Mayoizawa-yama mid-week ski tour (Sapporo City, Japan)


First impressions of the Mt. Mayoizawa (迷沢山 – 1,005m) backcountry skiing route are probably not that great. You’d be forgiven to want to shun this route, with its overbearing-looking pylons and not much of a peak to speak of. But it has two seriously good things going for it: it is well within the Sapporo City limits (accessible by bus), and the clear-cut areas under the pylons offer some seriously fun downhill skiing. And actually, most of the route going up is in some gorgeous forest, up on the ridge just north of the powerlines. This is a perfect route for a mid-week daytrip for Sapporo City dwellers.

Mt. Mayoizawa ski touring (Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan)

Essential Info

  • Route GPS log: GPX file download
  • Route timing: Around 4 hours from carpark to Mt. Mayoizawa summit, 1hr 50mins back down.
  • Total vertical gain: 760m
  • Topographical maps: For topographical maps, you can either print out what you want from the Geospacial Information Authority of Japan here (Mt. Mayoizawa is in the cross-hairs), or buy the following 1:25,000 paper topo map (for 350yen) from a bookstore in Sapporo (such as Kinokuniya next to Sapporo Station).
    • Teineyama (手稲山) – map no. NK-54-14-14-2
  • Snow and route safety: You’ll hardly find better route markers than pylons and power lines, but once you’ve made it to the 910m mark on the route, the rest of the way to the Mayoizawa summit is relatively flat and nondescript, with no pylons to guide your way. In low visibility conditions, it is best to turn around at the top of the pylons and enjoy the downhill rather than risk losing your way.
  • Other resources: See the write-up (in Japanese) from p. 110 of the Yuki-yama Guide (ISBN: 978-4894538047).
  • Best time to visit: Mid-December till mid-April (as per the Yuki-yama Guide).
  • Getting there and away
    • By bus: Take the JR Bus (Nishino-heiwa line – 西野平和線 – Bus No. 42) from JR Kotoni train station, and get off at the end of the line at Heiwa-no-taki-iriguchi (平和の滝入口) bus stop. From the bus stop it is a 1.6km walk to the trailhead. See the route here on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/AhTV1rp2D9Q2
    • By car: There is a small carpark near the entrance of the route here: https://goo.gl/maps/tUdXjuTuVeL2
  • Onsen neaby: There are no natural onsen nearby, but try one of the numerous sento public baths in the area. Efu-no-yu (here) looks like a classic retro sento, while Yu Shohana Yuzuki (here, closer to Kotoni Station) looks to be a bit more substantial.
  • Weather forecast (Google Translated): Tenkura pinpoint for Mt. Teine (in the immediate vicinity of Mt. Mayoizawa)
  • Date visited: Feb 14th, 2017

Route Map with GPS Trace (Full Route GPX file)

 

Climb and Ski Report

From the Yuki-yama Guidebook:

“You can’t see Mt. Mayoizawa from any low-lying areas. Furthermore, because of its flat summit, it is difficult to identify from other hills around it. There’s a forestry road that goes to the summit now, so it can be hiked in summer, but its in winter that Mt. Mayoizawa is a really fun hill. Since way before the powerlines were constructed, the ridge on the ‘old powerline route’ has been known as a backcountry ski course since the 1930’s.” Yuki-yama Guide, 2015, p. 110

A mid-week ski tour. Why not take the day off, and head to one of Sapporo City’s closest backcountry locations. This route had been on Rick’s radar for a while too. I was easily persuaded.

Mt. Mayoizawa ski touring (Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan)

This backcountry ski route is apparently well known in Sapporo – according to the section in the guidebook above, it has been known as a good place to ski for almost 100 years. Add to that the clear-cut sections under the powerlines, and you’ve got a recipe for a seriously good fun location.

The route starts at the boarded-up shrine, where there is room for around 10 cars to park. It follows a stream up to the powerlines, and crosses a snowbridge just under the last set of powerlines, before the route starts climbing steeply towards Mt. Teine.

Mt. Mayoizawa ski touring (Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan)

Directly after the snowbridge, the route climbs steeply to the 526m point, such that a number of steep kick-turns will be needed.

Mt. Mayoizawa ski touring (Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Mayoizawa ski touring (Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan)

For the first hour of climbing, we could hear the muffled announcements from the Teine Ski Field, on the opposite side of the hills to the north of the route.

Just as the imposing metal pylons are getting in the way of a nice skin in the outdoors, the route cuts off to the north, to climb up on the ridge just north of the route, at around 575m. This route is marked in places with pink ribbon. It would be possible to traverse along the clearcut area under the powerlines – the ‘old powerline’ downhill route takes this course – but it is much more pleasant in the forest.

Mt. Mayoizawa ski touring (Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Mayoizawa ski touring (Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan)

The route follows the ridge all the way to the 910m mark, which is essentially the end of the strenuous climbing. From there, it is a flat-ish approach to the summit of Mt. Mayoizawa, following the now nondescript ridge around to the north and then west to the summit.

Mt. Mayoizawa ski touring (Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan)

Due to a combination of a late start (we didn’t start climbing until around 9:30am), and low visibility, we opted not to head on to the summit on this trip. The flat area towards the summit is an easy place to get disoriented, to best to head down except in the best conditions.

The downhill portion of the trip offers two choices – the Old Powerline Route and the New Powerline Route. The Old Powerline Route is steeper, and has more variation in the terrain. It follows the main powerlines that the upward route follows. The New Powerline Route is described as a more gentle slope, suitable for beginners. It follows a set of powerlines further to the south of the upwards route, and requires some traversing to get to the top of the clearcut section. While the Mt. Mayoizawa route in general is not known for avalanches, a lot of snow had dropped that morning, so we decided to take the New Route down (route here).

Mt. Mayoizawa ski touring (Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan)

Overall, we felt that the Old Route would have been more fun. The New Route requires some traversing half way through (to rejoin the Old Route), and at the top. For us, this included some upwards sidestepping at times, which was not fun. The guidebook also indicates an option to carry on all the way down to the Kotoni-Hassamu River. This is the river that the route follows at the very beginning. We didn’t head down that way, so can’t comment on the existence of a suitable snowbridge.

The snow on the way down was silky smooth, light and dry. And the steeper sections of the lower part of the Old Route were fantastic fun.

Mt. Mayoizawa ski touring (Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Japan)

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