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Topic ClosedKagura, Yuzawa, Niigata, Japan (review)

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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Kagura, Yuzawa, Niigata, Japan (review)
    Posted: Jan/16/2012 at 8:25pm
Kagura Japan: The Review

Where?: Japan, Niigata prefecture, Yuzawa town, Kagura resort


When?: January 14th and 15th 2012  
Who?: Your man in japan, ippy the magni... i mean the dude that still after 4 seasons can barely press a board, barely stay on his feet and still gets owned by cross courses because he is going way too fast by the time he hits the 4th or so roller. 
Ticket Info: Tickets are very reasonable at 4,200yen. A little under the 4500 benchmark i use to assess a decent mountain. Im sure theres also something you can do in the restaurants to get a discount with your day pass. But i couldnt work it out. The 2 day pass at 7,700yen is AWESOMELY good value. Theres also the Mt. Naeba ticket which allows you to ride both Kagura AND Naeba for a mere 5,000 yen. The two day ticket is 11,000 but this also allows you to ride the nighta at Naeba on that first day which goes on to 10pm on saturdays! Definitely an attractive option if you turn up a bit late on the first day. Both resorts are connected by the Dragondola so this isnt a mickey mouse operation. Both resorts are rather big and certainly big enough to keep you occupied for at least a couple of days each, so there is a LOT of terrain here.  
Accessibility: The bus to kagura isnt that often. I think theres about 5 or so per day. But its cheap (300yen) and drops you right outside the base at Mitsumata. 
Snow Conditions?: Ridiculous pow.  
Resort Facilities?: The resort itself is pretty threadbare. There are a few restaurants scattered about, a couple of tuning and rental places and a couple of shops at the base of Mitsumata. You arent really talking echoland or hirafu here. It's more like myoko. There also aren't that many buildings around the area in general (at least on the mitsumata side - not sure about tashiro). So more than likely youll be staying in Yuzawa itself and busing in.  
Yuzawa Town info: What can you say about Yuzawa? Unparalleled access from Tokyo thansk to BOTH a direct shinkansen line, and a rapid local train from shinjuku/omiya. Ten or so resorts going in every direction and all within about a 40 minute (local) bus ride. In addition to all this you have plenty of accommodation options in a small town that feels honestly, rather bustling and dare i say, modern. Yuzawa itself is kinda like a quaint japanese town, but unlike Nozawa it feels like it has a lot less of a focus on its cultural heritage and a bit more in supplying the stuff that tourists on day trips from tokyo will be looking for: restaurants, convenience stores, snow shops, ATMs (this is a bigger thing than you might realise), as well as all your omiyage (gifts for colleagues and family) needs and public baths to relax in. Its a spa town. But also pretty vibrant. 

You'll have plenty of places to hit up if you stay in the area, and buses to all the major resorts leave from here. Accommodation DOES cater more towards the Japanese customer im afraid so you may have to do your research, but the tourist office just outside the station has excellent english speakers who can help sort you out.  Basically, if you're in Tokyo anyway and want to ride, forget nagano. Its a long way away, just come here dude, it's going to have enough to entertain you for even a few weeks at a time.

But coming back to the resorts for a moment. You have Naeba and Kagura (which are arguably the biggest resorts in the area), and then Gala Yuzawa itself which is directly off the shinkansen station. Gala makes a great option on a weekday particularly if you get the ticket that ties it in with Yuzawa Kogen and Ishiuchi. Ishiuchi has, i believe, one of the best looking parks in the area as well as a nice powder zone. Gala itself is the locus, and though its kinda lame looking, yuzawa kogen adds a little more terrain. Definitely fantastic value then if youre here for a day or two (but try and avoid the weekends if you can during peak season for obvious reasons). In addition to this you have a few other smaller resorts like Kandatsu, Maiko, Naspa, Iwappara... actually, here's a brief rundown:

Anything Else?: A few curiosities on accommodation... Near the mountain itself there's a small room at the base of Mitsumata that has blankets and crappy futons, but you can in fact sleep there overnight for FREE. It might get cold, i honestly don't know, and id be a bit uncomfortable myself chilling there, but if you are a bit braver than me, it certainly gives you a cheap place to billit. 

There's also a place called Yuzawa Kenkou Land. Its an onsen just outside Gala Yuzawa station (you can see it from the station - its virtually in front of it, but to get to it you need to walk a fairly long winding road).  
You can stay in a massive dorm room overnight (with about 100 other people on your own futon (its noisy, bring ear plugs)) as well as use the rather decent onsen facilities for a BARGAIN 2,200yen/night. If you're in the gala area, it's definitely worth putting up with the farting, snoring, and 6am wake up call from everyone getting up to score first tracks before the bullet trains start dumping the population of tokyo on a small-to-medium sized resort. 

In more accommodation news, there's an amazing value option on the mountain itself called WadaGoya: 

For 7000 yen you get to be central on piste (at the top of the gondola), you get a bed for the night, you get both breakfast and dinner. On top of this you also get some AMAZING deals on ticket prices (2000 for a half day, and 3000 for a full day Mt Naeba (naeba AND Kagura) pass. No doubt about it, next time I'm in teh area, I'm staying here. 

One more thing to mention and it seems a touch superficial, but you will see a LOT more US brands on the mountain. Clearly this is the Tokyo influence playing its part. It sounds slightly silly if you don't live in Japan, but aside Burton, Yonex, and Lib, you will also see a hell of a lot of Rome, Capita, Ride, and even my first ever sighting of the lesser spotted Stepchild. Hell, i even saw not one, but TWO bataleons (a 2009 riot and a 2012 violenza). This tells you a lot more than you might think. First, this mountain is hit up by park rats (it has a pretty decent kicker line). Second, the population hitting it are not predominantly in their 30s to 70s like some other places (nor are they likely to be out on their first board); and 3. (surprisingly for anywhere outside niseko and hakuba), snowboarders may even dominate this mountain. The vibe here feels MUCH younger than a lot of the traditional japanese resorts, so again, if you're visiting Japan, this area in general is definitely competiting with Niseko and Hakuba for those tourist dollars.  

[Addendum: Sorry, this was pretty long. Im going to make it a mission to try and hit up a few of the main resorts in this area, but this ones the first review, so its probably carrying a bit more of the Yuzawa weight than the others maybe will in the future.]  

Hopefully ive covered the main parts and you get a general idea about the area. There are a lot of buses from Yuzawa; there's a town with a decent buzz to it; some rather incredible accommodation options; about ten+ resorts within spitting distance of Yuzawa itself; and incredible access from Tokyo. The place is definitely worth checking out. 

But thats enough about the area in general... how about this specific resort then? 

Kagura Preamble:

The resort itself is in three main parts:
 
"Mitsumata: Fun attraction area with Park and Kids Zone!"
"Tashiro: Attractive Scenery with gentle slopes. Ideal for beginners and Ladies!" and...
"Kagura: Dynamic Ski zone with powder snow, bumps and steep runs!"

The first part, Mitsumata, will likely be your base if you're coming from Yuzawa since it's the closest part of the mountain to Yuzawa itself. Unless you have accommodation in Naeba or Tashiro, youll probably be getting off the bus here. 
The second part is Kagura itself. This is the top half of the mountain. Here youll find arguably the best terrain in the area as well as the best powder. I sat here on day 1, and kept it as a treat on day 2 after I'd finished scoping out the third area. 
The third area is Tashiro. Most of the terrain here is beginner friendly and relatively short lines. It's not entirely special to ride, but it does have some SPECTACULAR views (and even a nearby lake (about 30 meters from the piste). Alas my gopro battery died before I got over here so all my pictures are in and around Mitsumata/Kagura (and flat light). If you like sweeping panoramas and not just smashing through powder, you should make a point to get over here. It's also the staging area for the dragondola connecting Kagura to Naeba.  

Kagura for Beginners:


(at the base of the gondola)

As mentioned, Tashiro has some really nice beginner terrain. You have two central lifts in the area - the tashiro high speed 1 and 2, both of which give you a stack of nice little cruiser runs to play on. Its hard to honestly remember which run is which, but the whole area had a reasonably shallow gradient, whilst not being so shallow that you'd lose speed. Obviously this is the stuff that beginners are going to enjoy. Add in the spectacular views and most people scoring their first turns are coming away relatively happy. 

In addition you also have a nice little baby roller course, and plenty of little ungroomed side hits (as well as the most modern looking restaurant on the hill). A safe bet for a party of beginners can be found around the high speed 2 lift. This area ticks almost every box that a beginner is going to want (reasonably long enough, not too steep, nice and wide, not too many people, great lift access, fantastic scenert and some nice side hits to play on as well as a slalom course and a cross course to start getting some air). 

It's interesting to note that even on a Sunday in peak season in perfect conditions it just wasn't THAT busy. I mean, there were enough people around here to give it some life and buzz to it, and there were queues in some areas (around the Tashiro high speed lifts), but im talking about 2 minutes maximum here. The only reason you'd mention it as a queue is so you can boast about how little time you spend queuing :)

Moving in towards Mitsumata side, theres a GEM of a little pow field at the kagura romance lift 4. It's not challenging, but its certainly deep enough that it held my attention for four or five rides on it before moving elsewhere. It has a few side areas that are DEEP and are going to cause trouble for beginners (due to them also being relatively shallow). They also leave a considerable amount of the area here ungrommed, with only a central line or two getting hit. So if you fancy a spot of pow, chances are youll score some, somewhere around here. 


(the little pow area on the Tashiro/Kagura border)

Moving into kagura proper and you have the kagura main slope (that's it's actual name). It gets busy, the angle can seem a bit steep for beginners in truth, and it does get cut to hell. Its marked as a beginners run, but when it gets icy, it starts getting kinda gnarly, bumpy and a bit quick. So if youre looking for something a little faster and a spot more challenging to start opening out your carves, it's a definite option. You have essentially one lift servicing the area (the kagura high speed 1), and it can get quite busy since its probably the most attractive area of the entire mountain for all levels. But again, queues weren't massive and people were filling up the chairs and not leaving spaces so nothing too terrible.

But don't think that's your fill yet! There's still Mitsumata. Unfortunately it contains the longest, and by far my most hated run... the gondola run. It's super busy, super shallow, and super irritating. Unfortunately, aside the gondola itself, its the only way down, so you have to suck it up. It's basically a long winding path without any of the endearing views you might usually get on a path. It's nice to look at and all, but it's still dull and gets in the way of your fun a bit. Beginners just wont have enough speed to carry them through this, so they'll be unclipping at least twice and possibly three times on this run. It might be nice for the more timid riders out there, but i can't imagine most people will get a real kick out of it. 

This plops you out at the bottom of the gondola and from there its a short lift back up to the central mistumata base area. Here you have your final little area. And honestly, it's another fantastic little zone for beginners. It's a nice gradient, decently wide, and will get anyone through their first turns enjoying it. It'll also blow their mind when they realise this is one tiny part of the mountain and they start exploring the rest of it. :) If you're with a beginner (or are one) and you want to get riding asap, then this is the place you'll probably spend the better part of your time.  Definitely an ideal beginner line, while still having enough ungroomed side areas to keep you or your more experienced mates entertained. 

As you can tell, beginners have a LOT of accessible terrain. And you might be thinking that this means the mountain is a beginner mountain. Well yes and no, the powder certainly gives you a strong incentive to come if you aren't a beginner, but I'll come to the real reason why that trail map is a little... deceiving in a moment. Let's first try and explain the two or three actually marked intermediate runs if we can. 

Kagura for Intermediates: 


(at the top of the Gondola looking up to the main gelende on Kagura). 

The first place to mention might be the park at Mitsumata. I only SAW it (as if im going to go into a park these days?), but it looked pretty much immaculate with three central lines for people to ride down. Again, we are talking a relatively short run and were you to bomb it top to bottom, youd probably do it in under a minute or two. This is not long winding parks with millions of features at the end of the day, but its immaculate, well maintained and has a bit or variety thrown in. As mentioned above, the mountain draws in park rats, so there's definitely stuff here worth lapping (or cutting your teeth on). Of course i couldn't exactly confirm that myself, but there were some decent looking lines and hits that would tempt someone looking to progress in that direction.

So there's the park? Well, there's also the powder. For instance, that little run on Tashiro i mentioned earlier is going to keep your intermediate rider well happy. Everyone loves playing in the pow! 

(playing in the pow at the romance 4 lift). 

But that being said... there really isn't much terrain that might be considered classic "intermediate" stuff. Really what will keep intermediates here is either cruising around tashiro soaking up the views; getting some baby laps in the park; playing in teh powder, or popping onto some of the more tricky runs more than the terrain itself. Theres no real long fast runs like R1 on goryu (the definitive intermediate run as far as im concerned). And though powder drops almost every black run into a red run (or even a green run), when it gets icier, those things will definitely revert to type with choppy, moguled, trenched steep runs. 


(looking up at challenge course)

In truth whats going to keep intermediates riding this area is the size of it (it is rather massive when youre actually out there) the sheer wealth of runs and diversity (the mix of paths, groomers, and easily accessible off piste to flirt with), and of course the powder. It can be rather immense. So really intermediates would be better off not reading this part and focusing more on both the beginner and advanced descriptions because that middle ground between the two dynamics is really what they're going to really enjoy about the mountain. Its not really an intermediate mountain per se, but intermediates wont be exactly bored either. And theres a good reason for this, which I am about to explain.   

Kagura for Advanced Riders:


(ducking the ropes and heading to the far skiers left and the soon to be mentioned powder field). 

You see, Kagura doesnt have much in the way of on piste advanced runs either. It has a few over at Tashiro, and the main lines up at Kagura, but really advanced boarders will find the groomers relatively short, and pretty much chopped up. I mean, we all love choppy pow, but we all know some of those runs, but the pow wont last forever and that kinda sucks... So aside the park there's not much specifically going on. There's a few little neat spots (like the area around Tashiro Romance 6 lift) that are great fun and probably will have powder running on them (if albeit chopped to hell), right into april. But this all ultimately makes up a fraction of a resort thats dominated by green beginner stuff.

Until you duck a rope.


(chaaaaarge!!!) 

And here's the thing. Those ropes... no one honestly gives a shit. Its got Myoko's very laid back policy. No one bothers to poach lines here, they just drop in on them in front of the mountain staff and track to their favorite spots. Just off the back of that black run at the top of Tashiro 6 for example is a rope. This rope has HEAVY cut in track from people popping a little skiers right before the challenge bahn to cut down a ridge line on some seriously deep pow. It shallows out towards the end which probably turns most people off, but you know people with the right board are hitting that and scoring awesome surf... and what's more, so do the resort staff. They probably have their own little secret areas they like to hit up as well, and it's unlikely that its on the actual designated lines. 

Take for example the Kagura area itself... sure, you CAN ride the fun challenge course (it was caked in powder and nice and bouncy. It is a decent quality black run (if lacking in a bit of steepness to really take it above an advanced red run maybe). Or instead, you could just pop under the rope on skiers left just after you get off the lift and either track under the lifts (there are a LOT of lift lines on this resort well worth playing on by the way)... and you might thik this is awesome! And you'll be right, the lift runs are a tonne of fun! But maybe the second or third time you hit that line you'll notice that theres a few lines going much further skiers left. And you might follow them... and when you do you'll hit a massive open pow field (well tracked again), but with some serious powder fun. 


(the small pow field between high speed lift 1 and the top of the gondola)
And hell, the next time you might even resist the temptation to hit that line up and ride even further on. And here you're rewarded with less cuts and even deeper lines as it marches through that gully between the two ridge lines (and popping you out back at the to of the gondola station - i found this line on my last run on day 2 and it owned the crap out of my board). 

What makes this wild is that it's clearly popular; it's not just a few pow hounds ninjaing these lines, its commonplace with a massive blind eye policy from the staff. As i say, this is just the obvious stuff that a dude riding a day and a half is going to find. But there's a stack of it, and its going to keep you in pow right into the late season here and that's honestly a fantastic draw for advanced and high intermediate riders. 



I know you shouldnt encourage rope ducking (and im feeling killclimbz rightly scowling at me while im writing this ;)), but its clearly common practice on this mountain and no one at all seems to bat an eyelid. It's bizarre in a way. Maybe it's just to keep beginners from getting stuck? I have honestly no idea and thats part of what makes it slightly dangerous for the unaware. You see, very little of the mountain is actually roped off. They let you ride pretty much wherever, so it does beg the question of why these places are roped off when so many people are hitting it. So keep that in mind when you get here. There have already been two deaths this year around this area, not from tree wells or creek beds, but from people simply getting inverted and ending up head first and not being able to free themselves. Its still dangerous stuff out there even if that danger isn't obvious or apparent. So please do understand this. 

That being said, the draw for advanced riders is precisely the access to free powder terrain. It's going to be deep, you're going to find lines, it's going to be face shots and you're going to have an awesome time riding it. And it seems to be almost all over the mountain itself. I didnt obviously spend a great deal of time exploring Tashiro but it certainly has some lines i might consider on my next trip (but i was kinda pushed for time when i visisted). 

So coming back to the point above for intermediates: its precisely because the resort doesn't rope off much that youre going to get a lot of opportunities to start flirting with the trees or riding some of the lifts, or hitting the ungroomed side areas (as well as the obvious ungroomed powder zones) regardless of their official course designation. The trail map doesn't quite paint the full picture of what's actually going on here. There's a lot more under the surface here than you might think. So although it looks like a tonne of beginners terrain, this mountain is in actuality a little bit more complex than those green lines might make you think. There is a stack of things going on that you wouldn't realize just by looking at the map. It's all rather intriguing and you have to be here (or read this review) to get that.  

Off Piste options:

I'm looking around and one of the things im seeing is this: A lot of terrain within hiking distance. Indeed, clearly there's a decent hiking area since the shop at the base of Mitsumata rents out snow shoes for people to traverse (i expect) the ridge line up near the top of the mountain itself as well as tour groups setting out (rather cheaply by the way - 7000 yen i believe) to hit up some of the more easy to access stuff around the mountain itself. Further afield there are also some decent sized mountains with some terrifying looking rides that genuine freeriders (who actually know their shit) would want to make a bee line for. 

Obviously im donny, this is out of my depth, but its definitely there just from the most cursory observation, and its obviously going to give you something other than the fun (but mellow) pow lines just off the main resort. If you lived in the area i honestly cant see why you wouldnt own a splitboard. The place screams HIKEABLE TERRAIN!!! If that's your bag, theres more than a few lines in the general vicinity that are going to keep you entertained for a decent while.  PS. The top will open up in Feb making hiking and riding that side ridge (the other side of the creek bed ride mentioned above) almost effortless. I saw some tracks coming from there on sunday, but i reckon those dudes worked pretty hard to get there. Come Feb and thats probably going to change a bit. So if you want to take some baby steps into the actual off piste, i reckon the mountain is going to deliver that too :) 

Ippy goes to Kagura: the Review. 


(at the gondola base). 

So hopefully you have an idea of what the area is like, I reckon I've typed more than enough, so ill try and hit up the highlights (good and bad). Clearly I enjoyed myself. There's plenty to do and being a little slackcountry kid, so the mountain pushes a lot of my buttons. 

The bad first (because im the type of person that eats the biscuit first on a twix so i can indulge with that sweet sweet caramel and chocolate). 

First up is that annoying gondola run. I hate it. It's a real vibe killer. The fact you HAVE to ride it also annoys the hell out of me. You can of course cruise it, but chances are you'll be unclipping somewhere, and i hate that more than i hate boredom. So its boredom for me. 
The second thing is the line back from tashiro to kagura. It can get pretty winding and it also suffers from similar flat/unclipping issues. It doesn't really inspire, and it's definitely something you ride ONLY because you have to. 

So yeah, theres some flats, and yes, they're compulsory if you want to check out the whole mountain. And they go BOTH ways. Getting to the dragondola for example will require traversing a few tedious flats just as getting back will also have you mumbling under your breath about these annoying bloody runs! Dont let that dissuade you though. Tashiro is rather pretty (and has some fun lines), and Kagura is swimming in powder. Regardless of the negatives, you will still want to hit it all up. 

Another thing thats kinda naff is the length of time from arrival to getting your first proper ride. First you take the ropeway, then its a quad lift up to the top of the park, followed by a little scoot, then onto the gondola before popping across to the high speed 1 lift bringing you out NEAR the top of the mountain (the top lift itself doesnt open until mid February i believe, but by god it looks rather stunningly white). All in all it might be somewhere around 35 minbutes before you clip in and actually start riding. 

And when you do start riding, the on piste can be kinda short. I mean you COULD ride all the way to the bottom (which is going to be rather long), but that gondola run pretty much makes the decision for you. You wont bother riding it until you have to ride it, so more than likely you'll stay up the top (unless you want to ride the park) and in that case it's pretty much half a mountain in reality. 

But the pow takes care of that. As does the terrain which can be rather fun when it gets going, as does the slackcountry, and as does the view you're met with at Tashiro should you be curious enough to venture that way. All of this makes you forget about those annoying lifts and stupidly short lines. None of it matters because when its good, its honestly rather awesome.  

But what really draws you in are those secret little lines and knowing that no matter how late in the season it gets, if youre on the right board, youre going to be scoring powder somewhere. The place is honestly a stack of fun. Its vertical isnt exactly stunning, but it's actually rather huge. It takes a fair while to trundle from one end of Tashiro back to kagura for sure, but there are plenty of fun little parts to hit up along the way keeping you distracted and not too bothered about the crappy bits.

It's a strange mountain. I feel like i should be a little underwhelmed by it, but it just keeps delivering and opening up little lines i didnt expect or revealing little secret areas (including some of the on-piste by the way) that are a lot more fun and secluded than they might appear. It's really that sense of discovery that makes the place quite fascinating. You think you've seen the best it has to offer, and Blam! another little line opens up putting another smile on your face.

And that's really why none of that stuff in the nagatives is worth even mentioning. The paths are annoying, the lifts can be slow, the flats can pop out of nowhere killing your vibe, but then youll think "hmmm... whats down this line?" And you've suddenly just discovered your new favourite part of the mountain. 


(my favourite part of the mountain). 

And its really this which makes me WANT to come back here. It feels like ive just scracthed the surface. It's like a powder/line treasure hunt. And even if it turns out i really have seen the best it has to offer, the powder is still there waiting on me anyway :)

Honestly, its a great place, and when you throw in Yuzawa on top of it, I can't see a reason (outside the fact that all my mates find it much more accessible) that I'd want to head to Nagano any time this season. Sure, Shiga kogen is huge, Myoko is my ancestral home, and Hakuba is mischief central, but Yuzawa seems to have all that plus a tonne of waist deep pow just waiting for me to ride. It seriously has questioned my desire to base myself in nagano, and for that alone it's a place you'll definitely want to hit up if you happen to get the chance.

(...and why ill be coming back regardless :)). 

[ETA: i truly wish i got photos from the Tashiro area. This album really only does one side of the equation justice. A bluebird tashiro is honestly quite pretty to look at. It would have certainly added a bit more color to this review! Ah well, it wasnt to be. Maybe next time im there ill take some pictures and drop them in the thread itself. :)]  
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jan/16/2012 at 8:32pm
this mountain look so unorganized and confusing idk about all those short runs
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jan/17/2012 at 3:08am
pictures up. Review looks nicer. Wish i had some pictures from Tashiro to liven it up, but im afraid thats all i have at the moment :) Next time for sure. :) 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb/12/2012 at 1:54am
I know this seems like a bump, but its really not.

Yet again kagura knocks it out the shtooking park! If you think niseko is the only place with serious powder in japan, youre dead wrong. As dry and deep as youll get in niseko, and a 70 minute shinkansen ride from tokyo. Ridiculous i tells you. Ridiculous. Honestly, ive only had one bad day there and it was bad because (ironically), they had so much snow they couldnt keep the high speed pair lift open (which accesses the current top of the mountain until late feb). 

Saturday, decided to look at naeba. Spent barely two hours there before i came home to kagura. Today was INSANE. Tough conditions for anyone without a pow stick. The Blauvelt killed it again :) All in all, anyone in japan near tokyo and not in kagura is an idiot. They still havent even opened the very top lift yet (it opens late feb/early march) which gives access to the best terrain around the mountain. 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb/12/2012 at 8:48am
Thanks Ipp, good to know!  It also doesn't look too crowded as well.  I'm just a little sad that Japan's snow season is about the same time as the US because I'm stuck in the US for tax season.  Cry
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb/12/2012 at 1:36pm
Its not, and thats one of the reasons that i came straight back from naeba (its sister resort) within about an hour of arriving there (bedlam queues, millions of people all over the mountain wherever you were, and a real weekend 'resort' vibe to the place). 

I set out this weekend with the intention of riding naeba and comparing it to kagura, and yeah, it has better (on piste) terrain. But kagura kills it for anyone who just wants to ride. Not only do you have all the stuff semi on piste here, but you also have the surrounding slack country stuff just a short boot pack away once they open the top lift. The place kills for a powder hound. Leave Naeba to the holiday crowds. 

Kagura is basic in terms of facilities and thats probably why most people choose naeba or gala over it, and thank the gods. It means we get to ride everything we want and come back to zero queues to do it all again. Genuinely this place is fast becoming my favorite place in honshu. And i <3 Myoko (for similar reasons i should add). 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb/28/2012 at 11:59pm
Thanks to your review, ippollite, I've now got Kagura on the top of my list should we decide to go to Japan next year :)  (Zero queues was the biggest seller)

Thank you so much for the in-depth review!  Liking it so much!

<--- Summer's coming to an end here in Australia and slowly picking up interest in hunting for deals :)
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar/01/2012 at 4:51pm
There are loads of places in japan with almost zero queues. Its kinda weird. Basically once you get out of the whole tourist trap areas (niseko, hakuba, naeba (japanese tourists), shiga and a few of the other more well known places), things are kinda mellow. 

Though kagura is quite awesome for no queues, that all being said.  
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar/04/2012 at 4:19pm
One bad thing and several awesome things about this weekend at kagura/naeba.

The bad thing first...

Kagura has queues. Theyre about 2-3 minutes at the high speed mistumata.
First time since ive been there, but i can explain...

You see, the top lift is finally open and its awesome.

So many awesome lines (unpatrolled) have just opened up. 
In addition, because it was spring conditions last weekend, everything is way faster, so lines you woudnt have dared ride (because they were a bit flat), are now also opening up meaning some serious fun tree runs as well. 

Also hit up naeba for a little longer and though its not as good as kagura in general, its longer, and more "fun". The terrain is consistently steeper giving you a solid red line from top to bottom in the two outside (and longest) lines. Millions of people still, but they are definitely thinning out. As an on piste mountain theres just way more to do here than at kagura. Get the mt naeba ticket (that lets you hit them both up), and you have two completely different experiences. Kagura is wild, technical, challenging, and (jan-feb) deep. Naeba is lighter, more friendly, more playful and has better on piste.  
Its two entirely different philosophies all on the same ticket. Pretty awesome to be honest. 

One other thing to report, the local train i take appwarently only runs during the main season (1/7-2/26). Its stopped now, so its bullet train or nothing. 

Basically, even without pow, kagura delivers yet again (and opens up even more of its little secrets). Throw in naeba and niseko can kiss my ass. :) 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar/18/2012 at 2:18pm
Three new things i learned riding kagura this weekend. 

1. Kagura gets queues. Significant queues when its raining in yuzawa area. It seems that everyone descends on kagura hoping they can avoid the rain and get a bit of snow up top. Id dare say that kagura is busier late season than peak season. So if you do come here, come here in january/february. Which is awesome for you because itll be puking and youll have so much shit to hit.

2. The best terrain is a thirty minute hike from the top lift. I havent done it because you need the gears, and er, friends. I have neither it seems. :'( But 30 minute hike from the top lift, then its time to play in north facing snow thats apparently awesome bringing you out half way down the gondola run. 

3. Off piste has turned to velcro. This was a huge disappointment to me since it means kagura is now pretty much dead to me until next season or until a serious dump comes along... pretty unlikely since its almost april. Still, the base is there, itll be there for a good month, but kagura piste isnt all that interesting to me. 

-------------------------------

Also popped to Naeba again this weekend and glad to report its still pretty fun to ride. Took some really hard slams because im working on taking switch into presses and wall riding, so edge catching everywhere. But had a decent time there yet again. Late season when the powder dries up (or in this case soaks up) and youre in the area, i honestly think Naeba is the better ride. 

Kagura = fun in powder and ice. Its kinda crappy once the temps start creeping up and its getting rained on. 
Naeba = fun in all conditions, but avoid on weekends and holidays (it gets ridiculous numbers). 

Now you might wonder why i mention the two as if theyre linked. Well, they are. The dragondola links them both and they can be ridden under the Mt Naeba ticket (about 1000 yen more than the individual naeba or kagura tickets). 
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