Iwanai Cat Skiing Hokkaido

Overall Rating

Iwanai Cat Skiing

Iwanai Cat Skiing4.5/525
Iwanai Cat Skiing4.5 out of 5 based on 25 reviews
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Iwanai Cat Skiing Hokkaido
Iwanai Cat Skiing Hokkaido
Iwanai Cat Skiing has 4 former piste
Iwanai Cat Skiing has 4 former piste
Iwanai Resort is near the coast
Iwanai Resort is near the coast
Hokkaido powder
Hokkaido powder
Cat boarding at Iwanai
Cat boarding at Iwanai
Iwanai Cat Skiing on one of the retired courses
Iwanai Cat Skiing on one of the retired courses
Iwanai Cat Skiing offers nice views on fine days
Iwanai Cat Skiing offers nice views on fine days
Snowboarding at Iwanai Hokkaido
Snowboarding at Iwanai Hokkaido
Morning tea in the snowcat
Morning tea in the snowcat
Many of the trees are widely spaced
Many of the trees are widely spaced
Old lift lines in the background at Iwanai Cat Skiing
Old lift lines in the background at Iwanai Cat Skiing
Iwanai Resort Hokkaido
Iwanai Resort Hokkaido
It snows a lot at Iwanai
It snows a lot at Iwanai
Iwanai Cat Skiing Japan
Iwanai Cat Skiing Japan
Fun amongst the trees
Fun amongst the trees
Hokkaido powder at Iwanai Snowcat Skiing
Hokkaido powder at Iwanai Snowcat Skiing
The day lodge is a nice spot to relax
The day lodge is a nice spot to relax
Iwanai sits on the western coast of Hokkaido Japan
Iwanai sits on the western coast of Hokkaido Japan
This is why you go cat skiing!
This is why you go cat skiing!
Views across the sea
Views across the sea

Iwanai Cat Skiing Hokkaido

Overall Rating

Iwanai Cat Skiing4.5/525
Iwanai Cat Skiing4.5 out of 5 based on 25 reviews

Iwanai Cat Skiing Japan

Iwanai Cat Skiing near Niseko in Hokkaido Japan is a perfect adjunct to your ski or snowboard trip, and an ideal way to enjoy the exclusiveness of snowcat skiing, far away from the crowds and tracked out runs of the ski resorts. Like Niseko, the Iwanai snowcat skiing area is renowned for scoring large dumps of Hokkaido snow. You’ve probably seen footage of over-the-head blower powder in Hokkaido, where chicken feathers fall from the sky. The private cat skiing resort of Iwanai is where you might score the famed deep Japow. Sure it doesn’t snow everyday and the tenure isn’t massive relative to most Canada cat skiing outfits (as with the other Niseko cat skiing outfits), but by heading to Iwanai you increase your chances of deep powder and frequent powder resets.

Iwanai Cat Skiing is situated near the coast, and when it’s not snowing, the views across the sea are rather magical. The snowcat cabin has been pimped up nicely, which includes large windows, so you can check out the views on the ascent in the snowcat. Iwanai is a very good all-rounder snowcat ski operation that has terrain for strong intermediate (with a private snowcat) and advanced skiers and snowboarders. You can see our Iwanai cat skiing review for more on the pros and cons.

Iwanai Cat Skiing Tours

Iwanai cat skiing tours consist of single day VIP cat skiing and multi-day cat skiing packages. The day cat skiing includes transfers from your Niseko accommodation, guided snowcat skiing or boarding, lunch and morning tea. Or if you really love powder skiing or riding you can do a few days of cat skiing and stay in Iwanai. The multi-day packages include a stay in a local ryokan or hotel, onsen and meals, and a lovely quiet Japanese experience.

Where is Iwanai Cat Skiing?

The cat skiing at Iwanai occurs at Iwanai Resort, above the small lift-accessed ski area that sits on the flank of Iwanai-dake. Iwanai Resort is 5km south of the town of Iwanai, which sits on the western coast of Hokkaido Japan. You can click on the map icon above to see Iwanai Resort on a map.

Iwanai Resort is:
  • 32km northwest of the town of Kutchan
  • 63km northwest of Rusutsu Resort  
  • 64km southwest of the town of Otaru
  • 100km southwest of the city of Sapporo
  • 40km by road NW of Niseko Hirafu (or about 38km from Annupuri or Moiwa), a trip that takes about 45 minutes.
Transport to and from your Niseko accommodation or Kutchan hotel is provided.

Alternatively you can self-drive if you wish. From Niseko there are a couple of ways to get there. If staying in Hirafu, travel to Kutchan and take Highway 5 north towards Otaru. After a small pass, take Highway 276 west towards the coast. Once in Iwanai town you can follow the signage or the Iwanai Resort telephone number for GPS navigation is 0135-62-6011.

Iwanai Cat Skiing Terrain

Iwanai Resort used to be a small to medium sized ski resort. Now there is only one operational lift near the base area which services 3 courses. You can leave that terrain to the local beginners, because the Iwanai snowcat will take you up higher to the terrain that the old lifts used to access, 890m above sea level. From there, each run serves up approximately 450 to 680 metres of vertical powder. And depending on conditions and the ability and speed of the group, you’ll get 6 to 9 runs per day and approximately 4,700m of vertical.

Like most Japan cat skiing, the Iwanai cat skiing terrain isn’t super gnarly but it’s not completely mellow either. There are lots of good fall line runs, yet there’s also a fair bit of traversing required for ingress and egress between the runs and snowcat road.

Usually a day starts with a run or more on former piste that’s wide open and suitable for strong intermediate riders. Other terrain includes very spacious mellow tree skiing, and slightly steeper glades that are appropriate for advanced riders.

Snow

Iwanai cat skiing scores the best of both worlds when it comes to the snow. It’s got proximity to the ocean to bring masses of precipitation (an average of about 15 metres of snow per season), and cold Hokkaido temperatures to provide light and fluffy snow. And most importantly, unlike at Niseko Ski Resort, you can ski untracked lines all day at Iwanai.

See our Iwanai cat skiing review for more information on the terrain and snow.


Iwanai Cat Skiing Terms & Conditions

Cancellations 30 days prior to the event can receive a 100% refund, cancellations 29 to 14 days prior receive a 50% refund and any cancellation less than 14 days prior receives no refund, however, you can replace your booking with another client should you find one. Credit card charges not included.

All cancellations are subject to a non-refundable processing fee of 3.6%.

Minimum group numbers apply. While this almost never happens, in the case of low numbers, Iwanai Cat Skiing will attempt to reschedule your booking.

Iwanai Cat Skiing recommend you purchase your own trip cancellation insurance in case you need to cancel for injury, COVID-19, or any other unforeseen circumstances.

All customers are required to read and sign the liability waiver before participating in the tour. Failure to do so will result in the cancellation of the tour without a refund.

All participants under the age of 15 must have a parent or legal guardian sign their release of liability. All minors under15 years of age must be accompanied by a guardian or parent while on the tour.

Iwanai Cat Skiing reserve the right to cancel any tour at any time, typically due to weather or unsafe conditions.

Iwanai Cat Skiing asks members to be honest about their skill levels. If you have booked and paid for a trip but your skills are insufficient for the tour, Iwanai will try to accommodate you with another program if possible, but will not issue refunds.

All terms and conditions are subject to change at the discretion of Iwanai Resort.

Iwanai Cat Skiing Review

We’ve been out with Iwanai cat skiing in 2018, 2020, 2023 and 2024 and on all occasions, it was a refreshing change from the tracked snow at Niseko Ski Resort. On two of these days we’ve got to experience Iwanai Cat Skiing in all its deep snowy magnificence and this is why you go cat skiing in the Niseko area!

If you’ve been on a multi-day British Columbia cat skiing trip, you’ll find Iwanai cat skiing and other Japan snowcat operations to be very different, so this review aims to get your expectations set. The other Niseko cat skiing operations have some similarities to Iwanai Cat Skiing such as great snow, small terrain size and terrain that’s not particularly steep (relative to BC cat skiing).

Our review covers different aspects of the Iwanai Resort operation so you can determine if it is likely to align with your priorities. As a guide to the ratings below, a 5/5 equates to absolutely outstanding, 4/5 is excellent, whilst 3/5 is still a very good score. Note that terrain, safety and guiding ratings are relative to the highly renowned British Columbia cat ski companies. We’ve reviewed over 45 mechanized backcountry skiing operations around the world and you can check out our cat ski ratings to see how Iwanai Cat Skiing fares against other operations.

Pros
  • Iwanai Cat Skiing, along with its neighbour Niseko, is renowned for receiving huge snowfalls.
  • The vertical skied each day is typically greater than other Japanese cat ski outfits, so it’s great for greedy powder hounds.
  • It’s a very good all-round Niseko cat ski operation in that it has good terrain for strong intermediates (for private cat skiing) as well as advanced riders.
  • No powder hound really wants gorgeous views because that means it’s not dumping, but on the infrequent bluebird days, the views across the sea are pretty special.
  • The snowcat cabin has been kitted out rather nicely, and it has huge windows so that you can appreciate those views (or at least watch it puking with snow!).
  • Some powder hounds like to snort powder for sustenance, but you’ll also get a nice snack, a decent lunch and apres snacks in the day lodge which is very comfortable.
  • The proximity to Niseko is a huge pro. You can combine everything that Niseko has to offer with a serene Iwanai experience.
  • If you stay at one of the local ryokan for a night or two, you can feast on seafood and immerse yourself in the Japanese culture.
Cons
  • The cat skiing terrain isn’t particularly big. At least it’s a little larger than a couple of the other Niseko cat skiing operations, and it’s likely to continue to grow in coming years. And thankfully considering the massive snow dumpage at Iwanai, the resets are frequent, so the terrain size isn’t generally that big an issue.
  • The rates have become “Niseko-ised” and a day of Iwanai cat skiing will put you back a lot of yen.
  • There is no super challenging terrain, but this is common to most Japanese cat skiing companies.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
  • Some of the terrain is like sidecountry you’d find at a typical Japanese ski resort, so there can be a bit of traversing through tight trees which might bother inexperienced snowboarders.

Powder Snow
As with the other coastal Hokkaido ski resorts, Iwanai receives a mighty lot of snow. There is no guarantee of fresh or deep snow at Iwanai Cat Skiing, but at least you’re increasing your chances. The snowfall statistics are impressive at 15 metres (590”) per season and keep in mind that Hokkaido has a reasonably short snow season compared to Europe or North America, so all that snow falls in a concentrated time period.

The snow quality generally isn’t central Hokkaido dry fluff considering its proximity to the coast (you know it’s coastal snow when you can see the sea!) but the temps are usually cold so the quality is far superior to California or PNW snow for example.

A huge pro for Iwanai Cat Skiing is that the slopes are predominantly north facing. The top of the cat serviced terrain is at pretty good elevation. It’s not as high as the top of Niseko Resort but it’s high enough to keep the snow cold, without being so high that it’s fully in the alpine where the wind can play complete havoc with the snow. As to be expected, some parts of the terrain have a tendency to become wind affected, but there are plenty of relatively protected spots to enjoy the Hokkaido powder.

Overall Terrain
The Iwanai cat ski terrain isn’t large but at least it’s bigger than Chisenupuri cat skiing and the Weiss cat skiing. It continues to grow, although now that a second snowcat has been added, it means that there is only enough terrain for about 3 days of freshies before the guides have to fossick for fresh lines. Thankfully the powder resets are frequent.

The length of the runs is not what you’d score in BC Canada, but the vertical per run is decent and more than the other Niseko cat ski operators.

Despite having to wait for the snowcat on most runs, the vertical per day is pretty good and enough to satiate the appetite of most powder hounds. Notwithstanding returning to the day lodge for a long lunch (we’re powder greedy, so we’d prefer to eat lunch in the cat), we managed 4,650 metres (just over 15,000 feet) on one day, which is more than other Niseko snowcat ski companies. The caveat to this was that we had advanced riders in the group that were not slow.

Currently the snowcat has limited snow roads. This saves some time with respect to the snowcat getting up the hill, but it means that the outer runs (they sort of feel like sidecountry runs you’d find at a small Japanese ski resort) require a bit of traversing to get in and out.

Much of the “off-piste” terrain requires a significant base to cover the foliage, so be mindful that if it was a lean early season, you might be relegated to the small number of piste.

Alpine Terrain
The cat ski terrain was a former ski resort, so it includes 4 piste runs. Whilst not theoretically alpine terrain, we’ll include the piste runs under this category considering they’re open and treeless. These piste are ideal for strong intermediates getting more practice at riding powder, and also incredibly fun for more experienced skiers and snowboarders wanting to charge at it.

Iwanai Resort also has some sub-alpine towards the top of the cat serviced terrain, and only true alpine terrain if you hike up further. You’d probably only experience this if the whole group was keen for a hike.

As with other Japan cat skiing, there is nothing super steep, no chutes, or anything reminiscent of Alaskan heli skiing.

Tree Skiing
Iwanai Cat Skiing has some fun tree skiing in the “sidecountry” zones on the peripheries of the terrain as well the "off-piste" where they have done a bit of grading to chop out the little trees. The tree spacing varies from sub-alpine where there are just smatterings of vegetation to lovely open trees further down and a small number of evergreens along with the many deciduous trees, as well some tight technical trees. Nothing’s particularly steep, but it’s pitchy enough to have plenty of fun.

More points would have been awarded if there were very steep trees (as per some BC cat skiing operations).

Strong Intermediate Terrain


Iwanai Cat Skiing is generally not as mellow as nearby Chisenupuri or Weiss Cat Skiing, but it still caters well to strong intermediate skiers and snowboarders who are getting used to the joys of powder, but only if a private snowcat is booked because the other terrain would not be appropriate for intermediates. The four former piste are the equivalent of steep blue runs (by Japanese standards), and with plenty of room to manoeuvre, they are ideal for intermediate riders.

Advanced Terrain
The Iwanai terrain is rather ideal for advanced skiers and snowboarders. With a little more terrain variety and less traversing, it would rate more highly.

Expert & Extreme Terrain
There were minimal technical trees and no super steeps at Iwanai Cat Skiing to provide some challenges for experts. The steepest pitch we hit was 37 degrees, which was probably on the far skiers’ left of the terrain boundary. Nevertheless, most experts should be pretty happy just ripping the powder.

There isn’t really anything in the way of features to launch off: no cliffs; rocks; or other hits. If you’re looking to huck it, you’d be better placed at Rising Sun Cat Skiing.

Guiding
Iwanai Cat Skiing now has professional leads guides, and the overall guiding has improved significantly since the inception of the operation. The guides provided very clear instructions, and the tail guiding included some feedback to some powder piglets to stay at the back of the group at times.

The guides were very personable which added to the fun of the day, and they knew the terrain intimately. Another pro is that sometimes they can bring in a third guide to provide flexibility to break into two groups when there is a discrepancy in ability levels.

Cat
The snowcat cabin was rather lovely, especially the fantastically large windows that allowed 360 degree views including vistas across to the ocean (when it wasn’t snowing). The cabin was spacious and everyone had their own forward facing coach seat, and the steps up the back made it easy to get in and out. The luxe cabin was a far cry from the primitive snowcat set up that NOASC had when they previously operated at Iwanai.

The snowcat seemed to lack a little power (compared to some of the beasts in BC), otherwise any other inadequacies were very minor. This included no heater and limited storage for drink bottles, jackets and other gear. Iwanai Cat Skiing has a backup snowcat.

Avalanche Mitigation Strategies
The approach to managing any potential risk seemed somewhat minimalist, probably because the operation states that avalanche risk is usually very low. The guide’s approach to safety has improved and they paid some attention to monitoring temperature and the snowpack.

Guests were provided with a beacon but not a shovel and probe.

Safety Briefing
The safety briefing was somewhat typical of what we’ve seen with some other Japan cat skiing and USA cat skiing operations (and nothing like the standards of BC Canada cat skiing). An orientation to the area and the day was provided, and otherwise mostly consisted of how to turn the beacon on and off and switch between search and receive, but not how to use it or a practical demonstration.

Frills
Iwanai Cat Skiing offered some very nice frills. Firstly having the day lodge at the base was a huge bonus, as it was a comfortable place for morning orientation, lunch, and to utilise the bathroom facilities. Après ski drinks was a chance to celebrate the day with a shotski or sit quietly by the fire with a sake on the comfortable sofas.

Coffee was provided on arrival, then hot doughnuts and coffee were on offer for morning tea. Lunch included the option to order anything from the cafeteria menu. It’s such a shame that the sushi lunch is no longer on offer, because despite wanting a Japanese experience, too many guests were reporting that they didn’t like fish! Snacks were also provided at the end of the day.  

Other frills included the transport to/from Niseko, and the option to rent powder skis on site.

Value for Money
The rates for Iwanai cat skiing have gone up significantly in recent years. It’s more expensive than other day Niseko cat skiing, although you generally get more skiing and snowboarding.

It’s a fraction difficult to compare value for money on a global scale because it depends on the currency exchange. In 2024, Iwanai cat skiing was cheaper than USA cat skiing because of the exchange rate whilst the rates were higher than Canadian cat skiing per diem, even though the Iwanai terrain is much smaller. All in all, the value comes from the increased chance of getting fresh powder. If you can afford a Niseko ski vacation, then it’s money well spent on pursuing Hokkaido powder joy and escaping the tracked out slopes of Niseko Resort!

Accommodation
We stayed a night at the Iwanai Kogen Hotel. It’s a 3 star hotel that’s not really a ryokan but it’s somewhat typical of a traditional Japanese hotel. It’s the antithesis of what you’d find in Niseko with its luxury westernised hotels and condos, and that was a major part of the appeal. The onsen was a highlight and the meals were fantastically Japanese and showcased the local seafood. Dinner consisted of multiple courses and each was a complete surprise package. We stayed in a western room (with ensuite) with a tatami sitting area. The room was a bit dated (which is typical of many Japanese hotels), but very functional. Our room offered a sea view but we couldn’t see it because it was snowing! If you want to go the full Japanese experience, we’d recommend staying at the hotel in a full tatami room and sleeping on a futon.

New lodging is coming for the 2024-25 season.

Notes Regarding Review

The review is largely based on our experiences, but also on discussions with staff, other guests, and information available on their website. Our review has some limitations as it’s not possible to ski every run and in all possible snow and weather conditions. We acknowledge that everyone’s experience will be slightly different. The ratings are from our perspective only (from reviewing 45+ mechanized backcountry operations). The photos and video have not been filmed using professional riders; they aim to show an example of the sort of experience that average people like us would get.

Further Information & Bookings

Click here to reserve the trip of your life!

Terrain Continues to Evolve

13/06/2024

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  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    N/A
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    5

Terrain Continues to Evolve

13/06/2024
Whilst not quite the same ridiculously snowy day that we scored in 2023, our day out cat skiing with Iwanai was once again a mighty lot of powder skiing fun.

The wind had been brutal over the previous few days which had left some wind packed snow in places, but it snowed steadily all day and the snow in the trees was lovely.

They’ve continued to do more glading and have created some fun tree zones in the middle of the terrain. E Bowl out to skiers left was amazing again, whilst out to skiers’ right a newish egress snowcat trail has resulted in less traversing out. On one run we pushed out a long way right and there was a bit of bush bashing to get in there, but it was worth it once we got to the more open slopes.

We were in the snowcat that had aeroplane business class seats in the back so it was very spacious so there was no elbowing the person next door. There was also some nice storage in the seat back pockets.

Après ski drinks were festive at the end of the day and there was plenty of high 5-ing.

You can see our full Iwanai cat skiing review for more detail on our thoughts.

Stay tuned for the new lodging to be introduced for the 2024/25 season.
See our video here

Consitently awesome

Denis Bugrov
18/02/2024
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    Singapore
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    4

Consitently awesome

Denis Bugrov
18/02/2024
This was our second time in Iwanai and we went for 2 days. This time was under a freak heatwave with snow conditions being much more challenging than the first time around (which was perfect). Despite this, the guides found us terrific (albeit a bit slushy) powder in the trees and we had an awesome awesome time.

Big call out to the guides for getting creative - we went to new runs we had not gone to before in search of POW and it worked.

Iwanai attracts a good crew of people from different walks of life - was fun to ride and spend time in the Cat and bar with them.

The bar (and especially the sparkling sake) under Dan's masterful guidance deserves a shout-out as well.

Overall great skiing/ snowboarding/ thoughtful and competent operation/ really nice atmosphere and vibe and great facilities. Will definitely come again.
See our video here

Powder Filled Day

04/08/2023

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  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    N/A
  • Rider Age
    N/A
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    5

Powder Filled Day

04/08/2023
An amazing day
Great storm skiing
Snowing most of the day
Sparsely vegetated at the top of the terrain
Sake for apres ski
We had the most amazing day out with Iwanai cat skiing in late January. There was fresh snow overnight so we scored fresh powder on the former piste for the first couple of runs. Then the skies opened up and Puki Yuki the snow goddess gifted us throughout the day. It reinforced that one of the joys of snowcat skiing is that storm skiing can be a reality. It’s not like heli skiing where the helicopter gets grounded when it’s dumping with snow, or that upper lifts go on wind hold when the wind is howling. We were rewarded with deep line after deep line of powder. We scored 9 blissful runs which sort of satiated the powder appetite, yet it was so damn lovely that we could greedily have done more had it not been après ski time.

We’ve been out with Iwanai Cat Skiing a few times and it was nice to see its evolution over the years and the initial kinks ironed out. There is a new snowcat road to assist with egress on one side of the terrain, and it looks like they’ve been doing a bit of vegetation snipping. In the past it wasn’t the most polished operation, yet now it’s a well oiled machine. The guiding has advanced and the guides provided very clear instructions about runs and where to regroup, along with plenty of hollering which was welcomed considering the snowstorm and reduced visibility.

It sounds like the next iteration of the outfit is to add lodging to enhance the multi-day experience.

The rates have gone up in recent years and are in line with the rising tariffs of Niseko.
It may not be affordable for all people, but if it’s within your budget then you might manage an amazing day like we did. The powder memories will keep us going for a while.

You can see our full Iwanai cat skiing review for more detail.
See our video here

Amazing Cat Skiing

30/07/2023

Ben (BJ) van de Weyer

Powder Puppy
Powder Puppy

Ben (BJ) van de Weyer

Powder Puppy
Powder Puppy
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    Australia
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    3

Amazing Cat Skiing

30/07/2023
I booked a few days in a row with Iwanai Cat Skiing and I don't know where to begin gushing.

The service was incredible to the point I felt like I was being hosted by family; helping me figure out how to get there; organising late notice local accommodation for me; arranging pickup (I decided to take a bus from Otaru to the local station); organising meals at AMAZING local restaurants (Iwanai isn't really a tourist town) was all incredible.

Hosting, shuttling, and guiding staff are all friendly and easy to get along with, the snow was incredible (on the rare occasion Iwanai doesn't get fresh snow there seems to always be enough new wind swept cover), and I personally loved the terrain as there's plenty of tree lines to be made and a variety of difficulties one can create with what's available.

Can't recommend highly enough; will DEFINITELY be back next I'm in Japan.
See our video here

First time CAT skier, first time knee deep in Japow!

KELVIN A YAMADA
01/06/2023
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Intermediate
  • Rider Age
    51-70
  • Home Country
    United States
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    3

First time CAT skier, first time knee deep in Japow!

KELVIN A YAMADA
01/06/2023
My first experience with cat skiing. Extremely fun and safe experience with Dan Yoder, Sidik, Joe and others at Iwanai. Communication was great even with 13 hour time difference, everything happened as stated. The guides went above and beyond to assure safe rides and adjusted things according to conditions and skill of skiers.

Felt safety was primary objective, guides would check and wait for skiers to meet at meeting points on the way down.

Lots of food at lunch. The ryokan was nice and dinner there was generous. One night probably a good enough experience.

Small group that listens to guests and communicates well. English speakers would feel very comfortable. A safe cat skiing experience. Highly recommended. Great snow.
See our video here

A day of powder

Charles Morris
10/05/2023
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    51-70
  • Home Country
    Australia
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    3

A day of powder

Charles Morris
10/05/2023
A day at Iwanai is definitely a day to remember. The cat was extremely comfortable providing a time to reenergise, communicate with the other group members or to sit quietly and take in the snow covered scenery. We were lucky enough to have a break in the weather for some sun and the view of the ocean around the city of Iwanai. The guiding was clear and not over done with thought put into everyone's safety, both guides did a great job taking us to beautiful untracked terrain, mindful of the ability of each group member. The snow and varied terrain were amazing and the level of satisfaction by the days end was sublime exhaustion.
See our video here

Room for improvement - especially with regards to guding

Jeremy Denning
03/05/2023
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    USA
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    3

Room for improvement - especially with regards to guding

Jeremy Denning
03/05/2023
Paid about one grand USD with taxes for five hours of Cat skiing. Ended up with a little over one hour of short runs in blizzard/white-out conditions before spending the rest of my time boot packing through the woods in very deep snow. I followed the wrong tracks at a critical juncture (which I was never informed about) on a tree run. The terrain flattened out. I was preparing to boot a bit in order to follow the tracks when the Ski Guide came after me and made me drag my snowboard through the woods, traversing through thick trees for almost three hours when I could have just kept going and rode out to a main run then down to the main lodge according to earlier instructions provided and the word of other guides I spoke to at the end of the day. Almost everyone in my group said they didn't understand the instructions on the tree run where I was separated at the end of the day. One of the guides, not affiliated with my group, said the exact same thing happened to a group of three skiers the day before at the exact same spot. They just rode out though. Not a nice experience, not a professional operation, poor planning, preparation, guiding, and execution. I politely attempted to contact the owner to discuss a partial refund but my efforts were stonewalled. If you decide to come here for the Cat Skiing, bring your own map/GPS equipment and plan on being your own guide. I wished I had packed my Drift boards for the getting lost/stuck/booting part of my day. A highly likely scenario based on my experience. Iwanai has some very inexperienced new arrival "guides" from outside of Japan who are unfamiliar with the resort. The guiding could have been much better, but guiding a mixed group of 14 skiers and boarders in a raging blizzard is not an easy task. We probably needed at least one more guides given the conditions and the size of our group. Maybe now that they have one full winter of post-covid max capacity money-making they will slow down and clean up the operation. My impression of Iwanai was a young, overly ambitious, in-the-red operation running at full speed when they needed to slow down a bit and focus on training, procedures, logistics, customer communications etc. My day of Cat skiing/storm riding at Iwanai was a horrible value for the money and an absolute shit show operationally.

Response from Iwanai Resort Staff
"Thank you for your feedback regarding your recent CAT tour experience. Actually, we rarely have bad experiences at Iwanai so we take your feedback seriously. I’m very sorry to hear your story and I would like to take this opportunity to address your concerns.

In regard to the lack of communication provided before your run, we apologize if you did not hear the dangers of that course, especially the specific point where riders must exit the valley. There is no easy way out of there so everyone needed to be aware. As mentioned, the winds and weather were bad so communication must be improved on those bad-weather days. To this end, we are installing media units in our new CAT cabins so that clients will be able to be briefed inside the CAT before departure. This coming season, you’ll be able to see video of the run before you embark. And we have made further adjustments so that clients will have better communication with our guides throughout the run.

Regarding a missed opportunity to respond to your request, we sincerely apologize. You are correct, this past season was extremely busy, as we had more clients than ever. But there should have been a call-back to you. We missed the chance to hear your story. We would have apologized and immediately obtained information about how to improve our service. We will humbly do so now. We very much appreciate your understanding and hope that you will give us the opportunity to provide you with a better experience at Iwanai Resort in the future."

See our video here

Iwanai Resort March 2023

Thomas Hopkins
08/03/2023
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    USA
  • Month:
    March
  • Admin Rating
    1

Iwanai Resort March 2023

Thomas Hopkins
08/03/2023
Two great days at Iwanai — John and Dan run a great operation and skiing Iwanai was highlight of our Japow trip!
See our video here

AWESOME EXPERIENCE

Danny Lax
28/02/2023
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    USA
  • Admin Rating
    2

AWESOME EXPERIENCE

Danny Lax
28/02/2023
This was an exhilarating and intense day of bottomless powder. Not for the faint of heart, but if you like deep, nothing in the area compares. We did CAT skiing with other providers and this gives you about double the vertical with more varied and steeper terrain.
See our video here

First time CAT skier, first time knee deep in Japow!

KELVIN A YAMADA
27/02/2023
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Age
    51-65
  • Rider Ability
    Intermediate
  • Country
    United States
  • Admin Rating
    3

First time CAT skier, first time knee deep in Japow!

KELVIN A YAMADA
27/02/2023
The guides and staff at Iwanai are great. My cousin and I had the time of a lifetime. Sadik showed his priority for our safety as he literally hiked up the gulley in the E bowl when I lost my ski in the powder. He must have gone a kilometer in skin boots. Of course he spotted the ski, somehow a hundred meters downhill in a bush.

Dan helped us with arrangements pre and post cat skiing. Joe gave us a lift back to Niseko. Hopefully joe will get to finish school and travel in the US. All are friendly and professional, good service oriented people. Vlad and Sadik were our guides and inspire great confidence. hopefully I might be able to ski in macedonia one day.
See our video here

A dream day

Charles Morris
16/02/2023
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    51-70
  • Home Country
    Australia
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    3

A dream day

Charles Morris
16/02/2023
The day started with a few problems, some people did not get an email about the pick up time so a few delays. They need to smarten up on that one!
That was the only slight hiccup, the rest of the day was a powder dream, with good length runs with great pitch. Loads of untracked powder with a mixed bag of open and tree runs.
The number of runs you get done is really up to the experience of the team on your cat.
A day for the memory bank!
See our video here

Iwanai

Alan Giaquinto
14/02/2023
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Age
    51-65
  • Rider Ability
    Expert
  • Country
    US
  • Admin Rating
    1

Iwanai

Alan Giaquinto
14/02/2023
Great snow, amazing guides and the best owner. This is one not to miss out on!
See our video here

Siberian Storms

Simon Berry
28/02/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    New Zealand
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    5

Siberian Storms

Simon Berry
28/02/2019
Iwanai delivered one of the great powder days for our group of 5 riders.

Situated on a the north west coast of Hokkaido it is prime position to strike regular snow dumps off the Japanese sea, weather systems coming freshly chilled off Siberia and filled across the sea deliver regular powder to this hill.

Iwanai Cat Ski operates on a ski resort that has unemployed lifts, you explore a deserted mountain with professional guides leading into untracked paradise runs. Riding through open tree glade runs, well spaced trees and a superb powder bowl. Length and pitch of runs is fantastic with 700m plus vert, dependent on the cat drop off points.

Terrain is well varied with plenty of trees to provide vis in storms, dress warm though as the storms rolling through pack a punch with wind chill on the ridges plummeting to -30 conditions. Powder poles for boarders also recommended as some of the best powder bowl lines require a decent traverse.

Sizes of groups can vary, however the guides soon align riders ability and if necessary can split groups so everyone rides at the most suitable pace and ability.

Base facilities are excellent, plenty of space to move about and a hassle free ski and board waxing service is on hand. The hosts are the owner/operators who provide Japanese home cooked style lunches and a full bar for well deserved apre ski drinks. Pick up and drop off shuttle services provided to Niseko and other lodgings nearby.

If you want a great day out skiing fresh Hokkaido powder this is a must, book well in advance to ensure you don't miss out, they have a very functional online service available for this. You may pay a little extra than others around, however the terrain and experience is well worth every bit.
See our video here

Epic day

Toby Buxton
11/02/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    New Zealand
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    3

Epic day

Toby Buxton
11/02/2019
Had a pretty full day of 8 runs. Terrain and snow were high quality. Iwanai offers a good steep pitch for Japanese mountains. Our guide Kate was the best guide I've had and knew exactly where to take a group of our ability to get the goods. Lunch wasn't bad either 😉. All in all an epic day of waist to chest deep pow pow!
See our video here

Such a Shame

Robert
09/02/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    51-70
  • Home Country
    USA
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    4

Such a Shame

Robert
09/02/2019
- no one checked to make sure beacons were transmitting.
- lead guide would simply say "follow me" and proceed to take take off at full speed into white out conditions.
- the first 3 runs were down 3 exposed courses (trails) with horrible windslab and 3 foot high wind drifts... in next to zero visibility!
- meanwhile to the right and left of us are protected glades.
- on the 3rd run me and another bloke stayed in the trees while the others cut through them to another wind stabbed run. It was an amazing glade that we rode past the mid station cat pick up all the way to the bottom then hiked 5 minutes to the chair and rode it to the mid station.... once at the cat there was a mutiny in the works... us two had just enjoyed the best run on the mountain... and now they were leaving the zone!!
- during our lunch break at the lodge beer and alcohol was being served... umm... never seen that during cat or helicopter tours in the past.
- the afternoon was brilliant riding and amazing bowl with powder for all.
- the staff are all extremely friendly but lacking anyone with actual guide certification and why in hell would they subject paying guests to 3 runs of horrendous wind slab when the best territory in the resort lies just in between them in mellow glades offering a top to bottom perfection!
See our video here

Iwanai Cat skiing - what an awesome day

Merrilee
06/02/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    Australia
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    2

Iwanai Cat skiing - what an awesome day

Merrilee
06/02/2019
I arranged for my husband, his brother and friend to go for a day Cat skiing in Iwanai for his 50th birthday. The company made things very easy to arrange, picked them up, gave them an amazing day skiing fresh challenging tracks all day, then some drinks in the evening to re-live the whole day.

I couldn't have asked for a better day for the guys. They had a ball and kept re-living the day for the rest of the holiday! Wish we (the wives) had gone too!

I'd highly recommend this experience.
See our video here

Iwanei - Jan 26th

Casey
03/02/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    N/A
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    Australia
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    4

Iwanei - Jan 26th

Casey
03/02/2019
Lodge bar
Had a great day w John and crew Jan 26th 2019. Picked up and dropped off by John which was a highlight just listening to his stories. We missed a reset by 1 day so first runs were semi tracked but once we got up top it opened up and we got “those” runs.

Setup at lodge and cat are great so lunch, doughnuts etc all good. Hung around for drinks after and had a good sesh w another rider and the bartender who unfortunately I can’t recall his name. He’s in the back of the picture.

Snow was good, runs good and long particularly when you get up top. So we were very happy with the day. Last runs were the best actually. Going skiers right from top into trees all the way down. Awesome. The bowl at top skiers left also good but found the traverse out longer than turns in bowl so asked to try the other side and was very pleased w that outcome. Bowl has a traverse to get in which on a board saw us eat up time and leave us lower to drop in. Skiers got up much higher on ridge and thus got more out of it than I did. But maybe that’s just me.

I’ve made some suggestions to John from our experience and suspect some if not all will be considered and perhaps incorporated as they grow.

Was great to get out of the crowds at niseko for sure and with more time we’d get down into Iwanei itself. Next season.

We will return.
See our video here

Very good experience !!

Anjarivo
01/02/2019
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • RiderType
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Home Country
    France
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    4

Very good experience !!

Anjarivo
01/02/2019
Iwanai, allows you to ski either on none groomed sloapes and in genuine forest, all in front of the sea !

The Cat Skiing engine is the most luxury/confortable engine among all Cat Skiing companies that I've experimented in Hokkaido . We're in Japan, hence don't expect long and steep courses, but enjoy the best snow in the wordl ! Iwanai provides excelent guides (head / tail) who really garantee your safety. In my case, I didn't turn on the right tree (it was my fault, you know all trees look like each other) and I've landed in a dead zone and completly lost my way ! At the end of the day, the tail guide managed to join me and the rescue shuttle picked us up just right away. What a relief to see this efficient rescue organization !
About food, you get delicious donuts around 10am and Japanaese/international food at noon.
As I stayed 5 days, the booked hotel was a genuine Japaneese one, all in wood. Stunning and very beautiful.
The only issue is that when I came it hasn't snow for the 5 days but just the day I left. I wasn't lucky.
See our video here

Powder marred by poor coordination

RL
30/01/2019
  • Overall