Summer tourism trump card MTB test-ride event in Niseko

Nov. 3
The MTB test-ride held by the promotion bureau on October 7. Mountain biking is attracting attention as a trump card of summer tourism

MTBing (mountain biking) is showing signs of boom in the Niseko area. In October, the Shiribeshi General Promotion Bureau held a test ride in which many applications were received to ride the members-only MTB course in the town. Those concerned believe MTBs will be a trump card with regard to summer tourism after the Coronavirus has been brought under control, but there are also issues such as securing courses.

The test-ride event hosted by the Shiribeshi General Promotion Bureau on October 7th was aimed at novice MTB riders. Reporters also took electrically powered MTBs that costs about 600,000 yen on a 30-min. test ride on forest roads along the Shiribetsu River. Even on steep slopes, it feels as if you are being pushed from behind, and it is quite easy to climb at speed. “With MTBs, you can enjoy the appeal of the land without the need for major development,” said a man in his thirties who experienced the test-ride.

Matsuzawa Kenji of the ‘Nine’ company that runs a mountain bike school and tours in the town, served as a guide during the test-ride event. In September, the company opened a members-only course where mountain biking can be enjoyed in the Yamada district in the town of Kutchan. In only one month, more than 80 riders have registered, so the popularity can be sensed.

This year, the company spent millions of yen making their tours more fulfilling, and introduced four electrically powered MTBs. However, Niseko Grand Hirafu, the ski resort which has the only full-scale trail in the Niseko area, was closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. There are no other full-scale courses in the surrounding area, and Matsuzawa claims “In addition to courses prepared by businesses, which require a payment to ride, there is also a need for free public courses that anyone can use.”

However, most of the forest roads and mountain trails where MTBs can be ridden run are located in national forests under the jurisdiction of the Forestry Agency and the Ministry of the Environment, and the hurdles are high when trying to establish new trails. On the other hand, in the city of Ina in Nagano prefecture, efforts are being made to restore the nature of forests by having MTB tour operators maintain forests that have been damaged by windthrows.

Matsuzawa points out that Whistler, a famous ski resort in Canada, also has many summer tourists, and that mountain biking is the largest content. “MTB tourism content is essential for Niseko to grow into a year-round international resort. If summer tourism becomes more exciting, it will raise the appeal of the resort as a whole.”

The Shiribeshi General Promotion Bureau also believes that “if mountain biking becomes established as a content, it will become a catalyst for summer tourism in Niseko.” The Niseko area has many national forests and quasi-national parks. How the public and private sector create an environment in which courses that take advantage of nature can be secured and guiding can be enhanced is likely to be an issue in the future.

Location

Niseko Mountain Bike School and Guiding

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