of the deepest snow and one of the longest ski seasons in Japan.
While our main focus is backcountry snowboarding at Tenjindaira, Minakami is also home to nine resorts spread throughout the area. As this is a powder hunter tour, we keep the itinerary flexible so we can ride at the best resort on the day.
To explore the Minakami area, we have assembled one the of the most experienced teams to date. Your hosts for this tour are local backcountry guide and Japanese snowboard legend Yosuke Nishida, all-time snowboarding pioneer Ingemar Backman and Kei Ishiuchi our lead Japan guide and Operations Manager.
Register your interest for winter 2024
Guest to Guide Ratio
5 guests : 1 guide
Register your interest for winter 2024
Freeride - Be prepared to ride and ski in the trees
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 flights, insurance, stopovers and pre or post tour arrangements.
Ride the best resorts in Minakami
To explore the Minakami area, we have assembled on the of the most experienced and legendary guiding teams to date. Your guides for this tour are Yosuke Nishida, Kei Ishiuchi & Ingemar Backman
Minakami scores the biggest storms during the months of January and February. Last winter we received over 90cm of snow in a single day on during this tour.
Demo boards from TJ Brand
We've partnered with TJ Brand snowboards so you can test-ride their latest powder shapes in the environment that they were designed for - DEEP TENJIN POWDER. We'll have a fleet of demo boards on-hand for our backcountry days.
Minakami Freeride Tour
Get in touch for a detailed tour itinerary and more info
Minakami is a small township located in the northern region of Gunma Prefecture. By Joetsu Shinkansen, it takes just 66 minutes from Tokyo to Jomo-Kogen station, the nearest station to Minakami where our guides will meet you. The Minakami area has several different ski areas, each with its own special character, terrain and snowpack. Each day your guides will assess the conditions and decide the best place to go snowboarding based on weather, snowfall and backcountry advisements. The main lifted ski areas we access from our Minakami base are listed here.
Tanigawadake Tenjindaira known by many as simply ‘Tenjin’, it’s somewhat of a well-kept secret from the masses, and the local freeride and backcountry community are keen to keep this area quiet too. Tenjin is renowned for receiving massive amounts of snow and it’s generally of great quality thanks to elevation and a favourable aspect. One look at mighty Mt Tanigawadake is enough to realise it has incredible alpine terrain options only limited by your skill, fitness and the conditions. The backcountry at Tenjindaira is pretty much as good as it gets in Japan. The tree riding is amazing.
ABOUT MARUNUMA KOGEN
Marunuma Kogen is another higher altitude area that reaches a neat 2000m. While it doesn’t receive quite as much snow due to its location further inland, it certainly makes up for it in snow quality. You can typically expect to ride light dry blower powder here, days after a storm has passed. Plus, it offers great views of Mt Nikko-Shiransen, the highest peak in the area at 2,578m.There’s also 610m vertical, and a freeride area which is fun to explore for a day. Maybe best of all there’s an onsen on site, the Zazen spring was recently renewed and reopened.
ABOUT WHITE VALLEY
White Valley is located in the Tanigawa Onsen area of Minakami town and within walking distance from our lodge. This is a small and very local ski hill. On powder days, most of the upper area of White Valley is left untouched by the grooming team. There’s typically very little competition for fresh tracks so it always makes for a fun day riding straight off the lifts.
Minakami Houdaigi is located on the north-western flanks of Mount Hotaka (Hotakasan) in Minakami town. The resort feels like a locals’ mountain and is rather off the beaten track for westerners. With a relatively high elevation and many of the runs facing due north, the snow quality is typically blower. It’s also a great option to ride when the weather is stormy, as there’s some steep, tight and technical trees to enjoy.
SNOW AND CONDITIONS
The Minakami region scores biggest storm during the months of January and February. What you can expect on this tour is cold temperatures and deep powder. Most days you can expect to ride powder that’s anywhere from boot to waist deep. Even if we don’t get fresh snow overnight, the cold temperatures and our local knowledge will ensure you’ll be able to ride light dry snow days after a storm.
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
Yosuke Nishida is the most experienced backcountry guide in the Minakami area as well as a snowboarding legend in Japan. He will be our lead guide for our Tenjin backcountry days. Yosuke is also the director and shaper of TJ Brand. Their powder shapes are heavily influenced by the roots of snowboarding and are perfectly matched to the conditions in Japan. Yosuke will have a fleet of his powder boards available for guests to demo on any of our backcountry days.
Meet your expert team
Ingemar Backman. If you don’t know who this legend of snowboarding is, we encourage you to type his name into Google and see how much of an influence this man has been on the progression of snowboarding. He set the record for the worlds’ highest air out of a quarter-pipe way back in ’96. After countless trips to Japan, Ingemar will be on board to share his many years of knowledge and experience.
Meet your guides
Our head guide in Japan, 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.
YOUR TOUR INCLUDES
- 6 nights twin share accommodation at a private lodge in Minakami
- All breakfast and dinners at our lodge
- Arrival and departure day transfers from Jomo Kogen Station
- Private transportation throughout the tour
- 5 days on-snow guiding, including 2 guided backcountry days
- 5 days of private transfers to / from selected resort
- Access to TJ Brand powder boards on backcountry days
- Mint Tours guides on hand throughout the tour
- Safety briefings
- Visits to local onsen
- Welcome pack with resort info
All our Japan Tours are 6 nights and run from Sunday to Saturday. You’ll ride every resort mid-week to maximise your time on-snow and avoid the weekend day-trippers. If 6 nights isn’t enough, then book one of our multi-tour combo’s. Join us in Minakami, then start a new tour in a different destination the following day. Ask us about tour combo ideas and multi-tour discounts.
DATES Register your interest for winter 2024
PRO-TIP – GO PRIVATE!
Book this tour as a private departure – with your own guide and all the benefits of a Mint group tour – for any group, big or small (even just one traveller). Get in touch to discuss.
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.
WHAT IS A FREERIDE TOUR?
Our Freeride Tours offer you the best chance to ride deep, Japan powder. As part of this tour you will spend 2 days backcountry touring with our qualified guides. Guests will need to have prior backcountry touring experience and be physically fit and prepared to hike for up to 4 hours each day. Our experienced guides have an in-depth knowledge of the zones we visit, which gives you the ultimate advantage when your chasing deep, un-tracked snow. We’ll aim to ride and ski a lot of powder, glades and trees so please be prepared to ride and ski in the trees for 5 days straight. Of course weather and conditions are impossible to predict so guests must be prepared to ride or ski anything.
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, flight options, Visa requirements and transportation information.
WHAT IF I’M TRAVELLING SOLO?
About 99% of our guests are travelling solo, so you’ll be in good company. Our groups generally mix well due to a shared interest in snowsports and an eagerness to explore all that Japan has to offer. If you are travelling solo, you will be paired with another guest to room with. The accommodation for this tour is twin share i.e. 2 beds per room. If you’d prefer your own room please request a single room at time of booking.
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 5 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.
IS THIS TOUR RIGHT FOR ME?
This tour is best suited to skiers and snowboarders who can link turns in powder snow, can make a variety of turn shapes, can traverse and hold speed and who have previous backcountry touring experience. If you’re not sure, give us a call. Weather and ski conditions are impossible to predict so guests must be prepared to ride or ski anything. If you have never ridden in powder or shy away from it at your local resort, this is not the tour to learn. The terrain has lots of glades and trees – please be prepared to ride and ski in the trees.
WHICH RESORTS WILL WE VISIT?
We keep the tour itinerary flexible so you can ride at the best resort on the day. Each day your guide will make the decision on which resort to ride based on a number of factors including weather, snowfall, group ability and interest. We have around half a dozen ski resorts we can access within easy reach of our centrally located lodge.
CAN I ARRIVE EARLY OR STAY ON AFTER THE TOUR?
For most tours you can arrive earlier or stay later. We can tailor the trip to suit your travel plans. Speak with one of our tour specialists when you are booking and they will be more than happy to assist.
WHO ARE THE GUIDES?
All of our tours are guided by friendly, knowledgeable and expertly trained guides who are passionate about the mountains. Our guides for this tour are Ingemar Backman, Kei Ishiuchi and Yosuke Nishida.
CAN YOU BOOK FLIGHTS?
Yes. Let us take the hassle out of selecting the right flights for the tour. We can book you the best flight options for the tour, with no booking fees.
ARE FLIGHTS INCLUDED?
No, flights are not included. If you need assistance booking flights, we can book you the best flight options for the tour, with no booking fees.
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. We offer all of our tour guests discounted snow specific 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. Prior to the tour commencing we will invite you to a group chat which is managed by your tour manager and guides.
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 MINAKAMI?
We’ll provide you with a guide with options to get to Minakami. 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 the majority of our tours are led by snowboard guides.
CAN I RENT EQUIPMENT?
You will need to bring your own equipment for this tour. Get in touch for a gear list.
WHAT EQUIPMENT SHOULD I BRING?
This region is one of the coldest places in Japan during winter, with temperatures typically ranging from 0 to -15 degrees Celsius. We strongly recommend that guests dress in clothing specific for traveling in backcountry areas. We recommend that guests have a good quality waterproof jacket and pants, lightweight insulated layer, merino base layers, merino gloves and waterproof gloves, goggles with low light & high light lenses, sunglasses, balaclava, beanie, and helmet. Guests need to bring their own ski touring or splitboard equipment plus avalanche safety equipment for this tour. Get in touch for a gear list.
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 snowsports and an eagerness to explore all that Japan has to offer.
ARE LIFT TICKETS INCLUDED?
To maintain a flexible tour itinerary we don’t include lift tickets for this tour. There is no single lift ticket that covers the areas we ride; and we don’t want to lock you in to pre-purchasing lift tickets where you have to ride at certain resorts. We can travel far and wide to score you the best snow; from the major resorts, to the smaller hidden gems. You can just purchase a lift ticket on the day, wherever we may end up. Lift tickets in this region are inexpensive and can cost as little as JPY 2,000 per day (approx. AUD $30)
HOW DO I DEMO A POWDER BOARD?
We have access to a fleet of powder boards from TJ Brand Snowboards that are available to demo. Speak with your guides to arrange a demo. Demo boards are available for guests to demo during the backcountry days. You will need to use your own bindings on the demo boards.
PRICE PER PERSON
Register your interest for winter 2024
RESERVATION AND DEPOSIT
To secure your spot on tour, a non-refundable 50% deposit is payable within 3 days of booking. The balance is due 90 days prior to tour departure.
If you would like some more information or a quote for the tour you can contact us by:
Enquire below. Once we receive your request one of our Japan Tour Specialists will be in touch with a with a quote, availability and further details about the tour.
2. OVER THE PHONE
Call us and follow the prompts to speak to one of our Japan Tour specialists.
Within Australia (03) 8563 9437