Posted on Jan 14, 2019
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Posted on Jan 14, 2019

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Reading time: 4 min
3.4km

Distance

2.5 hours

Time

420m

Ascent

565m

Highest point

3.5/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Jan-Apr

Best season

This quick, popular route up Inaho-mine (稲穂峯, 565m) is perfect for backcountry beginners wanting to hone their skills, and for the more experienced wanting a quick blat in the hills. At the upper reaches of the route is a wide 60m-vertical slope that is perfect for a few laps. It's wide enough for everyone to get a taste of fresh snow, even if the rest of the route is tracked up. The route literally starts from the Ginzan JR Station platform.

Extra photos by Haidee Thomson.

Last updated Apr 3, 2019

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

This route up the northeastern side of Inaho-mine is located in Niki Town, about 1.5 hours northwest of Sapporo City (about 1 hour drive north of Niseko). The route starts at Ginzan Station on the Hakodate JR Line (here).

General notes

This is a true half-day trip that is perfect for beginners wanting to hone their skills, or experienced backcountry skiers wanting a quick blat in the hills on their way to Otaru or Sapporo City. The summit affords 360-degree views across to Yotei-zan (羊蹄山), the Niseko Ranges, the Ohotsk Sea, as well as Yoichi-dake (余市岳) to the northeast. The lower part of the route is a little crowded as far as trees go, but the vegetation spaces out nicely further up. Just along the ridge is Gin-zan (銀山, 641m) with it’s prominent radio repeater station, so if you’d rather make it a day-trip, the traverse can be done in a few hours.

  • NOTE: -mine (峯 / みね) is one more of those suffixes that the Japanese language uses to denote mountains and/or peaks. It is usually reserved for ‘prominent rises on a ridge’, and mines are often long ridge-like peaks. Inaho-mine certainly fits that description.
Hut

None

Route markers

This route is not marked.

Route Timing
Up | 1.5hrs
Down | .75hrs

About 1hr 50mins up, and 40mins down. Make sure you allow enough time for gazing at the view across to Mt. Yotei and the Niseko Range at the top, as well as a few laps of the upper slope.

Transport

Public transport:

The most obvious choice for public transport is by rail – the trail starts at the southern end (Kutchan end) of the platforms at Ginzan JR Station (銀山駅, here). For train times, just look up Ginzan Station (Niki Town) on Google Maps and choose the train option. There used to be a local bus service to Ginzan from Yoichi City, but this is no longer in service.

By car: 

There is ample parking in one of two large cleared parking areas next to Ginzan JR Station (here).

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Ginzan (銀山) – map no. NK-54-20-6-2

NOTE: The official 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

Snow and route safety

This is a relatively straight forward route, but the Yuki-yama Guide notes avalanche risk in the gully to the skier’s left when descending from the summit. Also be very careful when crossing the train tracks – there are no warning lights or bells. Stop, look, listen, and if safe, cross. Never under any circumstances ski or walk along the tracks, and do not ski across the tracks – cross only at the southern end of the platform, and remove skis before crossing.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Inaho-mine
Onsen nearby

The closest onsen is the very nice Akaikawa Caldera Onsen (400yen per person, here), about 20 minutes away from the station by car (no public transport options). It is known for its very hot indoor bath (43degC), but the outdoor bath and another newer indoor bath are more humane.

Extra Resources

See Hokkaido Hiking Logs’ excellent write-up of the route here.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other Niseko areas together with a local certified guide, get in touch with Jun Horie. He’s a Niseko-resident guide with seven years experience advanced-level ski instructing in Austria (he speaks German as well as English and Japanese). He has also guided in New Zealand and has previously led guiding operations in Hokkaido before going independent.

Photo Gallery

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Route blurb from the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide (2015), p. 178 (translated)

Inaho-mine is close to the Inaho Pass, and skiers can start climbing from the Ginzan JR Station. By appearances, Inaho-mine’s rounded peak doesn’t stand out, and it is difficult to make out from the Ginzan township. The altitude gain on the route is about 400m, and with no steep sections, it is perfect for beginners to try out backcountry skiing. It is often climbed along with Gin-zan, just along the ridge. The summit gives unobstructed 360-degree views to the Niseko Range, Yotei-zan, and other peaks.

I got the idea into my head that Haidee and I should head away for the weekend for two days of exploring. A quick perusal of the Hokkaido Yuki-yama guide suggested that there were two routes quite close to each other in Niki Town, near Yoichi City. So we booked the accommodation (at the quirky but lovely Hirune-no-Sato) for the Saturday night and made plans. The first day we headed up Gin-zan (銀山, 641m), but for now allow me to focus on Inaho-mine, our pick of the two in terms of snow and slopes. The guide book promised some good skiing on the upper slopes, and both of the hills were ranked as beginner/easy, so they were a great start to the season, to get the legs back into gear.

We left the guest house an hour after sunrise, and everything was still crispy cold, snow squeaking underfoot.

The trailhead was easy enough to find – right next to the Ginzan JR Station. As we were unpacking the skis, some railway workers approached us and asked us to be careful when crossing the tracks. “Make sure to check the train timetable,” they said. Indeed, there were no lights or bells or barriers across the entrance to the tracks. That plus somewhat of a blind corner on the tracks just before the station. A large sign told tourists in four languages not to stand on the tracks to take photos.

The route started at the southern (Kutchan) end of the train station platforms, and followed parallel to the platforms for about 50m before cutting up into the pine forest, in order to connect with the ridge that would take us to the first intersecting forestry road at around 290m. Some route guides I’ve seen have skiers follow along parallel to the tracks until they get to the very bottom of the ridge, but either way, if you carry on up veering to the climber’s left, then you’ll eventually get to the ridge. 

Once at the ridge, we were on what appeared to be an abandoned forestry road. This was clearly a popular route, as there were a number of ski tracks and descending tracks, obviously from the previous day. We were glad it had snowed a little the night before to cover most of them with a fresh layer of snow.

The route soon intersected with a road that follows the contour lines around the face of the hills at just below 300m in altitude. Here, we made a short scramble-traverse up a cutting to carry on up along the ridge.

Before long we were at the power transmission lines that cut across the hills at around 370m in altitude. The cutting gave a good view down to the Niki Valley below. Watching for falling icicles, we ducked under the pylons and carring on up the ridge.

Things get a little tight as far as trees go, just before the topography opens out at the top of the ridge at around 460m in altitude. From there it is plain sailing up to the upper ridge-like summit. True to the guidebook’s word, we were greeted with a 200m-wide slope. It was only about 60m vertical, but ideal for some easy laps. The views from the actual summit were spectactular – we were happy to have some clear weather.

From the summit we could not only see Mt. Yotei and Mt. Yoichi in the distance, but also Gin-zan, just along the ridge, with its large radio repeater board.

After a few laps of the upper slope, we headed back down to the car. Haidee found dodging the trees a little taxing, but other than that, it was a relatively straight forward, easy trip. 

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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