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Topic ClosedMyoko Akakura Kanko Review

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Joined: Oct/26/2009
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Myoko Akakura Kanko Review
    Posted: Mar/13/2012 at 1:09am
Myoko: Akakura Kanko Review



Who: Ippy the 'til. Season 5, fast approaching the 100 day mark in his lifetime of boarding, can't park, but can cruise.
Where: Akakan Myoko, Technically Niigata, but pretty much in with the other nagano resorts to all intents and purposes.
When: Several times over the years, but in this instance March 10/11 2012 (though the photos date form early 2010)
Predominantly rode: Hit up most of the groomers, but spent a great deal of time under the lifts and in the trees (as ever).
Snow conditions: Had a few cms the night before, but was quickly tracked by the time I reached it. Day 2 was predominantly slush/spring conditions.

Resort InfoAll lifts still in operation. Peak season, tickets are around 3900 yen. Off peak (i think it starts late march), its around 2000 yen. Prices have come down at all the myoko resorts in the last couple of years. There's also (as with most Prince resorts), a discount coupon online that gets you lunch (up to 1000 yen) and the lift pass for around the same price as the lift pass. Local hotels also will have even better coupons if I remember right from last year. I also saw a 15,000 yen season pass for the late season (26th March to the end of the season around the start of May). Other years it would start earlier I assume, but the heavy base in january/feb gives them high hopes of getting a decent long season out of it which is obviously good news.

Accessibility: Relatively straightforward. Get the train or bus to nagano train station and pick up the train to Naoetsu. It's about 40 minutes, and costs around 650 yen. You then catch the bus to the resort of your choice (340 yen to akakan). There is a proviso though... the trains run about every hour or so, but the buses don't. If you want to be on the resort before midday and dont want to shell out for a taxi (1700 yen or thereabouts), then you need to catch the 9am bus, and this means catching the 8.12 train from Nagano. The next bus to the resort from the station is 11.35.

Alternatively you could pick up the direct bus from nagano station. I haven't used it so can't tell you the time or how long it takes, but its probably going to be around 1200 yen and take around an hour to get there (but it will drop you outside the entrance of the resort, so much less faffing) and likely wont leave until 9am (so you get an extra hour in bed).

Surrounding Area: In the immediate vicinity are the other Myoko resorts: akakura onsen (which actually shares some terrain with akakan, though the companies running the two resorts aren't exactly capable of playing nice and offering a joint ticket (without adding a MASSIVE premium)). You also have both ikenotaira and Suginohara. Finally a little further out is seki onsen (routinely the highest humbers for snow year after year in japan), Myoko pine valley, and Madarao.

If you pop back to nagano you are suddenly spoiled for choice: Nozawa Onsen, Shiga Kogen, and Hakuba (several resorts) are all easy to access (id advise bus for all three). There's also the resorts in kita shiga kogen (x-jam, takaifuji, and the gem that is ryuoo). Finally there's loads of other little resorts (like Kurohime - the stop just before myoko) and sugadaira scattered around the area that you can go play in. Basically you won't get bored if you're basing yourself around the area, and if you have a car you could be here for decades before you fancy a change of scenery.

...Oh, and lets not forget that you could just hightail it to the Yuzawa area (also Niigata) if you're on your way back to Tokyo and fancy a little more time boarding.

Anything Else: One thing... Black Mountain on snowjapan alerted me to a deal on the akakan web page. It requires either a bit of fiddling with google translate or better yet Japanese reading ability, but it's awesome value and worth the trouble. Just head to the akakan homepage, then look at the STAY menu. At this point you're on your own, but the gist of it is this: Lift pass, plus accommodation, plus breakfast, plus dinner, plus a drink coupon for around 6000 yen. Ridiculously good value for people on a budget looking to score the best deal. As I say, you're on your own, but make sure you look at the bottom of the page in one of the steps for a little green box. If you don't select anything from there (and its easy to miss), you'll spend a frustrating hour wondering why your order isn't going through.

Akakan: Under the Microscope. 



With a decent unbroken fall line as well as a solid gradient, Akakan is going to offer a little something for everyone. Thanks to the constant bickering with akakura onsen, the resort isn't exactly epic by any standards. It's closer to a medium size Japanese resort (possibly even slightly smaller than Hakuba Goryu). A top to bottom run might be about a 20 minute cruise... which isn't exactly terrible considering most of that is straight lining with very little in the way of meandering paths twisting you around the mountain. Horizontally there isn't really much going on though. To wit! 

Posted Image

Looking at the map you can see a few things. First, it would be a great deal more epic were the two resorts on speaking terms (though akakura onsen as a stand alone ride kinda sucks - but it would get you to the village area a lot easier and would at least give you some more terrain to play in). The second thing is that there are ostensibly three lines... the first one coming down skiers right which is fairly straightforward (red run into a red run into a green run and back to the gondola). The second line which intermediates will probably find most interesting, takes you from the top down to the middle. The final run either involves hitting up the curving black run at the onsen border and cruising down the bottom, or following the line from the top past the gondola and cutting all the way through skiers left to the green run bordering the onsen boundary. You can probably tell this mountain has a decent amount of diversity for its area, so there really is something for everyone to sink their teeth into.

Akakan for Beginners:


(not really for beginners, but i havent got too many pics of akakan myself :))

Beginners wont find the lines too intimidating and can easily spend their day just lapping the gondola. Absolute beginners will also find themselves accommodated thanks to the two lifts going up from the base to the midway point on skiers right. The first lift from the base is very much the stuff of a bunny hill. Its a super mellow gradient, just enough to pick up speed, but definitely not too intimidating. As you move up the mountain the pitch increases in a way that feels like it was designed by someone who actually knew what they were doing. It feels very rational. Top to bottom you might think of as akin to an exponential curve in a way. At the top its got a decent steepness around the 30 degree mark, and as you get down the mountain it shallows out to a gentle 8 or so degrees. 

If that area feels a little crowded, there is also a VERY under used beginners area right next to the onsen area. This area of the mountain has a very gentle slope and a nice path gliding through the trees. I personally feel the gradient might be a little too shallow for beginners to really move on beyond leafing, but it does offer an alternative to the main base station for those who want a bit of privacy to faceplant.

Akakan for the Intermediate Rider:



Much like Hakuba Goryu/47, Akakan feels a lot like an intermediates mountain. But whereas goryu feels intermediate due to its pitch and the challenge some of its lines hold for speed and control, Akakan offers a slightly different experience.

The big selling point for an intermediate rider isnt really the piste so much (though the piste has some great fun long lines to just muck about on that will give you a nice fresh zippy ride), but rather its the accessible tree riding and some of its lift runs. 

For someone looking to move toward dealing with natural lines and slightly deeper powder, it's a great stepping off point to get those first turns in the trees without having to duck a rope or potentially end up off a cliff somewhere. Don't get me wrong, a few of those lines are way dangerous, but that's not really what you're going to be playing on. You'll be playing in the trees that are dotted all over the resort and are in fact part of the designated resort (and course) boundaries. And youll find many of these near the champion B course area (the middle line).

Progressing intermediates though might try and cut their teeth through some of the tree runs up near the top of the mountain. The top lift has some really fun terrain to muck about with, and with well spaced trees, plenty of little open lines, and a nice mellow fall line, they let you push a little deeper into the slack country without too many negative consequences.

Of course, the further in you go, the more you need to pay attention, and there are some seriously sketch areas i wouldn't be comfortable hitting myself (under the lift at champion A looks incredibly dangerous to ride even if conditions are top notch). But for the most part there are plenty of areas that youlll find challenging and fun without feeling you've stepped beyond your comfort threshold (the lift line next to champion B and the trees skiers left of Hotel A course for example are a blast to ride for intermediate riders - though dont stray too far skiers left on the Hotel A and cut back in as the course itself curves to the right (otherwise you have a bit of a gnarly steep that you might find a little tough to ride)).

On the other side at the top, I would caution against the trees around hotel C (the red run). The skiers right side is extremely dangerous and i wouldn't personally touch it, and the trees skiers left can be tough if you drop below the course line (since it forces you into the gully and then out near the lift). This year it was no problem, but I remember last year feeling I was a little out of my depth riding that area. So I would advise you to be reasonably confident in your slackcountry skills before dropping too far in.

In terms of on piste, the best run intermediates are likely going to score is arguably the top down through the middle line. Its long enough to feel like youve got a nice rip on it, and the lifts are nice and quick so you can just enjoy lapping it (and mucking about with some of the trees between the red and black sides). There's also the top to bottom line coming down skiers right that can be a nice long muck around. I would honestly try and stay above the middle line though just because after the huge hotel (the midpoint), the slope really does start to get pretty shallow and is best left to beginners (unless you're just lapping the gondola).

Akakan for Advanced riders:

Obviously, Ive mentioned a lot of the areas you might want to hit up already in the section on progressing intermediates. Theres also an old disused course that used to go to a different part of the top which has long been abandoned (this means if you can be bothered to break out the splitboard and skin up, theres a fresh untouched CUT IN course of fresh lines you can play on). I believe it also allows access to some serious backcountry lines, (though I've never myself gone up there to see).

What i really wanted to talk about though was the on piste advanced runs. They do take up a decent brunt of the mountain, but theres one thing i really need to mention about them: Moguls.

champion B course
(random dude looking across to champion B course)

Both the champion B and the hotel A are moguled to hell. The champion B i actually think is a blast to ride. The pitch on it (38 degrees) means they stay reasonably soft pack and the lines at the side of the mogul field and in the trees are epic fun to blast on. In addition, the line that takes you from the lift to the steep is a lot of fun with some wild pitches and some seriously mad bobbles that spank the unwary. Its a great little run when conditions aren't too sketch (cutting off the side as a nice way to avoid the mogul field). Its actually my favorite run on the resort and i always try and hit it up a few times. Its also great in a party of burgeoning intermediates to take them along the ninja line that hides the steep, getting them to ride it and then showing them just how steep it was and what they just overcame once they get to the bottom. It gives them a nice kick.

The Hotel A will suck for snowboarders (except those weird ones that really like mogul riding). The lines here are well cut, hardpack trenches. Should you find yourself on this course, you'll likely have a lot more fun just ducking into the trees (mentioned above) on skiers left and zipping through them instead. The course itself is definitely more fun for skiers and should probably be avoided since very little of it remains realtively mogul free (they track the whole thing).

The final line is the champion B course, and honestly... i have no idea what makes this a black run. Its definitely a red run that was accidentally bumped up to a black. Maybe its one of those runs that gets treacherous in icy conditions, but genuinely i didnt see what the big deal was. Maybe its the trees? Either way, its not really that taxing and youll probably find better lines elsewhere.

Ipps in Akakan (summary):


I like akakan. It's a nice resort. The lines are varied, the fall line is solid, and the trees are awesome for building up your confidence. It doesnt hurt that its Myoko and so does get a hell of a lot of snow at the end of the day. Chances are if you hit this place in January youll be swimming in pow, and February there's a very decent chance you'll be catching some pow days on it. And like kagura, it can get pretty deep...

What i would say is that it isn't all that big and after 2 or so days you've probably seen a lot of what it has available and may feel its time to check out something else if the powder isn't dropping. It's got fun lines but as i mentioned, ostensibly they are really a variation of three lines, and none of which really offer much in the bottom half (though the ride to the gondola is alright and gives you a nice cruise to the bottom with a few side hits to play on).

Really where it shines though is in its accessibility to baby slack country. There are a lot of rather easy to navigate lines that dont stray too far off the courses and offer nice mellow gradients and decently spaced trees. Patrol dont give you aggro, and in fact will readily inform you about potential hazards if you ask them. I believe they don't like you riding under the lifts, which is fair enough, but you dont see many ropes and those you do indicate a genuine hazard, so kudos to the people running it for letting people take a bit of personal responsibility in their line choices.

All in all its a solid ride. It maybe lacks a little in terms of size since you will find yourself running the same courses over and over again, but there's plenty of variation in each of those turns to certainly carry you through for a couple of days. If i was coming from outside Japan and staying longer than a weekend, i wouldn't base my trip around akakan alone since I reckon it would wear thin after a week or so. But i guess the whole myoko area would keep you occupied for up to a month or so if you felt like it.

In summary, on its own it's a solid weekend trip that will give you a great time and plenty of decent lines. And if you're a skier, chances are you might eek out even more fun from it. But as a boarder, its pretty much trees, a few red runs, a very small kicker line (unless theyve squirreled their park away most of the kickers are baby size and they only have a few rails and boxes) in the top half, and a solid cruising line the rest of the way to the bottom. 

Definitely worth a weekend trip, and you'll have a blast riding a decent Japanese resort, but longer than that and you'll be feeling the urge to head somewhere else. 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar/13/2012 at 1:19am
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar/13/2012 at 1:43am
Highlights:

Great solid terrain.
Lots of variation.
Decent access and AVAILABILITY of slackcountry.
Gets puked on in Jan and Feb.
Super cheap ticket price. 

Can feel a bit repetitive with only really 3 lines (none of which are interesting enough to ride beyond about 2/3rds of the way down). 
The on piste steeps are mogul bahns. 





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