Matsunoyama Onsen Ski Area is one of those great resorts that are off the radar for many people. It is well worth a visit as it gets masses of snow and, although it only has a few lifts ,there are a good choice of runs coming off them. The ski area has just started a new backcountry course which takes participants out through the back of the resort, across the mountains, and finishes up in a neighboring town. It is a fantastic day out with amazing views, good skiing, and a bit of local history along the way.
The backcountry tour takes its name from a trip by one of the members of the Imperial family to the area in the 1950s. There are some great black and white photos of their trek through the snow from Tsunan town over to Matsunoyama Onsen, and you can see the Imperial party drinking coffee in the snow, admiring the scenery and hiking through the beech forests.
The tour itself is suitable for intermediate skiers and riders of average fitness with no previous backcountry experience as the hiking and skiing required are not too demanding. The route is the same the Imperial party took but in reverse. Historically it is a well-trodden path as it used to be the main route in and out of the village when it was cut off each year by the winter snows. The guides are all locals and fill you in on interesting snippets of the area’s history, culture, flora and fauna along they way.
The views are majestic from the higher points, with sights that had all the participants reaching for their cameras. During the hikes the nature and snowy panoramas are really beautiful too.
The tour starts in Matsunoyama Onsen Ski area where you ride a couple of lifts and then head up a ridge at the back of the resort. From there it a ski through a beech forest and along the side of a lake. The next section involves a hike to the top of a neighboring ski resort. The final ski down is a really long one, skiing through the resort, over rice fields and down a long hiking trail until you find yourself down in the next town. It is hard to imagine doing that trip back in the day through the deep snow with no ski lifts to help.
From Tsunan town there is a bus waiting to take the happy skiers back to Matsunoyama Onsen Ski Area where a spring barbeque and an onsen finish up an amazing day. The onsen at Matsunoyama is really famous and known as one of the top curative onsen in Japan.
A fantastic day out.