Myoko's backcountry is a steep and deep powder paradise away from the crowds.
We have over 10 years of experience riding the Myoko Backcountry and love to share our knowledge with guests!
PHOTO: Myoko-san in all it's glory. Shot from the peak of Madarao Kogern ski Resort.
The Myoko Backcountry area is one of the deepest and least crowded human-powered only backcountry zones on the planet and Gozan Lodge is the best place to stay in Myoko for powder hounds who love to hike. In this guide we will showcase Suginohara backcountry, Akakura Backcountry, Ikenotaira Backcountry, Seki Onsen Backcountry, Nozawa Backcountry, Shiga Kogen Backcountry, Madarao Backcountry, Kurohime Backcountry and Myoko Trailhead Backcountry options. On any given day in the Myoko Backcountry, there is more than enough varied aspect, alpine and tree-line terrain to ride fresh powder without the rush to be the first group to the top like other more popular backcountry areas.
The Myoko Backcountry consists of a number of lift accessible peaks, mainly from Myoko Suginohara ski resort or (where Gozan Lodge is located) or Myoko Akakura ski resort but there is a few backcountry areas above Ikenotaira ski resort and Seki Onsen ski resort. The rarely visited, trailhead accessible zones in Myoko-Togakushi renzan national park also hold a wealth of untracked powder which we take advantage of in our many backcountry tour packages. While other areas in Japan such as Hakuba and Tenjin may be famous for some of the most famous steep alpine descents in Japan; Myoko's backcountry and it’s surrounding active volcanic range have a great mixture of alpine and tree skiing that rival the best!
Know Before You Go
This page is to give visitors to the Myoko Backcountry some basic information on the popular routes before they set foot out of bounds and into the real mountain terrain. Please see our Backcountry Resources page for a number of different avalanche safety and weather forecast sources that will help you make safe and informed decisions on your tour.
Photo: Sunset over Yakeyama, deep in the Myoko Backcountry
Myoko Suginohara Backcountry
The Myoko backcountry is easy to access from the top lift of Myoko Suginohara which is the highest lifted point in Myoko at 1855m. There are two main peaks you can ski from the top of Myoko Suginohara resort: Mitahara and Akakura-yama. For the adventurous, Mt. Myoko’s West Face and Kurosawa-dake accessible by full (long) day tour and overnight tours to Hiuchi-san, Yakeyama and Kana-san are possible via hut access.
Myoko Mitahara-yama Backcountry Zone
The peak of Mitahara-yama (2347m) is the highest point of the crater ridge of Mt. Myoko and is accessible by a ~1.5hr hike from Myoko Suginohara. Mitahara-yama has one of the best mountain views in the whole of honshu and on a clear day, Myoko backcountry zones such as Myoko-san, Mae-yama, Kana-san, Kurosawa-dake, Kurohime-san, Hiuchi-yama, Yake-yama, Takatsuma/Otsuma, Togakushi-yama, Sadoyama, can be seen. Resorts accessible by a day trip such as Lotte Arai, Madarao/Tangram, Kijimadaiara, Shiga Kogen & Nozawa Onsen are also easy to spot. Some of the most spectacular vistas look across to Hakuba and the Northern alps to the west, the Sea of Japan to the north, Mt Fuji to the south east and Naeba/Tanigawadake to the northeast.
Photo: Myoko Mitahara-yama Calderra Zone from the peak of Mt. Myoko
Myoko Mitahara Calderra Backcountry
We like to ride the north facing lines into the caldera crater of Myoko-san. It’s not only a picturesque and unique experience riding into a volcano, but it has some of the deepest and steepest lines on the whole mountain. From the crater, you can hike back up and do 2-3 laps in a day depending on the speed of your group, the final run is EF or SF back into the resort. It is possible to head to Mt. Myoko Peak or Maeyama and finish in Akakura Kanko resort.
Mitahara South/West Face Backcountry
One of the best sustained fall-line tree skiing in Honshu. From 2347-1341 over 3km. It is one of the most satisfying lines in the area if you can get the right conditions. Be careful not to get sucked into deep gullies or terrain traps. Mitahara West FaceA bit of a hike to get in and out but very good for days when only west facing or terrain above 1900m will hold good conditions. Make sure you do not follow all the way into the steep Kurosawa river as it is quite dangerous to navigate. Once you hit 1900m it is time to turn back unless you have scouted a good access or know the terrain well.
Photo: Ben and Ruka Climbing the Mitahara-Yama ridgeline by Colin Clarke
Myoko Akakura-Yama chutes
An advanced Steep south facing chute system that are only 45mins hike from the top lift of Myoko Suginohara. Be 100% sure of avalanche conditions and beware of avalanche debris from adjoining cliff faces on the down and the way out. You should be completely dialed into the area's conditions before attempting to ride this zone. You can see these chutes on a clear day from their bar of Gozan Lodge
Myoko Kurosawa-dake Backcountry
Kurosawa-dake juts out between the Hiuchi-yama plateau and Myoko-san. Kurosawadake has both East and West facing options but for a day trip we recommend hitting the EF only to allow enough time to get home before dark. Quickest access is via Mitahara West face.
Photo: Ben on an early morning summit of kurosawa-dake. Mitahara WF to the left, Kurohime NF>WF to the right and a small Mt. Fuji silhouette in the centre.
Myoko Akakura Backcountry
Myoko Maeyama Backcountry
Mae-yama is the most crowded backcountry zone due to it’s base location at the busiest resort area of Akakura where a lot of season staff riders also live. It has some epic tree skiing and although Maeyama only peaks at 1932m it still gets abundant snowfall. Due to the crowds and abundance of terrain traps, please use extreme caution when riding in this area, especially on warmer days where the snowpack is affected easier than higher elevations in the area.
Akakura Backcountry Maeyama NF Ridge
Starting as a nice mellow ridge line, you can either dip straight back into Akakura Onsen or ride the very active avalanche paths into Tsubame onsen and finishing at the traverse towards the famous “tunnel run”
Photo: Tree skiing off the NF Ridge of Maeyama
Akakura Backcountry Maeyama EF Ridge
Beautiful sustained pitch tree skiing with a sketchy river crossing to get back into the resort. You need to cross the river back into the resort before the Dam system you can see on topographic maps around 1050m. Please choose your entry and exit carefully as the lower altitude can cause the river crossings to form holes that are covered in the following snowfall.
Akakura Backcountry Akakura Kanko to Mt. Myoko Peak
A full day’s touring, and normally only attempted from the resort in spring conditions. The peak of Myoko holds a number of high consequence lines that should be only attempted by advanced groups or those who are with a guide.
Photo: Looking towards Maeyama (center) from the peak of Mt. Myoko
Myoko Ikenotaira Backcountry
Ikenotaira Backcountry - Akakurayama
Although Ikenotaira is a fairly flat resort, there are some nice and long EF and SF Backcountry lines from the top of Akakura-yama. There is also some steep terrain tracking E/NE from the false peak but it is one of the highest frequency avalanche paths in the area. I do not recommend anyone riding this zone as it’s consequences do not outweigh the rewards even on the safest of days.
From the top of the ridge, Easterly aspects will get you back towards Ikenotaira ski resort and the southern facing aspects towards Suginohara ski field if you don’t feel like hiking back towards Ikenotaira afterwards. There is some “very well spaced” (hint: avalanche path) tree skiing in the area. Make sure you get up there early to avoid the effects of the sun.
Photo: Backcountry tour guest Nick Enjoying the way up to Akakurayama.
Myoko Seki Onsen Backcountry
Seki Onsen Backcountry
Seki onsen rarely has backcountry travelers due to the lower altitude and the large amount of snow it gets almost daily. It is a very dangerous location and there are some epic lines above the resort and on nearby Mount Kana. There is no snow safety or control work at Seki Onsen, so please ask the staff what they think the conditions are like on the day and also permission to ride the zone you have in mind, Usually the most knowledgeable staff are working on the weekend. Seki Onsen has the advantage of the closest proximity to the sea of japan and one of the first places of orographic lift snowfall occurs on the mountain. If there is 40cm at the bottom of the lift, there is usually more than 1m just 300 vertical meters above, so please take this into consideration before traveling out of the resort boundaries.
Photo: Kansan SE Ridge from the EF Ridge
Myoko Kurohime Backcountry
Kurohime Backcountry can be accessed via lift or trailhead
Kurohime ski field would be more frequented if the top lift was still in operation but this means more powder for backcountry travelers! It takes 2-3 hours to get to the top where you have a number of epic EF and SF lines which eventually end up into the ski field after some walking/traversing along old logging tracks which circle the E to S/W face of the mountain. You can also hike up from trailheads along route 36.
Varied terrain through a number of birch, Sugi and Karamatsu groves. Great fall line if riding the fat ridges, don’t get sucked into the gullies and watch out for cliffs and waterfalls along the way.
An epic line that takes you from the peak (2053) to the service road at 1100. The start of the line is a frequent avalanche path, so make sure be extra careful of the conditions before you leave. You can start from either the ski field or Myoko-Togakushi-Renzan National park trailhead
Photo: E/NE wall of Takatsuma (far left) Kurohime EF (centre) Myoko-san (right)
Madarao Backcountry has fairly limited options due to the fairy thick, immature forest that plagues it’s entries off the peak ridge line but it is possible to reach almost everything with a short boot pack in and out if you do not have touring gear which helps extend the lift accessed day’s fresh tracks. Make sure to have the necessary avalanche safety equipment before you venture outside of the ski area as the rideable trees are all in avalanche terrain.
A rarely ridden area that's only worth the effort if you need to do some low elevation, west facing touring
Photo: Hakamadake (left) and Madarao (right)
Myoko-Togakushi Renzan National Park Backcountry
Myoko Togakushi Backcountry
The Togakushi side of Myoko-Togakushi Renzan National Park is a backcountry paradise just 40 mins drive from Gozan Lodge and offers a number of alpine ascents which lead to large open faces of Takatsuma/Otsuma peaks, steep and sketchy Couloir off the main Togakushi-yama ridge line and some protected tree skiing in the Kurohime and Sadoyama ridges and gullies. Whether you want to ride the faces of inactive volcanoes or gnarly alpine style chutes and couloirs while being surrounded by inspiring mountains, beautiful shrines and pristine nature there is a wealth of options for all experience levels and snowpack conditions.
The Togakushi ski field is on the west side of mount Iizuna has mostly tight forest and strict ski patrol due to the main patronage being slalom race skiers. The Togakushi shrine is across the valley and is a beautiful ski or snowshoe tour through 400+ year old Japanese Cedar trees.
Photo: Kurohime SW face from Takatsuma
The Sadoyama Hike is the easiest ascent in the park, a few km’s along the flats in the Togakushi side of the national park. It has some short but sweet tree skiing but stick to the wider gullies to avoid tight trees.The Togakushi ski field is on the west side of mount Iizuna has mostly tight forest and strict ski patrol due to the main patronage being slalom race skiers. The Togakushi shrine is across the valley and is a beautiful ski or snowshoe tour through 400+ year old Japanese Cedar trees.
There are a few different ways to approach the mountain depending on your goal but all start at the same carpark in the Togakushi national park near Tanaike. Some very inspiring walls and long spiny ridges make this one of the most satisfying missions in the area.
A long spindly ridge line leads to a number of very steep and rocky couloirs. Mostly alpine ascents for this one, pack your crampons and ice axes.
Photo: Sadoyama (center left), Togakushiyama, Takatsumayama, Otsumayama (center) Hakuba Goryu and Happo-one (distant right)
Myoko Kogen Backcountry Ski Accommodation
There is a choice of 3 unserviced huts you can stay overnight in the Myoko Backcountry. There is a lot of etiquette that comes with staying at these locations so please come to see us in person to enquire about them. If your group isn't looking to rough it, book a guided tour or stay with us at Gozan Lodge Myoko so you can attend our morning avalanche safety discussions and utilize our 10 years of backcountry experience in the valley. We want everyone to make safe decisions and explore the best that this region has to offer; so If you have already booked accommodation somewhere else, come visit Gozan Bar and Restaurant for some apres after a day of riding Suginohara and owner Ben will be happy to share some safety and route information.
Photo: Alpine emergency shelter looking towards Nozawa Onsen and Tanigawadake Tenjindaira