- Chase the big winter storms that Minakami is famous for
- Our local guides will show you why Tenjin backcountry is as good as it gets in Japan
- Head off the beaten path and ride at some of the lesser known resorts.
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. During a good year, the resort may open as early as mid-November and can stay open through May. So you get an idea of just how much it snows here. It constantly snows.
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 and Nick Hyne.
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.
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.
Kei Ishiuchi is a snowboarding legend in Japan. Spend a day with Kei, and you’ll see why our clients keep coming back to ride with him, season after season. He’ll also keep a sharp eye on the weather and make sure we’re riding the best snow daily.
Nick Hyne has a close connection with Minakami as it was his home during his time living in Japan. Throughout the tour we stay at a lodge owned and operated by his host family, so you’ll get a unique and local perspective. When Nick isn’t in Japan, he calls Queenstown home and is a well-known and respected professional snowboarder responsible for bringing us the best winter content in their webs series; Diaries Downunder and Japan Journals.
Where we ride
While our main focus is riding Tenjindaira, Minakami is also home to nine resorts spread throughout the area. We keep the itinerary flexible so we can ride at the best resort on the day. Here’s an overview of the main resorts we’ll ride:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Powder Boards available to demo
For our backcountry days you can test-ride the latest powder shapes from TJ Brand view HERE.