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M’s Guide & School in the Miyagi Zao Sumikawa Snow Park holds “cat tours” that take participants on a one-way caterpillar vehicle ride up into mountains. This tour takes you to an upper part of Mt. Katta by snowcat. From there, you can choose between a snowshoe tour to walk in the ice monster field with snowshoes on, and a back-country tour to ski or snowboard down the mountain (reservation required). Both tours are led by guides for your safety. The tour season runs from late December to late March.
Register for the tour at the school on the ski piste. Before leaving the school, you'll need to fill out mountaineering plans and listen to accompanying guides’ explanations at the school, and rent back-country gear (backpack, snowshoes, beacon, extendable poles) if you don't already have your own. There's also a store that rents clothes and ski- and snowboard-related gear in the same building; visiting empty-handed and renting everything from them is a convenient option. When everyone is ready, the guides will lead your group to the snowcats.
After putting the skis, snowboards, and snowshoes into the baskets on the sides, the “cats” set out.
Climbing up the mountain by snowcat saves a lot of energy. It takes 40-50 minutes to arrive at the ninth station of Mt. Katta. Follow your guides' instructions and prepare to set off!

Ice monster field tour - Explore in snowshoes

Strap on a pair of snowshoes and explore the ice monster field, starting at a different point to the ice monster viewing tour. This tour gives you the chance to walk with your guide through untracked virgin snow among the ice monsters for a closer look.
In this tour, you can choose courses based on the day's conditions. Guides are on hand to help match courses to skills.

Choose a backcountry tour the fits your skills

A range of courses are available to suit your skill level and interests. There's an entry-level course where you ski or snowboard from the drop-off point back down to the piste (5,300 yen for about two hours). Or perhaps take the step-up option where you'll ski down, hike back up the slope, and ski down again to the piste (7,300 yen for about three hours). For the more adventurous, there's an original course that an experienced guide selects on the day according to the conditions (9,300 yen for about three hours). Guides are happy to advise you on choosing a course.
Being an inland area Miyagi-Zao has dry, starch-like powder snow. In fact, the snow is so fine that carving a turn might stir it up enough to block out the view in front of you! This area is unique for the plumes of powder that billow around you as you glide your way down the mountainside. Just once is not enough. So why not take the step-up course to hike back up and ski down again?
Thrilling jump through ice monsters!
You're looking at a trail left during a backcountry tour. Leaving a fresh trail on an unbroken expanse of virgin snow is exhilarating, and gazing back at your creation will notch up the excitement to another level.
The tour ends as you ski down the piste to the school. Once you've experienced the seemingly weightless powder covering the Sumikawa Snow Park's famous wide slope to the fullest, you'll be back for more.
●Access to Miyagi Zao Sumikawa Snow Park:
[By bus]
About 2 hours by Juhyo-go, a paid bus, from the east exit of Sendai station, Tohoku Shinkansen (reservation required).
[By car]
On the Tohoku Expressway: Take the Shiroishi Exit to Togatta Onsen and continue to the ski resort - about 45 minutes. Or take the Sugita Exit to Togatta Onsen and continue to the ski resort - about 40 minutes.
On the Yamagata Expressway: Take the Miyagi Kawasaki Exit to Togatta Onsen and continue to the ski resort - about 45 minutes.
photo & text : Megumi Ueda

Facility Information

Miyagi Zao Ski Resort Sumikawa Snow Park

Address
Kuraishi-dake Kokuyurin, Togatta Onsen, Zao-machi, Katta-gun, Miyagi 989-0916

Miyagi Zao Cat Tour

Address
Kuraishi-dake Kokuyurin, Togatta Onsen, Zao-machi, Katta-gun, Miyagi 989-0916
URL
http://www.zao-sumikawa.jp/cat.html

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