The Aizu Region has an amazing lift pass deal for the 2017 winter. Where else in the world can you ski absolutely FREE at a selection of 22 participating resorts? The catch to ski free is you have to be aged 19 – 24 years, but if you’re older don’t worry too much, the rest of us can ski for just ¥2,000 a day, about $AUD 26 or $USD 20.
To qualify for the deals just present your passport to the ticket office (or it can be included with a package from participating ski tour operators like All Japan Ski). The deals are valid from 21 January – 31 March, 2017, and there’s some great skiing on offer here at big resorts like Grandeco Resort and Alts Bandai or a host of smaller ones.
Grandeco Resort is one of the Aizu Region’s best, set back deeper into the ranges behind the region’s dominant peak, Bandai-san. The base is high for Japan, at 1010m, and two swift lifts get you to 1590m for a decent vertical that extends another almost 400m if you hike/skin to the snow ghost covered peak of Nishi-Daiten at 1982m.
Snow ghosts/monsters don’t just appear out of nowhere. They require the right combination of plenty of snow, plenty of consisten cold, some wind, and the right kind of tree to stick to. So yes, they get plenty of quantity here, and it’s among the best quality in the region. Even when it’s dumping and ugly, since it’s the only resort in Japan to provide 100% hooded express lifts, you can just keep lapping for more.
Grandeco is a Tokyu group resort, the deluxe hotel at the base designed as a 4 seasons escape amid the wild forests, peaks and lakes to provide an idyllic retreat from the bustle for urban residents, with pampering and quality facilities, under 3 hours from Tokyo.
It features spacious rooms, including family 2 & 3 room options, indoor pool, hot spring baths, quality Japanese, French style, and Teppanyaki restaurants.
It adds up to more of a cruise liner experience dropped in the snow.
If you’re on a budget you can stay down the road around Inawashiro, and just ski here, but for couples and others looking for comfort with their fresh snow a few nights here is well worth it. Also put it high on the list if you just have a couple of spare days on a business trip.
Getting to Grandeco Resort: 77 minutes Tohoku shinkansen to Koriyama, 100 mins bus from there or change to JR to Inawashiro 42 mins & 35 mins shuttle bus from there. By car use the Inawashiro Bandai Kogen exit off the Ban-Etsu expresssway, and Route 115 to 459, 35 mins from the exit.
Hoshino Resorts Alts Bandai is the biggest and best known internationally of the Aizu Region resorts, and offered by several major snow tour operators so it’s easy to book and get information on, unlike most of the local areas.
The main runs are mostly cruisy, with lots of great grooming to choose from. Especially heading into spring there are some amazing back and side country options too, but you need to know what you are doing — a guided group of Westerners had to be rescued after getting lost overnight in 2016, which apart from raising the obvious question about the qualifications of their (western) ‘guide’, leads to stories critical of skiing powder/back country generally. Use your brains, and reputable guiding outfits, and you have a lot of awesome terrain to access.
Lifts top out at 1280m, for a 580m vertical, serviced by 8 lifts, some running till 11pm for the night skiing on weekends
Not requiring a guide, just a short hike over to the opposite side of the ridge, is Nekoma, also owned by Hoshino Resorts.
Being more on the radar there’s more English speaking staff and you see some Westerners on the slopes. Hoshino Resorts 152 room Bandaisan Onsen Hotel right at the base is the prime option to stay for a few nights for easy ski in/ski out comfort, with plenty of facilities including for families to bring the kids along. Japanese and Western buffet restaurants, lounge bar but just down the road there’s plenty more to suit any budget.
Getting to Alts Bandai is easy, with 3 daily buses from Koriyama shinkansen Station 50 minutes away.
For Fukushima region including ski resorts & loads of general info check the official site www.tif.ne.jp/lang/en