Oze-IwakuraIn summer you can wonder through the lush fields filled with colourful lilies. During winter the lily bulbs sleep underneath a thick layer of snow as Oze-Iwakura transforms into Katashina’s biggest ski resort.
So far I have visited 3 ski areas in Katashina and I must admit that Oze-Iwakura is one of my favourites. First of all it is the biggest one: 11 chair lifts and one rope way take you to a variety of 16 different pistes that attract a range of customers – young to old, skiers to freestyle snowboarders. The slopes are classified into 3 different levels (green: beginner, red: intermediate, black: advanced). Moreover, some pistes are non-compacted snow areas where the snow is left untouched giving that extra kick. I personally found the bumps and the snow spraying from underneath my skis with every turn very exciting – unfortunately I did not manage to finish that slope without at least falling once (of course!).
Oze-Iwakura additionally presents several steep advanced courses. The steepest one has a maximum as well as an average slope of 40°! Their longest slope, known as the ‘Milky Way Course’ is of intermediate level and covers 3,200m with a great view for an absolute ski/snowboard pleasure.
On top of that, at Oze-Iwakura you will have one of the best views where the panorama photo function is just not enough to capture the light blue sky, the sparkling white snow and the magnificent summits in the distance. Such a priceless scene is what completes the whole skiing/snowboarding experience.
You may also be lucky and spot a ‘Kamoshika’ (in English it is known as Japanese Serrow or Japanese goat-antelope) in between the fir trees. We were sitting in the rope way when we saw this hairy-greyish animal digging around in the snow in the search for food. Unfortunately I was not able to snap a photo of the Kamoshika, a national symbol of Japan and that is under protection by law. You will just have to Google it for yourself to have a look at this weird creature.
Due to the fact that it has so many different slopes, we did not have the time to take a rest because we wanted to try as much as possible. Nevertheless, there are 5 different restaurants that serve Japanese (ramen, curry, rice bowls) or Western dishes (hot dogs, pizza, kebab).
Fees for tickets allowing access for all ski lifts and rope way (given in Japanese Yen [¥])
1 Day Set (1 day pass, food & drink) 5,200 4,200 3,100 4,600 4,200
1 Day Pass 4,600 3,500 2,500 4,100 3,500
2 Day Pass 8,300 6,200 4,200 6,700 6,200
Morning Pass (Opening-13:00) 4,000 2,900 1,900
4,000 2,900 1,900
During the weekend and holiday season there is a parking fee of ¥1,000. However, if you have 4 people in a car parking is free of charge – so why not pick up some strangers on the way!
One day Equipment Rental (given in Japanese Yen [¥])
Ski/Snowboard Set (including boots & poles)
Jacket and Trousers
Adults 3,500 3,500 6,500
Children 2,500 2,500 4,500
Oze-Iwakura may not be the best ski resort for people that are on their skis/board for the first time as they only provide 2 beginner courses. Yet, for others it provides a great variety of courses and offers unlimited fun. If you are looking to improve your skills the same organizations as in Marunuma Kogen run ski and snowboard lessons as Oze-Iwakura:
Ski School (SAJ: 0278-58-7865) Snowboard School (JSBA: 0278-58-7770)
2 hours 4 hours 90 minutes (private lesson)
¥3,000 ¥5,000 ¥5,500
This ski/snowboard park is open 8:00-17:00 from December 13 until April 5. They also have 2 slopes open for night skiing (16:30-21:00) on 30.12-03.01, 10.01-28.04 (only on Saturday), 11.01. However, on new years eve the pistes are lit up until 24:00 where you can ski/snowboard into the new year under a sky lit up by colourful fireworks.
Oze-IwakuraOze-IwakuraTo me my last ski down in 2014 felt symbolical to the course of the year. I swooshed down the piste just as quickly as the year passed by. I felt the joy of the adrenaline rush through my body. Now and then there was a protrusion in the way that hindered my journey and made me catch my balance. Yet, sometimes I saw the bumps and I could just steer around them. Nonetheless, I often caught myself purposely going over the bumps as a challenge and for the thrill of it. As I reached the end of the piste I saw people singing and drinking sake together. Aya and I joined in, with a big smile crossing our cold cheeks, to celebrate the start of a new year with different types of slopes waiting ahead of us.