Exploring Hiroshima

Vol.09 Enjoy Skiing in Hiroshima
Winter Fun at Osorakan Snow Park

Hiroshima’s oldest ski slopes catering for ski fans in western Japan

Hiroshima’s Ski Culture

The general manager of Osorakan Snow Park, Yoshinobu Kawamoto.

The general manager of Osorakan Snow Park, Yoshinobu Kawamoto.

“Local legend has it my grandfather brought skiing to Hiroshima,” says Yoshinobu Kawamoto, the general manager of Osorakan Snow Park. “He worked in the post office in Akiota and saw skiing as a good way to deliver the mail during winter.”

Kawamoto’s grandfather’s novel idea snowballed. Now thousands head to the mountains running along Hiroshima’s northern border with Shimane to hit the slopes during the winter months. Currently Hiroshima boasts 15 ski resorts and snow parks, all accessible from Hiroshima City by car.

Kawamoto runs Osorakan Snow Park in Akiota. Established in 1967, it is the oldest ski resort in Hiroshima and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The snow park is also situated on Mount Osorakan - the largest mountain in the prefecture. Its four runs all come with breathtaking views across the valley and neighboring mountains. There is also a family zone for young children and parents to enjoy the snow. The Tateyama course running through the center of the snow park is popular for beginners.

The rental shop will kit you out with everything you need.

The rental shop will kit you out with everything you need.

You rarely have to wait more than a few minutes for the lifts.

You rarely have to wait more than a few minutes for the lifts.

“People should take in the view from the top, it’s a short walk from the end of the chairlift,” explains Kawamoto. “On a clear day you can see right across to the Sea of Japan.”

Although the number of active snowborders and skiers is decreasing in Japan, Osorakan still draws 60,000 people a year to its slopes. The decrease is bad for business, but Kawamoto admits, it’s good for skiers.

“Back during the peak years, you had to wait over an hour for a lift,” says Kawamoto. “Now you won’t need to wait five minutes.”

There are six ski lifts in the snow park.

There are six ski lifts in the snow park.

The view from the top of the “Tateyama” course. You can take in some great views on Mount Osorakan.

The view from the top of the “Tateyama” course. You can take in some great views on Mount Osorakan.

Skiing on Osorakan

We visited Osorakan on a weekday and although there were other skiers, it felt like we had the mountain to ourselves. The scenery from the top was fantastic and the quality of snow was high.

You can experience the best snow from mid-January to mid-February. The slopes and courses at Osorakan cater to all levels, including moguls for the adventurous. When you need a rest to recover those tired legs, you can find food and drink in the restaurant or lodge inside the snow park.

There is a lodge and a restaurant where you can put your feet up.

There is a lodge and a restaurant where you can put your feet up.

Apart from being a short drive from the city, the other convenience is the rental system. It is extensive - you can turn up with nothing and they’ll kit you out with everything you need at a reasonable price.

Lift passes are sold by duration, so you can choose to ski as much, or as little as you want. They offer heavily discounted family packs that include rental and lift passes to make a ski trip affordable for big families or parents accompanying children.

The rental shop stocking everything you’ll need on the piste.

The rental shop stocking everything you’ll need on the piste.

The attendant was very friendly and helpful.

The attendant was very friendly and helpful.

 There are discounted packages for families.

There are discounted packages for families.

Even though Osorakan is accessible by car, it is always a good idea to stay the night if possible for the full experience. There is a number of guesthouse-style accommodation available a couple of minutes from the slopes.

The town works tirelessly to keep the roads open to the ski resort. The best way to access Osorakan is by bus or car. A bus service leaves Hiroshima for the snow park on weekends if enough passengers book the service. If you decide to drive or rent a car, a four-wheel drive fitted with winter snow tires is highly recommended.

“Navigation systems tend to direct you towards the shortest route - a narrow pass through the mountains,” warns Kawamoto. “Unless you know the terrain, we always suggest a longer, but safer alternative route.” The suggested route is printed in leaflets and published on their website.

So if you have the chance from now until mid-February, make your way to Osorakan Snow Park and make the most out of the winter season.

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Words & Photography by Tom Miyagawa Coulton (Visited in January 2018)

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