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Yuzawa

Kagura in all its glory (4 different trips)

- - - - - yuzawa snowshoeing

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#1
Gunma Boarder

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Of the skijos in Japan I have been to Kagura is definitely one of my favorites. Due to its location, it gets consistent good powder snow all winter long and due to how open things are, you can even find fresh powder runs later in the day. I have spent most of my time in the “Kagura” area (as opposed to the Mitsumata and Tashiro areas) and will focus my report on this area. I will also be talking about a couple of my trips to Kagura to hopefully give a broader picture of what the mountain is like. For the first two trips I apologize for the lack of pics.

My first trip to Kagura was in a blizzard. I started my day around noon at the Tashiro Ropeway and slowly worked my way over to the Kagura area with almost zero visibility and no knowledge of the skijo what so ever. My plan was to get as high on the mountain as I could and from the maps I had seen, the Kagura area was the place to be. It was definitely an adventure, but more of a work out than amazing boarding for much of the traverse. I remember doing a lot of skating and thinking “maybe I should have just gone to one of my familiar skijos today.” After coming to the Kagura area things started to turn around. Though I was initially disappointed to find that the the highest lift (Kagura 5 I believe) was closed, I found some nice tree runs and a nice valley run that made the effort worthwhile.

Due to starting so late, the long traverse and not knowing the skijo I ended up not being able to make it back to the Tashiro Ropeway, so I instead descended into the Mitsumata area. The trail below the Kagura gondola is really flat and my tired legs didn’t apreciate more skating, but I was forced to do some. It still beat riding the gondola though. I didn’t spend to much time in the Mitsumata area but instead went to the descending course which was a lot of fun! This course has a lot of switchbacks and I enjoyed hitting the powder and natural jumps on the sides of the trail. I also talked to a lot of other riders on the way down which made me feel like we were one big group. Taking turns hitting the powder and jumps and laughing at us all crashing due to the low visibility was a lot of fun! There is a free bus heading from the Mitsumata to the Tashiro Ropeway which I used to get back to my car. Overall the experience made me want to come back on a clear day and park at the Mitsumata Ropeway instead of the Tashiro.

So a little later in the season, I did. The weather was beautiful and the snow was great. But once again the highest lift was closed due to its extremely late opening date (does anyone know why?). The mountain was good without it however and I had a great day. During this experience I spent a lot of time dropping in to the varies tree runs in the Kagura area. I also noticed people hiking up Mt. Kaguragamine and riding down into the valley beside the resort which I had been riding the bottom of. It looked like fun, but having no snowshoes I decided it wasn’t realistic. I did hike I little ways up towards the top of the closed lift and drop into the valley behind it which was probably my best powder run of the day.

I also hiked a short way up the ridge beside the closed lift a couple of times to get some powder before dropping into the valley which the hikers were dropping into but from a much lower elevation and the opposite side. On one of these hikes while I was putting on my binding, I saw something which made me question the growing interest in back country that watching all the hikers had created in me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement on the opposite side of the valley and looked up to see an avalanche coming down from one of the steeper points on the ridge line. I didn’t see anyone in it, but soon after a skier made their way towards the avalanche and started digging. A couple of minutes later someone emerged letting out an “I’m lucky to be alive!” scream. Most likely without his friend that person would not have been alive. This time around the buddy system worked.

My third trip to Kagura I planned around the highest lift being open. I once again started from the Mitsumata Ropeway, but this time got there for the second Gondola up. I had my snowshoes with me and was ready for a hike! The top lift has a later opening time so I hit some nice tree runs to warm up. I then finally went over to the highest lift which I had been wanting to get to since my first trip! The actual runs from the top to the bottom of the lift are not that long, but using the lift you can do a number of different things. I started out by hiking a little ways towards the top of the mountain and then dropping a fresh line down towards the lift. This area is not that steep, but it is a beautiful forest run. After doing this a couple of times I decided to hike up the mountain.
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This is the first part of the hike which is fairly easy with the Minamiuonuma in the background.

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Things got harder as I got closer to the top. This is looking towards Gunma with some traverse lines in the background.

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This is from the top. Naeba and some beautiful tree monsters.
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The alps in the background of this photo look way better in person.

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The mountain on the right is Myoko. This pic is looking into the steep valley away from the skijo.

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looking back towards the skijo.

The snow was pretty deep so even with snowshoes the hike wasn’t easy, but getting to the top made the effort worthwhile. Winter hiking is amazing! and being able to ride down is an awesome bonus. Not having the proper av gear and no partner and having the avalanche I saw the previous trip still in my mind, I decided to take one of the less steep safer routes down from the peak. There really is an amazing amount of options for how you ride down! The rest of the day I spent dropping into the valley behind the highest lift and using a number of lifts to get back to the top while riding some tree runs along the way.

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Looking back up the mountain from the Mitsumata area.

My most recent trip to Kagura, which I have Snow Japan and Kagura to thank for, came at the end of last season. This time I brought a friend who likes snowshoeing with me. We picked a beautiful clear day in hopes of getting some amazing views from the top of Mt. Kaguragamine. We got there early and went straight for the top of the mountain as quick as we could, only stopping for one warm-up forest run from the highest lift on the way.

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Looking up the highest lift at Kagura.

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Our forest drop in point just above the highest lift.

The views did not disappoint. This was my friends first back country experience so I decided to take him down a nice easy run into the valley behind the highest lift. It was a nice long cruise through the forest and into the valley below. I hit a couple of 360s off the valley walls for good measure and then it was back into the resort. After this I hit a couple of tree runs and dropped into the valley behind the highest lift one more time. After this, we were both tired and decided to call it a day.

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The view from the top looking away from the skijo.

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Looking back towards the resort. we dropped into the trees below. You can also see the lines traversing to the right of the picture which lead to the hill above the snow dog pictured below.

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Snow dog! Woof Woof

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Heading towards the top of Mt. Kaguragamine.

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The top of Mt. Kaguragamine

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Mt. Naeba from the top of Mt. Kaguragamine.

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The ridge line leading to snow dog. Woof Woof. Dropping left=safe Dropping right=long (maybe almost impossible) walk out.

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See, I really was at the top of the mountain!

#2
muikabochi

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Very nice!

:thumbsup:

I never seem to be able to get good pics from up there. Must try again!

#3
snowjunky

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Thanks GB good report and great pics :thumbsup:
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#4
TubbyBeaverinho

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I like that back valley off the lift....I usually traverse over from under the top of the lift, over the brow and then down a ripping couple if faces back to the top of the gondola. Me, Sand and my brother lapped that pretty much on our own one fine bluebird day April last year :)
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#5
SKI

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Yes nice
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#6
ger

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There it is! Nice!
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#7
Rucky Inu

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+1 Nice. Great photo's too - look like an good day for it.
Cheers.

#8
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View PostTubbyBeaverinho, on 11 December 2013 - 09:22 PM, said:

I like that back valley off the lift....I usually traverse over from under the top of the lift, over the brow and then down a ripping couple if faces back to the top of the gondola. Me, Sand and my brother lapped that pretty much on our own one fine bluebird day April last year :)

I think I've done about the same thing from the forest drop in point pictured above. It's a really nice run :groovy:

#9
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View Postmuikabochi, on 11 December 2013 - 07:01 PM, said:

Very nice!

:thumbsup:

I never seem to be able to get good pics from up there. Must try again!

Tell me when! I really want to get back up there this year. I really love so many of the pictures you have on this site. I have even sent relatives to your Tanigawa pages to show them the beautiful places I go. Would love to see you at work :)

#10
theiceman

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Great stuff. I've not been confident enough to head back there before, and always just stuck to runs directly off the piste, like dropping down directly to the right or left of the connecting course to Tashiro from the top of the main Kagura run. After seeing your pics (and some scary Colorado backcountry last year) I'll definitely skin up next time, and even lend my boarder buddies some snowshoes if they want to come along. :)

#11
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I had a now show-student so I came to check out some photos. My heart is pounding at the sight of all that snow! Nice shots!

#12
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You gnarly bastard! im so jealous! :D
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