Posted on Jan 14, 2021
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Posted on Jan 14, 2021

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Reading time: 3 min


5 hours





Highest point



Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds

Best season

NOTE: If climbing to crater rim, allow an extra 2.5 hours on top of the route time on this page. Route timings on this post assume skiers only ascend to around 1300m. From around 1300m the snow deteriorates considerably; crampons often required. Crater-rim timings on the PRINT and GeoPDF topomap versions of this route overview are provided for reference only.

The Makkimo Route マッキモコース up Yotei-zan 羊蹄山 (1898m) has some of the most picturesque glades of native white birch on the mountain. This route gets its name because it's situated between the Makkari 真狩コース and Kimobetsu Routes 喜茂別コース on Yotei, the iconic free-standing volcano east of Niseko. With plenty of parking at the trailhead, it offers some excellent skiing on the upper and lower portions of the route. Like most popular routes up the mountain, the most reliably good skiing is had below around 1300m. Beyond that, be prepared for icy conditions.

We visited this route on Dec 29, 2020

Simon Daly contributed photos to this post.

Route Map

Need to know details


Yotei-zan is a conical free-standing volcano just east of the ski resort town of Niseko in southern Hokkaido. This Makkimo backcounty ski route heads up the mountain from the southeast, right between the Makkari and Kimobetsu Routes. The route starts from a large parking area on Route 97, here.

General notes

Arguably there are four ‘established’ main ski touring routes up Yotei-zan, and this Makkimo route is a fifth less traveled option for those seeking something a bit different. This route got its name because it’s between the MAKkari Route and KIMObetsu Route (Mak-kimo). It has a somewhat long, flat approach – by our reckoning the approach is longer and flatter than the Kimobetsu Route. As such, it attracts fewer punters than the other four main routes. So if you’re after a slightly less traveled route up this impressive volcano in the winter, this may be your route.



Route details

Park up at the public parking area on Route 97. If in a group of multiple vehicles, park close to each other – parking areas can get crowded on weekends and public holidays. Head northwest from the parking area, cutting diagonally across a grid of forestry roads. Existing skin tracks may follow roads part way across the flat-lands. After about 2.5km of very gradual climbing, the slope increases in angle, and the forest starts to change to well-spaced old-growth trees. Approaching 700m in altitude, the trees thin even more, eventually revealing a large low-angle snow field. Cut across this snowfield to the northwest, into a gorgeous glade of white birch. From here the route continues to climb steadily, steep in places. Like all routes on Yotei, the upper sections beyond 1200m gain steepness quickly. For the most reliable snow conditions, most skiers will likely find anything below 1400m is great. Beyond this, conditions can vary substantially, from bullet-proof icy rime to rare unicorn powder conditions all the way to the summit. Return the same way you came up.

Route Timing
Up | 3.5hrs
Down | 1hrs

These route times assume skiers will descend from around 1300m. For crater rim attempts, add on another 2.5hrs return.


Public transport:

This route is not accessible by public transport.

By car: 

The public parking area on the Yotei ring road (Route 97 – location) has plenty of parking for around 15-20 cars. It’s about a 30 minute (22km) drive from central Hirafu in the Niseko resort area.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Yoteizan (羊蹄山) – map no. NK-54-20-4-3

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

As is the case for other routes on Yotei-zan, skiers should not take this large mountain lightly.  This route is unmarked, not maintained, and is not avalanche controlled – it is serious un-managed backcountry terrain. At the very least skiers should be familiar with avalanche rescue procedures and have the appropriate tools on hand (shovel, beacon, probe). Yotei-zan is a big mountain requiring good weather, plenty of time, and good backcountry experience. This free-standing volcano is exposed to the weather from all sides and it has the potential to get pretty wild pretty quickly; your escape is a rapid descent and so pay attention to potential routes as you climb. Like all routes on Yotei-zan, if you’re shooting for the summit this may be one of the few times you’ll use your ski crampons and boot crampons in Hokkaido. 1500m up Yotei-zan while dancing on sheet ice is not the time to be working out how to get your crampons on and off. You should practice fitting these in the carpark to remind yourself. Err on the conservative side and fit these devices before you really need them.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Yotei-zan
Onsen nearby

The nearest onsen to the trailhead is Makkari Onsen (真狩温泉, location, 500yen). About 5 minutes by car from Yotei Nature Park, the trailhead to the Makkari route. Open from 11am till 9pm, they have great outdoor baths, and an attached restaurant. Closed on Mondays. Details in Japanese here. If heading back towards Sapporo then you may also want to try one of the various onsen at the Rusutsu Resort. 1,300Yen with towel service included.

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

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. See a full list of English-speaking Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) guides on the HMGA website here

Yamano-Makochan's Video Report
Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

This Makkimo Route up Yotei-zan had always piqued my interest, as it seems fairly popular, but isn’t listed in the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook. In the end, our merry group of hikers numbered nine.

Mercifully, this route starts at a public car park, unlike other routes on the mountain. This means no sketchy roadside parking, and plenty of room to get gear ready.

After about 2km walking along the relatively flat approach, I was starting to get a feeling for why this is not the most popular route on the mountain. It does have one starting to think “are we going to start climbing soon?”

The climbing did start in the end, in gradual Yotei-zan fashion. Gradual at first, and then in earnest very quickly. Ben had some skin icing-up issues, but apart from that it was pretty straight forward skinning up an already established skin-track for the day. We were clearly not the only ones on the route today.

While I’m still a bit ambivalent about the approach on this route, the glades of white birch are in my mind enough to make up for the longer hike in. They’re incredibly picturesque. And as if on cue, the weather cleared for us as we traversed the 700m snow field into the forest. 

As we were approaching 1000m in altitude, the kind party that had broken trail for everyone else today swooped past, clearly enjoying themselves. I was happy to see that it was a group with the locally famous Yama-no-makochan, a Hokkaido mountain blogger and Youtuber (with 17,000 subscribers to his name). I recognized him from his signature yellow jacket and blue pants.

“Are you Yama-no-makochan?” I yelled.

“Yes, that’s me!” he replied.

In the past I’d exchanged emails with him to ask for permission to share his videos on Hokkaido Wilds (see the video above).

Soon we were at around 1,100m, and the weather was once again closing in. We couldn’t see if things got less bushy above us, so we called it a day, and got ready to head down.

There’s not much to say about the descent apart from the snow was top-notch, the weather was great, and everyone had a great time.

And I caught my ski tip in a submerged branch, fell, and broke my ski boots.

RIP Dynafit TLT7 Expedition CR boots. A warranty claim was promptly submitted post-trip.

As with each ski touring, cycle touring, and hiking route guide published on, should you choose to follow the information on this page, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road/track closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow leave-no-trace procedures. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this information, associated GPS track (GPX, KML and maps), and all information was prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed., its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following the information contained in this post.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Yotei-zan, or others nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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