Mt Kosha Review
Who: London: 6am-10pm. Definitely No parking.
When: March 2nd and 3rd 2013
Where: Kosha? takaifuji? there were lifties even wearing norikura jackets. I honestly dont know where the hell i am!??!! Whats the name of this place again? Lets go with Kosha. I dont think that's even the damn name of the mountain... "Kosha" is about an hour north east of Nagano. Its near Iiyama. Sorta. In visual range of the following: Nozawa, Togari, Madarao, Ryuoo, and in reasonable proximity to Myoko and Shiga Kogen. Loads to choose from around here.
Ticket Info: Tickets costs a PALTRY 3900 yen. Seriously. Joint ticket is cheap! For the individual resorts its 3600 yen, whilst if you head to the yomase site you can also score a joint yomase/xjam ticket plus 800yen lunch (dont trust me on Japanese) for 4000 yen. Seriously, some cracking good value tickets abound. On top of this is of course the daddy of all cost savings - the blackbox. Some Japanese required, but googletranslate and some mucking about with random settings scores you the deal. For me, it cost 11,800 yen for 1 night, breakfast, dinner, and 2 day Mt Kosha tickets. If you're in this general area and need to save cash, work out how to use the black box deals to your advantage. Another thing to mention is that the Kijikmadaira early bird (before 31st August) season pass is a very cheap 19,800yen. You can ride Kosha entirely for an extra 500 yen on the day. Again, if you're in the area, it might be worth looking into.
Access: This will hopefully be out of date come next season, but currently the easiest route is direct bus from Nagano. It costs 1400 yen and takes under an hour. Alternatively you can make your way here taking the red line to Yudanaka station (OUTSIDE Nagano JR station) and then taking a taxi to the resort. There is likely a bus to Yomase from the resort (since they have buses to both shiga kogen AND ryuoo running, but unfortunately I have no information on this. The train to Yudanaka though is pricey at around 1200 yen. And on top of that its still a few kms up to the resort from there. Next season should see the completion of the IIyama shinkansen station however making bus routes from Iiyama itself all but guaranteed. Again, there is a rumored bus line currently in operation from iiyama, but Ive yet to be told about it. If you do fancy taking a chance, a ticket to iiyama is about 650 yen, and the bus is only about another 5kms to the resort from there, so probably wouldn't be too costly (and likely makes a more suitable alternative than heading into yudanaka if you're on a day trip).
Snow conditions: Friday was an horrendous day of rain, melt and then freeze. Thus, even with the snow late on Friday, the conditions were genuinely atrocious off the groomed runs. Conditions were pure icy death cookie crud. As saturday went on the snow fell heavier making exploration in the trees possible by the Sunday morning. However, serious death cookies peppered the mountain and the cover from the Saturday snow made it rather treacherous going at speed. Arguably some of the worst conditions I've ridden this season. Definitely a weekend to stick with the groomers. Any exploration in the trees required extreme caution. Death cookies hurt, yo! (i hit a few, obviously).
Anything Else?: First up, Kijimadaira has a paragliding school! If you want serious air, hell yeah you should head up there. People were busy taking off as I rode about the mountain. Brilliant (but terrifying) to watch. In addition, you can also group rent poles for you and your mates to spend your morning pretending you're in ski sunday.
Worth also mentioning is Yamanouchi. Its is a small onsen town located just to the east of Nakano. I bring it up because its a fantastic place to base yourself for any person looking for a quieter more sedate and "authentic" Japanese trip. Not only is it famous as an onsen town (meaning free onsen) and filled with Ryokan (japanese style traditional hotels), it also gives you very easy access to the monkey onsen.
On top of this you also have the nearby town of Nakano which mixes the more traditional style Japanese town with modern conveniences. It is a small town, but it will keep you supplied with your modern needs. Finally, and arguably the best, is the small town of Obuse. This is sincerely a great place to spend a day. It has a fantastic Hokusai Museum that is absolutely must see. This is your classic old style Japanese town and will delight anyone looking to make their facebook friends mad jealous.
Finally there's of course the ski resorts. Looking down on Yamanouchi is Yomase ski resort which allows you direct access to all of Kosha. It also has buses that run to both Ryuoo and Shiga Kogen. In addition, Nozawa is a mere 20 minutes drive, and although there's no bus (to my knowledge) if you are staying in a decent hotel/ryoukan, they'll no doubt be happy to take you along for a day trip. Even if you were only here for the skiing you'll be hard pushed to feel bored after a couple of weeks. Throw in the day trips around north Nagano/Niigata and you'll have to probably start cutting corners. If you do have the luxury to stay a couple of weeks and you prefer your holidays more on the traditional and sedate/peaceful side side of things, you'll find Yamanouchi maybe even a better alternative than Nagano itself to base yourself out from.
Mt Kosha - The Review
A brief explanation of Mt Kosha:
Mt Kosha are four resorts: Yomase, X-jam (takaifuji), Yamabiko No oka, and Kijimadaira. It's more like three realistically because Yamabiko is only 2 lifts and a few short runs. Still, its an independant resort (somehow!) so it counts!
This is only the second season of the joint ticket. Last year they also had Makinoiri snowpark attached, but for reasons known only to Kosha it ceased operations and is no longer accessible. Worth also noting is that last year you had to apparently "contact staff" to get from yomase to X-Jam. Fortunately this year they have a course running between them. This makes the trek from either side of the mountain a doddle (it takes just over an hour - if you're not in too much of a hurry - to go from the base of Yomase to the top of Kijimadaira, fact fans). In truth, unless you've only got a couple of hours, or are at kijimadaira and just want to ride the top lift, then you might as well pick up the Kosha ticket. Its 300 yen more and gives you a STACK more options to play on. That being said, lets get to the zones themselves.
Area 1: Yomase
Two years ago I arrived in Yudanaka completely unaware that there was a ski jo right up the hill. The temptation to skip a day at shiga and just go cruise it was quite hard to resist. I'm honestly glad I did though. i wouldn't have been that impressed. Yomase is a fairly straightforward hill to get your head around. Its a beginners to intermediate cruising resort to all intents and purposes. The courses are relatively short and wide, but offer a nice increasing incline as you move further up the hill giving progressing beginners and intermediates a bit of a challenge and a solid line to start picking up serious speed. Aside the prospect for hiking out and riding the spine down to xjam (or even into kijimadaira - both of which would be extremely dangerous mind you and not recommended without extensive BC experience - and i don't just mean rope ducking or riding trees), there isn't really all that much to do for anyone comfortable with their carving other than buttering around and ducking in and out of whatever narrow bands of trees you can hit up.
The real gem of Yomase though isn't its terrain, but is in fact a humble lift.
A quad lift to be exact. It neither starts at the bottom, nor does it make it all the way up the hill, but this one lift is about as fast as any chair lift I've ridden. It also accesses about 4/5ths of the available mountain which makes it kinda decent. This lift is a godsend for Yomase. It cuts down the time spent riding lifts and guarantees you'll feel like you're spending a hell of a lot of time at least riding the snow regardless of how fast you hit the bottom. Due to its central location, it also offers a stack of detours just to draw your lines out and feel like you're not repeating yourself too often. Alas it is still just a shortish quad lift and its never going to carry the strain of a day at Yomase no matter how excellent the conditions might be, but my goodness it does give the resort just a little extra dynamic than it would have otherwise.
(looking up yomase)
Top to bottom Yomase clocks in around 2kms, and were it not for tha qud lift, youd be having a pretty slow ride to the top. A top to bottom ride would require you get on the extremely slow lift at the bottom and then switch to either the quad halfway up the mountain, or a super slow short pair (that takes about the same amount of time). This then connects you to the only lift accessing the top of the mountain. And its a pretty slow ride. Technically the top lift also has a drop off point around 3/4s of the way up, but no way on. If you want to reach the top, you need to go all the way back down to a point arbitrarily about 1/3rd of the way up the main line on the mountain. Don't ask me. I didn't design it!
It is a pity because the top area, although relatively short, has a fun gradient to it (from the low 30s transitioning gently to the high teens) and with lots of little stashes at the side due to its relative unpopularity. On a drop you could have a decent time here for a few hours regardless of your level. You might even stretch it out to a half day with a bit of exploration along some of the lines curving skiers right (though these lines mean two lifts and a massive amount of overlapping just to get back to the top). More time spent here though and chances are unless you're a beginner, you'll feel a bit hemmed in.
So to summarize Yomase: its a fun hill, has an amazingly fast lift taking you up to the end of the "intermediate" (id genuinely suggest they're more akin to high beginner) lines. The lift placements thereafter are a touch whacky and kinda spoil quick access to the top, but no mind. There's usually a stash at the top, not many people seemed to be using that lift, and though short, it did allow for some surfy powtastic speeds. At the foot of the hill is a small line perfectly suited to absolute beginners looking to score their first turns, while some of the lines curving around skiers right offer some mildly entertaining distractions in the trees. Ultimately, half day at the most though for anyone above intermediate level. For anyone more closer to the beginner stage however the mountain is simple, wide, incredibly straightforward and easy to get to grips with. It does have a decent pitch so absolute beginners might feel it a bit of a jump but they'll probably have a blast either way. It seems rather quiet as well allowing for plenty of space to just do your own thing. In all, its a fun place for people starting out or those looking to move around the hill a bit. And because of the consistent pitch, its a nice little warm up area for more experienced riders looking to start out or finish their day.
Area 2: X-Jam/TakaiFuji
(X-Jam kicker line and halfpipe 1)
Around half way down the hill yo'ull find the turn off to X-Jam. The sign posting here is AMAZINGLY clear. Possibly this was forced on the Kosha group in order to gain access to the golf course and keep the riders from ripping up the course. Whatever the reason, it's definitely welcome to see such a clear marked path through to x-jam. The path itself is pretty flat, and you will need to be carrying speed. Likely you will be un-clipping or at least bouncing up the hill to your next slight downhill line, but its not too bad. Its shorter than you might imagine and a couple of pushes gets you to the base of lift 3, and onto the next part of your journey. (To return just take the number 3 lift (accessed from the top of the xjam park lift by the way) and then its a very short scoot back into Yomase). But onwards to X-Jam!
Easily far and away the most popular part of the mountain, and also the oldest and fattest I've ever felt on a snowboard. Suffice it to say i didn't really stick around here. X-Jam has some solid lines to it of course, and plenty of trees you can just drop into and ride down (though its tight and slippy in there). It also has a great steep to it from the number 6 (top lift) dropping into the beginners park area. Its alright as it goes...
But really its hard to talk about x-jam as an old fat non park rider, because there are honestly two reasons people come here:
1. The demographic is YOUNG snowboarder (it covers all the ability levels mind you). People come here to hang out with their mates and meet a bunch of new people from other parts of the country. Its almost like you might consider a club in the UK. (i am of course supremely jealous).
2. The park lines all over the mountain.
(baby park line)
You can skip the park features and just bomb some steeps, and it does deliver a decent line in it, but really unless you're stuck here because your mates made you come, there are better places to hang out. I had a few runs down, but the lifts back up aren't that quick, and though the number 6 line to the top looks to have a great lift run if you can find a way in it as well as some okay trees on the left side of the mountain, it wasn't really the best place to stick about. Come for the park or pick another resort to be honest. Its not just the park line itself though, almost the entire right hand side is devoted to park lines. The number 1 lift offers a baby park line with a few straight-forward small features that would help beginners progress, whilst the number 3 pair line (though the map is rather deceptive since the number three STARTS at its listed end point and carries you back to Yomase, but lets just assume its fine and you know where I'm talking about) has a pretty serious (and aside the small kickers) scary ass (for me) rail line as well as a few other small to medium hits.
As you can probably tell, I'm not the best person to talk about park features, but the real centerpiece of the area is the X-Jam access line on far skiers right. Going from (skiers) right to left on this line:
On the far right hand side from the top of the lift is a powder/tree and mini jump/roller line. As we move to the left you have a four hit baby kicker line. Then the proper medium size kicker line. And finally two half pipes. As the jump lines end, the gradients shallows out into a few kink rails, boxes, and um... park rat stuffs. Sorry... Send krusty or someone to check it out. Seems like an intermediate park with some decent sized hits. You ain't talking US here. Still, if you're into lapping park all day, probably worth at least a visit. I'd also like to mention that I got to ride in a halfpipe for the first time, so there's that crossed off my list! It was fun, vert is um, pretty much what it says it is, eh?
Again in summary, X-Jam does have a nice line in it, much like Yomase it goes from a solid advanced pitch in the high twenties/low thirties dropping into a very soft (unlike Yomase) low teens under the number 1 lift. Its longest line is also around a couple of kilometers making it a bit small and trivial on its own. But its really not why you come here. This mountain is about being with your people and hitting up park features. Be they beginner and soft rollers or getting air in the pipe(s). Accessed via the golf course between Yomase and Xjam (and the pair lift 3 lift back), its a solid addition to the ticket. Its also a solid ride on its own if you're a park rat!
...but im not, so off to yamabiko!
Area 3: Yamabiko no Oka
(main line down yamabiko no oka)
Freaking tiny. Its two lifts with about 4 or 5 lines down the mountain. Still, on balance i think i possibly spent as much time here as i did in x-Jam. Admittedly i didn't spend all that much time in x-jam as you might have gathered by my vague descriptions of it, but for a tiny small group of lines this area is pretty decent for at least a few runs around the number one lift. I should add that I am a little stumped trying to figure out what that one intermediate run on the trail map is. But if it is what i think it is, it's not only locked up, but they've bulldozed a stack of snow under the rope to prevent people from ducking the rope and riding it (not that you could, its right outside the lifty window).
Coming up the lift i was really excited at the prospect of hitting it up since its the only real powder line on the course, but alas its not to be. This line is closed. It is poachable, but er, you first! The other line off lift 2 is a fairly simple groomed high beginner line. It wasn't particularly memorable and you'll end up riding it coming back from Kiji anyway. So really not much to say about this side other than it connects you to Kijimadaira. In itself, not really worth bothering with.
Line 1 however has a nice steepish green run rolling into a mellow green beginner pitch. On its own, aside the trees at either side and a run under the lift, there's not that much interesting about it. It wasn't really swimming and powder and looked pretty widely groomed (though they certainly left enough space at the sides near the top of the lift for a little play in the powder). But really the big draw here is the cross course at the foot of it. The rollers are decent sized and the speed is pretty nippy on it. It is short and they could maybe do with starting it from the top and really defining the zone by it (since there's not all that much else here), but i guess they want to keep enough space for beginners to negotiate the full line. Still, its a bit more interesting an area than you might immediately imagine: have a little play in the trees or in the powder, spend some time buttering around and then off into the cross course. Its not enormous, but you could definitely enjoy it for a while either side of your ventures to and from Kijimadaira.
The Yamabiko No oka area is really a link area. You can't ride this place on its own all day. Hell, its probably even shorter than Yeti. But even though it hasn't got all that much in terms of terrain or area, it still punches a little above its weight thanks to the addition of the cross course, the small powder stashes, some short tree riding, and the general ambiance of the area. Its a nice quiet part of the hill between Xjam and Kijimadaira giving you a bit of space to either lap the number 1 lift by bombing top to bottom; charge that cross course; or just cruise and butter about the groomers here. Its a really nice little place for beginners and intermediates alike. Again, advanced riders might start to feel its time to move on after a couple of runs on the cross-course, and maybe think theyve made a terrible mistake coming here... but really if they're here for massive lines or a big mountain experience, they probably didn't do their research... well, until they hit Kijimadaira.
Area 4: Kijimadaira
Thus far its all been rather quaint. Though the resort has very little in terms of terrain, some careful and skilled organisation has delivered a rather fun and interesting theme park style experience. Yomase gave us nice straightforward decent open lines on a nice gradient, the traverse to xjam was pretty simple, and X-Jam itself delivered a decent party/park atmosphere. The move to Yamabiko off the very under used pair 6 lift at Xjam (and into possibly the quietest part of the xjam area) gently eased us into a nice little cruising area with some fun lines to just muck about on and quick enough lifts to let us lap them. Its all been a lot of fun so far just getting the feel for each area and cruising about exploring some new lines.
And then you hit Kijimadaira, see all the downhill poles and you think... "awesome! so this place is defining itself as a kind of practice area for downhill skiing/snowboarding! Bang goes the only thing good thing I had to say about Sugadaira!"...
The conditions from the Friday meant that the very top lift was closed on the Saturday. This gave me time to have a look around and get a feel for the place. Its more serious than you think. They set aside the lines either side of main quad lift for downhill competitions and practice lines. At first i thought these were free for all, but unfortunately I learned that they're all rented. If you do want to practice your carving, you'll need to get a group together and rent out the poles (and the people staffing them i assume). That being said, the opportunity exists... and if its lunch time, chances are you might be able to poach a few runs while no ones around.
Still, it has a decent line to it. Its a Km or so longer than all the other zones, and seems to have plenty of activities set up to keep you coming back. Quickly (because its not really the point of the review), you can sledge down the very bottom line on the resort on a specially set aside decent length track. There's also a park line on skiers right about 2/3rds of the way down of the main zone with a few smallish random hits on it. There's also a paragliding school to er, well... paraglide off the top of the mountain (or off the small path near the start of the top lift). Finally, it seems like there's a competition going on every weekend/holiday... Oh, and the grub at Panis (base of lift 7) was yummy.... well, the bread was. Love bread and soup for lunch on a day out at the resort <3
The terrain from the base of the top lift to the bottom is solid intermediate to absolute soft beginners (where the sledging is). Obviously they hold downhill competitions here so if nothing else, you'll at least get a good quick run out on some nice tracks with some playful little side hits here and there. It is kinda open though, so if you're not that interested in paying for the poles, entering a competition, mucking about on the mini park or just sitting in the cafe watching the world drift by, youre going to find this zone no more interesting than the others. If the top lift isnt open, its fun to explore a bit, but you'll have a better time on another resort.
IN truth it was all rather shallow and underwhelming. Of course beginners are going to love this area. Its far bigger than any of the other parts of the Kosha pass and delivers enough twists and turns to make it feel like a longer more entertaining mountain than it is. But that's really all beginners have to be honest. For the most part, the lines go from beginner to intermediate gradient as you work up the hill making it a great place for progressing. There is also a hell of a lot of space here. Finally the number 8 quad runs at decent pace meaning you have a good 2-3 kms of lines to play with without too much hassle if you're happy with intermediate level steeps. If, on the other hand, you are feeling its a bit much, simply spend your time on the bottom line. Without the very top lift, its... alright. Its got a half day in it and a decent lunch.
But I didnt really come here to experience the mountain. I can for one line. Every day i rode Nozawa and looked across all i saw was that top line. Even from the station it draws you in. Its not like its massively long or anything, but that drop on it looks serious. I had to ride it. It's been on my bucketlist snce day 1. And after a couple of hours of humming and hawing, at 11am on Sunday, to my delight (and against their better judgement - too many death cookies) they went ahead and opened it.
Third chair up! woohoo! i should have been first, but got snaked. The lift ride was proper vertigo inducing stuff. After white knuckling it to the top, i released my death grip on the bar to slide onto the most exposed wind blasted ice face this side of the Eiger... or at least the top of annupuri. If i'd have tried this a few years ago I would have IMMEDIATELY regretted it. This was possibly the steepest, iciest on piste face ive come across so far. Sure, for more experienced and worldly traveled riders its not that special. Its a mere 45 degrees, but to me who learned everything in Japan, its steep. Its pants wettingly steep. And its also a hell of a challenge to ride it without skidding your turns and taking some decent cuts cross the full width all the way down. Its genuinely brilliant fun the moments you feel comofrtable enough to drop into the fall line and let the board rip. But its going to smack the crap out of anyone not up for it. Treat this line the same way you might treat the line at the very start of b course on Ryuoo. With freshies its alright, you can track into a pitch and just nuke... until it narrows and gets proper steep and icy... and as I discovered later in the day, once it gets a bit of shade, the cut in tracks become a bone shaker. The wind seemed to be blasting from the bottom to the top turning the snow from the previous day into serious crusty chop/crud within a few hours of its opening. If you want to really get the best of the line, either you need to be here first, or you need to be here on a day when no one else is about and its puked.
And here's the bad news: they only open that line on weekends and holidays. So your best chance of scoring those first tracks is to do what i did and sit there for an hour until they open it. Goddammit! For best results, score a few runs on it, then get the hell off that face once the conditions start packing in.
Lucky for you though there's another line serviced by the lift. And its a doozey.
It requires a mini traverse (about 50meters) to the back of the mountain. You'll then find yourself in a free for all open area VERY similar to Tanuki on Nozawa. I was all ready to declare the steep to be the gem in the Kosha crown, but this line murders it! Its a fantastic little run through the trees and into the powder. I must have ridden about 5 different lines on it without repeating myself and still ended back out in the right place. There's loads of variety here, and you can pretty easily venture slightly further out for a spot of discovery without finding yourself in too much shit (disclosure of course that you may in fact find yourself in the shit - i personally didn't is all I'm saying). In total its obviously shorter than Tanuki top to bottom, but its maybe close to 2/3rd or 3/5ths of its length. Its also LEGAL and if its open, assume its safe-ISH... it isn't like patrol are always around and its out of the way meaning the lure of fresh lines pulling you into stupid areas as well as the whole "no one seeing you if you **** up", thing. Of all the lines, this is naturally the most dangerous and shouldn't really be attempted on your own without a bit of slackcountry experience EVEN IF the resort opens it. So qualifier in mind and back to the point...
its a brilliant bumpy, powdery, steepish tree run/chute into the area around lifts 6 and 7. In conjunction with the main face, these two runs are definitely going to keep an advanced rider pretty happy for at least a half day giving them a reason to legitimately pick up this ticket (beginners and early intermediates would be better off avoiding the top lift in its entirety to be honest). This one lift turns the whole Kosha ticket from a fun playful muck around cruising place into something just a little more serious and engaging. Its a brilliant part of the mountain and really justifies the price of the ticket.
All in then, unless you're a park rat or an absolute beginner, you'll probably find yourself spending most of your time on Kijimadaira. It's obviously the most serious (as well as the largest) zone on the ticket, so you might hope it'd pull a decent amount of weight. And my genuine feeling is that it does. It has something for everyone to do and is a pretty decent place as a stand alone resort SO LONG AS THE TOP LIFT IS OPEN. In many ways it reminds me of Yakebi on Shiga Kogen. Not so much in the mountain itself, but that if you do find yourself feeling underwhelmed by the rest of the Kosha ticket, (or you're done exploring), you can pop over there and enjoy the rest of your time just cruising down it or mucking about finding your own lines from the top.
For me, it was really that back line that sold the resort. If the powders dropping and its open (check in advance if you can), and you don't fancy risking something a little less known (tanuki) or fighting everyone on your hill for tracks, then you've just scored an amazingly fun ON PISTE face shot chute/tree line in the back bowl. Brilliant stuff. If comparatively short. But brilliant none the less. I had to literally drag myself away and make a break for Yomase just to catch my bus home.
Ipps in Kosha - Concluding remarks.
I'm not going to get over enthusiastic about the place. It has plenty of issues, and i genuinely don't know if there will be a second visit for at least a few years. Unless they open that top lift on weekdays and I happen to be spending a few weeks holidays in Nagano, its pretty unlikely you'd want to pick this as your routine place to go. If you've been here for a couple of days you'll be left feeling like you've seen it all. Its fun, but I doubt youdfeel a burning need to return. None of this is untrue, it is pretty short after all with the longest runs barely squeaking past a couple of kilometers. And its hardly swimming in advanced terrain. Still, it does have a fair few things going for it.
Before we get into that though we need to answer one key question: Is the Kosha ticket worth it?
Yes. Don't bother with a single resort pass on your first time. For 300 yen and a stack more options, you'd be barking to not pick it up.
So with that out of the way, lets try and answer why you might like to come here?
Well, first up, X-Jam offers a brilliant fun party atmosphere. It LOOKS a great place to hang out if you're around uni age and love hitting park. (Well, maybe not if you LOVE hitting park, nothing was SO big that it made me puke even looking at it (as the muju kickers did when they moved them up the hill in March). Its medium hits at best). But if you just want to tune your skills in Japan and lap up the Sugeee!'s, then it makes a welcome distraction.
Second, no beginner or low intermediate will hate this place. It provides two ESSENTIAL components for them to have a great time: First, it has a huge area to explore all with a different and unique vibe. And second, all of it (aside the top lift at Kijimadaira) is accessible for all but absolute beginners. From Yomase to Kijimadaira there isn't a single line i can think of that would be classed as intermediate let alone advanced. This means beginners to low intermediates can just spend their time in areas until they get bored and head somewhere else. This is a FANTASTIC place for them to ride. Most of the terrain really suits them with the harder stuff mainly being out of the way and not on their main path around the mountain.
Third, the main face on Kijimadaira is cracking stuff. Sure, youll probably stop hitting it after your third or fourth time and do something else instead, but if you've never ridden it and you feel like it's worth a crack, you should probably head here. It pays for the ticket on its own,and there's plenty of fun and varied cruising areas/park lines to play on if you find yourself needing to kill time. The cross-course is great fun for example, and you can always try and poach some downhill runs.
Third, the back line is phenomenally good fun. Pick a line, go where you like, come out where you need to be. I went pretty far skiers right on my last run through the trees (i was in sight of the main face), and still looped all the way back round to the back line before being spat out in the right place. I could honestly have ridden that all day were it not for the death cookies all over it. Its a great little free for all line. On a powder day it'll be immense! If you spend your time fighting for tracks, save your cash, come here on a weekend on a dump and do what you should be doing. The place kills.
<<<<<Addendum... there is one more thing that im NOT QUALIFIED TO TALK ABOUT IN ANY WAY, but just as a heads up for the proper junkies out there. There's clearly some gnarly steep lines heading from the top of Kiji down to both Yomase and Makinori (as well as from the top of yomase). Mad BC and organisation/planning skills definitely required, but there's a decent line or two in it by the looks of it. Well, maybe... i aint looking at a topographical map here, just using my eyes. You'll have to not take my word for it and confirm that info for yourself. But it gives you something to at least scope out and see if its 1) worth it, and 2) doable. Again, not qualified, just saying its maybe worth a look.>>>>>
Finally, its just a nice big area to cruise around on. It doesn't sound like much, but you'll easy fill a couple of days just mucking about and exploring it, (unless you're really fussy and ONLY ride x-terrain!). Each area has its own vibe and signature ride. Yomase has big open empty consistent terrain, and some little fun runs between the trees (not IN the trees) to keep things on the gentler more peaceful diverse side of things. X-jam has its park hits as well as the brunt of the party atmosphere, whilst Yamabiko offers a super quiet and peaceful shaded area dotted in the trees. Finally, kijimadaira offers a proper rounded resort experience with a whole lot of stuff to keep you busy and entertained, from paragliding, to sledging, to downhill competitions, to small park hits, to slackcountry pow and tree lines... and even just all round classic riding down a hill on a plank of wood. It has a little bit of everything.
In my honest opinion, it should really be doing better than it does in terms of numbers even if it was a solo ticket. In conjunction with the rest of the Kosha ticket, its genuinely shocking that its such a quiet mountain. Ah well, everyone else's loss is your gain!
If you have never been here, i do strongly urge you to check it out. Its a fun way to spend a weekend. I mean, don't expect Niseko or even one of the bigger resorts in Nagano. Its pretty short. But for a one time trip its brilliant fun. You get to wander about, see loads of new stuff as well as some fantastic scenery and just soak up the whole ambiance of a quiet (X-Jam excepted) but excellently organised hill. As i say, it might not be the kinda place you'll visit again in a hurry, but its definitely a place you'd want to come at least once.
Overall, I genuinely think its well worth the cash and time for a weekend once every few seasons. Plus, you really do need to cross off riding that face from your Japan "things to do"-list. It's totally worth it. If the powders swimming, your local hill is packed, you're sick of fighting for tracks AND its a weekend (you need that top lift open dammit!), then it might be a great time to come and check out why despite its rather obvious flaws, I'm more than happy to bang on about it.