A new snow park is hidden away in isolated Iide Town in the south of Yamagata Prefecture. Opened in 2012 on the Dondendaira mountain plain, it is still an insider tip amongst snow enthusiasts who have already seen all of Japan's snow parks elsewhere.
There are five exciting activities to choose from:
- Riding a snow mobile. You receive a short introduction about how to drive, then a helmet is put on your head, and off you go. The instructor is racing ahead to show off his skills and to encourage you to accelerate too. According to him, the best drivers - and also the most fearless - are those who have some experience driving a motorbike.
- Riding a banana boat. Up to two people can sit on a plastic banana which is dragged across the snow at high speed by an instructor on a snow mobile. The banana boat idea is borrowed from some water parks, where you can ride a banana boat on water. Here it is snow but it is just as much fun. This is the most popular activity for families with children.
- Snow slider. This is good old fun in the snow. Get a large tire, sit yourself on it and slide down a 10 meters high and 80 meters long slope.
- Snowshoe trekking. This is a free walk on the Dondendaira mountain plain.
- "Snow ball strike". This activity is great for children too.It reminded me of some strike games with balls at fun fairs. There is a wall with brightly colored numbers from one to nine and you are supposed to form a snowball and throw it to hit the numbers. The winner would have managed to strike all nine numbers.
The fee for enjoying these activities for an hour and a half is yen 1,050 per person. However, there is also a "free pass" which allows you to enjoy all these activities for a whole day. The snow park is open from 10 am to 16 pm.
For an additional free of yen 3,000 you can book a private tour with a snow mobile and instructor. This tour is available for up to four people and I was told that this is quite popular with Japanese couples.
From 2013, Dondendaira Snow Park also offers:
- Orienteering, ie walking in the snow with a compass and map.
- "Yuki-kon" match-making events for singles on Saturdays based on the snow park's activities. The idea is to get girls and boys together and let them enjoy the various snow park activities and also a scavenger hunt, followed by a relaxing dinner at a farmer's restaurant. So, all single guys and gals out there: make a mental note of this and join the fun during next season.
The season at this snow park is short though. They are open for business in January and February only. Although there is still much snow around in March and April, the snow park closes towards the end of February to prepare for their "summer business" which lies buried under the snow. This snow park is also a flower park!
In June and July this very mountain plain becomes the Dondendaira Yuri Park. Yuri are lilies and there are large fields of them. The flower fields are being prepared in March so that they are ready for blooming in early summer.