Finley and Campbell Melville Ives are nine year old twins from Wanaka, New Zealand. Fin is a freeskier and Cam is a snowboarder. Fin & Cam live and breathe snow and given the opportunity they would always choose a Northern Hemisphere winter above summer holidays at home. This is about their winter 2016 adventure at Aomori Spring Resort, Japan with their Mum & Dad, Karen & Neil. Written by Karen Melville Ives.
Last October our family sadly waved goodbye to the New Zealand winter. We wouldn’t be skiing or snowboarding for another eight months. But then an amazing opportunity came up to travel during our summer holidays to a snowy destination that we knew very little about…
Imagine a ski resort with wide open groomed trails, mellow undulating terrain interspersed with a few steep pitches and a decent portion of secluded trees runs. Also imagine a world-class 22ft halfpipe and a fun terrain park.
For those of you who have experienced winter in the Northern Hemisphere, this may well sound a lot like the Colorado resorts of Buttermilk Mountain, Aspen or even Breckenridge. However the resort I’m describing is a little more off the average snow-traveller’s beaten track. This is Aomori Spring in Northern Honshu, Japan.
We were told about Aomori Spring by Fin and Cam’s uncle, John Melville of Development Snowparks, who is contracted to build the halfpipe and terrain park there. So we did a little research online and decided to ditch our summer plans and head to the snow!
We spent a month at Aomori Spring and got to know it pretty well, so let’s tell you some of the cool things about skiing and riding there, and why it could be the perfect place for your next family holiday or winter athlete training destination.
Japan gets a lot of snow! In fact, it’s one of the snowiest places on Earth and according to Wikipedia, Sukayu Onsen – just 60 km from Aomori Spring – is one of the snowiest inhabited places on Earth (possibly the snowiest) with an average yearly snowfall of 17.6 m!
With this quantity of snow and the coastal location, you might suspect the snow is heavy. However this is not the case. In fact the snow here is probably the lightest and fluffiest snow we have ever experienced, even compared to the ‘Champagne powder’ of the North American Rockies.
“The skiing is wonderful. There’s so much powder and heaps of untracked tree runs. Bring your powder skis and low light goggles!” – Fin
Although you’ll come across kids from local schools and some tourists from Tokyo, Aomori Spring is removed from the more popular Japanese ski resorts and off the radar of most snow-loving Westerners. As a consequence, you get more of a genuine Japanese resort experience, rather than a Westernised one. You’ll also find that the slopes are uncrowded and there are very few lift lines.
Terrain park & pipe
While most people come to Japan to ride the powder, the savvier resorts are moving beyond this and providing more to their guests. With the purchase of a 22ft halfpipe shaper and investment in terrain park features, Aomori Spring is developing its freestyle offering. There are significant plans for the future. Watch this space!
“If you’re focusing on learning new tricks in the park or pipe, Aomori Spring is the place to go because you always have a soft landing!” – Cam
Night skiing and riding
The fun doesn’t stop at four o’clock! Just as it starts to go dark (around 5pm), the floodlights are turned on and night riding begins. So you can keep making laps through the terrain park or riding the groomers till you drop!
Accommodation & food
Staying right on the mountain at the Rockwood Hotel & Spa with ski-in, ski-out access and buffet meals makes for the most chilled ski holiday!
There are plenty of great choices for dining at Aomori Spring – a fine dining bistro, buffet hall and casual café/bar are three options at the hotel. Plus on the mountain there are more cafés including the excellent Ramen House that looks out at the halfpipe!
“I love the buffet at Rockwood. Every morning I ate chicken curry and rice for breakfast!” – Cam
Japan is famous for its natural hot springs, or onsen, and the Rockwood Hotel has one of the best! There’s nothing like a relaxing soak in a beautiful hot pool overlooking the snowy trees, after a leg-burning day of riding powder!
Aomori city is just three hours from Tokyo by bullet train (Shinkansen), or one and a half hours by plane. At just over two hours, flying from Seoul is another easy alternative. From Aomori city, it’s about a one hour drive to the resort by shuttle bus.
Everyday day at Aomori Spring was a great day! We usually started by riding powder in the trees on the higher slopes, and then headed to the park and pipe so Fin and Cam could practice new tricks. If we had extra energy at the end of the day we would take some laps after dinner… and we always ended the day with a relaxing soak in the onsen. Bliss!
“Arigatōgozaimasu Aomori Spring, it’s been rad, we’ll see you next year!”