With more than 18 metres of snowfall in good seasons and around 10 metres in “bad” years, it gets even more snow than Niseko and puts world-famous resorts like Whistler (average 11.64m), Vail (6.1m) and Chamonix (3.5m) to shame. Given that Geto’s numbers are recorded at the base area, while resorts like Whistler take their measurements on the mountain, you can start to understand how much snow falls in this corner of Iwate prefecture in Northern Honshu, Japan.

Apart from the ridiculous amount of snow, a trip to Geto is nothing like any other ski resort in Japan – or the world. The base station gondola, ticket booth, accommodation, restaurants, onsen and all other facilities are housed in a giant Bond villain-like bunker. It’s an impressively modern purpose-built facility designed to deliver endless days of powder skiing with minimal fuss.

Although the resort isn’t big by international standards, with five lifts and 14 courses, it has one of the best selections of in-bounds tree run zones around. Twelve tree runs of varying difficulty and length are why people come back year after year and make Geto a powder paradise.

Lifts and terrain

Geto has two gondolas, but the creatively named 2nd Gondola (1,240m) only runs on weekends and holidays. This isn’t a problem as the 1st Gondola (1,740m) serves the whole mountain and rarely gets busy on weekdays. The 1st Pair Lift (550m) to the far left of the resort serves the terrain park (A3), a green run (A1), a blue run (A2) and the beginners Garden tree run area, while the 2nd Pair Lift (440m) serves a short green (A5). When there’s a big storm and everything else is not running, this little lift keeps the resort open. These two pair lifts also serve the floodlit night skiing area. The layout is straightforward to navigate as everything runs off of two green runs (A1 & A6) that encircle the resort, and all trails feed into the same base area. However, it’s a few minutes walk from the bottom of the Quad Lift (950m) back to the base area, so they often have a snowmobile on hand to ferry people back and forth.

The courses are generally wide and easy, with only a few steepish spots to test expert skiers and riders – but with knee-deep fresh powder frequently blanketing the pistes, you’ll still have plenty of fun doing laps until all the freshies are gone. Although it’s not uncommon for it to snow so hard that you can’t even see your last set of tracks before you complete a lap! Courses B1, B2, C1, C2 and C3 tend to be very quiet on weekdays when the second gondola isn’t running, as it requires a little effort to reach them along the flat spot at the top of the resort. (It’s just a five-minute scoot, but it does stay very quiet.)

Tree runs at Geto Kogen

Shooter 1, 2, 3 and 4 are between a series of ridges off the left-hand side of course A1 and are around 600 metres long. Image: Getokogen.com

The main reason for making the trip to Geto is the tree skiing. Shooter 1, 2, 3 and 4 are between a series of ridges off the left-hand side of course A1 and are around 600 metres long. The entry points are clearly marked, and it’s against the rules to enter the tree runs without using the official gate. The trees start out very widely spaced, then all four runs feed into a deep natural half-pipe and through more densely packed trees to the exit point that joins course A5. These runs are graded as level 4, the highest and most challenging in Geto’s tree run grading system and are some of the best lift-accessed in-bounds powder stashes you’ll ever experience. After a fresh dump, experienced skiers and riders will just want to do laps here, but snowboarders can easily get stuck in deep snow in the valley, and it can get heavily tracked where all the runs converge, making the exit quite tricky. Alta, graded level 3, is just after Shooter 4 and is a similar experience, but it misses the tricky exit and joins the bottom of A3. The Summit (level 2), Beech (level 3) and Stream (level 3) tree run areas are accessed off the A6 run on the other side of the gondola. Summit requires a quick hike to the peak. It starts off steepish, then mellows into wide open spaces with sparse trees and wonderfully undulating terrain. Beech and Stream are similar to each other with natural ridges and a wide area to explore. Beech is the longest tree run at 865 metres, while Stream is 450 metres, but it feeds into the second half of Beech. When there’s fresh snow, we guarantee you’ll stay out until the tree runs close and miss lunch.

Rabbit, Heart and Garden are much shorter – between 160 and 250 metres – less steep tree runs designed for those new to tree skiing or kids. The clear grading system makes it easy to take your first steps into the trees and ensures people don’t accidentally go somewhere where they might be out of their depth.

Stream, Geto Kogen

Beech and Stream are similar to each other with natural ridges and a wide area to explore. Image: Getokogen.com

Cascade (700m) and Extreme (750m) are the most recent additions to Geto’s tree runs and generally need more snow cover before opening up. Extreme hits the steepest pitch of all the tree runs at 40 degrees and there is a risk of getting into danger or triggering an avalanche if you don’t stick within the marked boundaries of these two courses. Often, you can find your group alone on these runs with untouched powder and feel like you’re in the remote backcountry. It’s wonderful to get such an experience included in the price of your lift ticket. The runs are also wide enough that you can take very different lines through the trees and over the ridges, so you won’t get bored of repeating the same runs or easily run out of fresh snow.

An adult one-day lift ticket at Geto is only ¥6,000, and for an extra ¥1,000 you can ride the lift 10 minutes before the official opening time to get first tracks. If you’re an Indy Pass holder, two free one-day passes are included at over 180 resorts worldwide and more than 10 in Japan, including Geto Kogen and the nearby resorts of Tazawako, Shimokura, Ani and Okunakayama Kogen.

Geto Kogen trail map

Geto Kogen trail map


Sometimes, it snows for days on end at Geto. The area has a unique topography that funnels storms into its narrow mountain ranges as they come in off the Sea of Japan. It snows hard in December and January, but the tree runs usually don’t open until early or mid-January. February is a great time to visit as the base has built up, and it still snows an awful lot. You don’t get many sunny days here, and the wind can blow, so ensure you have the right equipment and a high light transmission lens for your goggles.

Accommodation and Resort Services


Accommodation is limited because there are no independent hotels at the resort – but this is part of the experience of staying at Geto Kogen. The main in-resort accommodation takes the form of capsule hotel-style bunk beds, known as Skiers Beds. Unlike some capsule hotels, there is no separate dorm for men and women, but you can change clothes inside your bunk or use the changing rooms. The beds are huge and very sturdy, and the experience is nothing like a hostel. People are generally very quiet, respectful and tidy, and while lockers are provided, you don’t really need to worry about leaving your gear unattended. The prices are reasonable at around ¥9,000 per person per night and include an excellent buffet breakfast and dinner. The best thing is you’re sleeping only a few steps from the main gondola. Family rooms are also available, but these have kids-style bunk beds and aren’t as nice as the capsules where each person gets a private space with a curtain, mirror and charging ports.

Mixed dorm, Geto Kogen

The main in-resort accommodation takes the form of capsule hotel-style bunk beds, known as Skiers Beds. Image: Getokogen.com

Recently, they have also added a premium accommodation option. These are modern regular hotel rooms and a premium suite with a bedroom, living area and mini kitchen. These rooms are much more expensive and get booked up well in advance.

Premium Stay accommodation, Geto Kogen

Premium Stay accommodation, Geto Kogen. Image: Getokogen.com

The Skiers Beds are often still available throughout the season, though – even a few days before – unlike most other Japanese resorts that are fully booked months in advance.

You can also stay close to Kitakami station in one of the cheap business hotels and get the free bus up to Geto, however, the bus takes about an hour. If you hire a car, the drive up isn’t too difficult, depending on the weather conditions, and there’s ample free parking at the resort. When it’s snowing hard at night, visibility can be very limited. You’ll want four-wheel drive if available and snow tyres are a must.

Another option, if you want the full Japanese cultural experience, is Semi Onsen Ryokan. It’s a traditional onsen hotel with both western and Japanese rooms and authentic set menus for breakfast and dinner. It can be pricey, but you certainly get your money’s worth. Semi Onsen is the last bus stop on the free bus to Geto, so it’s only 11 minutes from the resort. The downside is that the bus can be almost full on weekends by the time it reaches Semi Onsen. There’s ample changing room and locker space at Geto Kogen so you don’t need to fully gear up before getting on the bus.

Rental & Retail

Shop Jaja has a decent selection of winter sports equipment, snacks, and souvenirs. You’re far from any other stores, so it’s good to know you can replace almost anything you need on-site.

Shop Jaja

Shop Jaja. Image: Getokogen.com

The rental store offers standard equipment or dedicated powder boards and skis. A standard set (skis & boots/snowboard & boots) costs ¥3,900 per day, while a premium setup costs ¥1,000 more and can include a number of swaps each day so you can try different equipment. If you have big feet, check ahead, as the website states that they only stock up to size US 11.5. Snow scooters, sleds, snowshoes, helmets, ski jackets, pants and backcountry gear can also be hired.

Like most Japanese resorts, you can “come as you are” and get the full Tebura Set, which provides everything you need for a day on the hill.

Snowsports Schools

While Geto doesn’t offer non-Japanese language lessons, they do state on their website that they will try to accommodate requests if you get in touch in advance. They offer a wide variety of ski and snowboarding lessons for kids, beginners and experts, and also provide private or family lessons. Standard lessons are priced at ¥5,200 for half a day (2hrs) and ¥8,200 for the full day (2 x 2hrs). Lessons can be booked on the website.

Attractions & Activities


The biggest non-snowsports-related attraction is Geto Kogen’s in-house onsen. It’s spacious and has a wonderful outdoor area overlooking the mountains and forests.

Geto Kogen onsen. Image: Getokogen.com


You can ride a snowmobile around a circuit, cruise through the forest, or take a family tour. Prices start at ¥2,400 for a 20-minute session. Snow rafting is also available, where a snowmobile tows you around in an inflatable dingy.


Snowmobile Forest Road Tour, Geto Kogen. Image: Getokogen.com

Guiding Services

You can book a guide to show you around the tree runs or take you out into the backcountry and teach you how to use safety equipment. Snowshoeing tours are also available.


If you’re staying at Geto, Restaurant Usagimori is where you’ll eat breakfast and dinner. The food is always good, but it can take some getting used to sitting on the floor in the chairs without legs and the interesting Japanese breakfasts. Breakfast and dinner are buffet-style, while lunch is served until 2pm. One of the biggest things to remember about Geto is it can be very hard to find food (or alcohol) after 2pm on weekdays or 3pm on weekends and holidays. Usagamori is also the only bar at Geto and is open in the evenings at dinnertime.

Geto Kogen food court

Geto Kogen food court

Upstairs from the main reception area – known as the Superdome – you can find ramen, rice bowls and Japanese curry at the Food Court. There’s also a wide selection of drinks machines, and some food court outlets serve beer. As with most food courts in Japan, the food is excellent, but you won’t find any western dishes apart from fries. Sometimes, on weekdays, only one of the stalls is open.

Yuki Café in the Superdome stays open until 5pm and does serve some western-style food, including pastries, crepes, bread and pizza slices, coffee, tea and beer. (There are also reports of a pub opening here for the 2024 season.)

Culture & Ambience

Being modern, purpose-built and lacking a village, Geto isn’t where you go for a cultural experience. That said, it is still very Japanese. You won’t find hoards of westerners, and most of the staff you encounter will not speak English (although some do), but they will make every effort to understand your sign language or be patient enough to use Google translate on your phone. Geto does attract Asian tourists and westerners, but not in huge numbers, and it tends to be limited to respectful groups from Australia, the USA, and Europe who take their mountain sports seriously.

On weekdays, the place can feel a little deserted, and often there are less than ten people in the food court. After 4pm, the entire place is deserted apart from the guests staying overnight (around 100 people when fully booked). This might scare some people off, but most overnight visitors love the slightly eerie feeling of having the mountain to themselves.

For this reason, the first time you go to Geto two or three nights is probably the best option, or staying in Kitakami or Semi Onsen and staying one night in-resort. It’s also doable as a three-day trip taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kitakami (2h 20m), tacked on to the end of a Nagano trip to get your first taste of northern Honshu.

Geto Kogen is a truly magical place and one of the best, most economical ways to get an introduction to tree skiing and backcountry exploration without the high-pressure fight for fresh lines you’re used to in more popular resorts.