Alts Bandai Nekoma Link New Tohoku Super Resort

The biggest lift news this year for Japow lovers has to be Hoshino Resorts’ Alts Bandai Nekoma Snow Park link lift to hook up the two Aizu classics and create a new Tohoku Super Resort.

Alts Bandai Snow Park & Resort has offered fantastic views, a great mix of terrain for all levels and some of the best ski in/ski out hotel deals to any major Japanese ski resort for a while from the excellent Bandaisan Onsen Hotel.

Aerial view showing route of new Alts Bandai - Nekom Snow PArk link lift that creates Tohoku's beiggest ski area
Big news for Japan snow lovers – Nekoma and Alts Bandai will be linked by connecting lift from December 2023 © Hoshino Resorts

Great cruising, great parks, cat skiing into a formerly lifted area, amazing views over Lake Inawashiro and easy access to local sights like Tsuruga-jo Castle have made Alts a firm favourite with those looking to escape the mainstream international Japan destinations like Hakuba and Niseko. This area was the historical site of the samurai rebellion on which the Last Samurai movie was based, and you can even check out a samurai school too for a non-ski day. It wasn’t all swordplay: young attendees learnt to do their washing and cooking too!

Classic pow day line at Alts with a view to Mt Bandai © Hoshino Resorts

Over the back on the north side of mighty Mount Bandai, Nekoma Snow Park & Resort has provided some of the best still semi-secret stash powder skiing and riding for those in the know for years.

We love it, and now with a direct lift link instead of a 60 minute bus ride or stiff hike through the snow, you will be able to stay at the Bandaisan Onsen Hotel at the base of the lifts in Alts Bandai and scoot over for first tracks on Japow days.

Charging back to the base at Alts Bandai © Hoshino Resorts

The new 800m long pair lift linking Nekoma and Alts has been a while coming.

“We spent 7 years waiting for the development application to go through” Hoshino Resorts CEO Yoshiharu Hoshino told Snow Action’s Owain Price when we caught up in Sydney in July. An absolute ski fanatic, with a special love of backcountry snow and touring, Mr Hoshino is a hands-on CEO who understands what traveling skiers/boarders want.

“Now we will have one of the biggest individual resorts in Tohoku. The new Alts Bandai Nekoma combined resort will be considerably bigger than Zao for example.”

By a fair margin in fact – the stats are 189ha of skiable area for Alts Bandai Nekoma (across 993ha inside Bandai-Asahi National Park) vs 127ha for Zao.

Individually, Alts and Nekoma were both excellent areas in their own right. Now to be linked as one super resort, they represent a great choice for a week or more.

Nighta (night skiing) is popular at Alts Bandai, including a park set up
Can’t get enough? Head out for a ‘nighta’ session – it’s on your doorstep at Alts so why not? © Hoshino Resorts

Alts Bandai Nekoma Snow Park & Resort Information, Lifts & Trails

The Alts Bandai side of the resort features 22 courses, 2 express quad chairs and 5 doubles over a 580m vertical drop. The top lift is a respectable 1280m, and you get some great pow days here too.

Wide open rolling groomed trails up to 2.4km long offer plenty for the cruising skier – they do a great grooming job and so unlike too many places you won’t find yourselves struggling in chopped up snow if you are not a strong all-conditions skier/rider.

We rate it one of the best in Japan to get started at too, with the convenience of ski in/ski out at very affordable rates the icing on the cake. A terrain mix of 35% beginner, 40% intermediate, 25% advanced makes it a great learn, progress and family area.

The very affordable Alts Bandai snow cat accesses terrain where they shut the lifts a few years back, so you have a choice of easy blue runs or a bit steeper, making it a great powder novice option to get a feel for consistent pow skiing and the rhythm you need for that without worrying about getting in the way of others. If you have a similar standard group you can hot lap it to your heart’s content – at just ¥1500-2000 it’s great value.

Parks are big here as many places in Japan, with three park levels on offer that soak up much of the weekend boarder crowd – it’s only 3 hours drive from Tokyo. Midweeks the slopes are usually much quieter.

The popular ‘nighta’ night skiing/riding to 9pm includes one park as well.

The Nekoma Snow Park side of the resort features a shorter vertical, 311m, but all that above 1000m – which combined with the northerly aspect delivers reliable quality powder – or “microfine snow” as they locals call it – over a long season running from early December to early May.

Five pair lifts access 11 runs and some awesome tree lines. The marked runs are a neat 30% beginner, 30% intermediate and 40% advanced split, so cruising skiers will be able to enjoy the new link lift over from Alts too, not just the gung-ho powder fiends.

The park set up at Nekoma is excellent
Nekoma has a great park set up too © Hoshino Resorts

On sunny days the wild views are exceptional. Mt Bandai blew up in a massive eruption that left today’s landscape of scattered lakes, forests and volcanic rim and plug mountain features that’s quite different from most of the mountain ranges on Honshu.

Nekoma sits on one of the legacies of that, the north side of Mt Nekomagadake. Three different ridge lines are lift-accessed for a variety of aspects and runs that hold the snow in prime condition. In the heart of the national park, it has a true wilderness feel akin to back country skiing off the lifts. At just over 1000 vertical feet, or 311m, there is enough vert to stretch your legs, especially lapping on the numerous Japow days.

Nekoma Snow Park offers three distinct ridge lines to explore within the wilderness beauty of the national park © Carmen Price

The local park crew do a great job, and if you rock park you will love the facilities here as much as at the larger Alts Bandai side.

Hoshino Resorts may develop a hotel at the base here too in the future – the region’s spectacular natural beauty would ensure its success in spring, summer and autumn, with plenty of powder lovers more than happy to swing by in winter. For now though there’s a day lodge at the Nekoma side base.

Nekoma also has some easy areas © Hoshino Resorts

Ski in / Ski Out Bandaisan Onsen Hotel

Hoshino Resorts very comfortable Bandaisan Onsen Hotel offers some of the best ski in/ski out value in Japan, or anywhere for that matter.

Twin share deals from just $AUD 699 per person for 5 nights with breakfasts and ski passes were on offer at the Snow Expo, and great rates can still be booked on their website – Saturday nights and holidays are a bit more – but generally you can enjoy on snow convenience in a quality hotel with breakfast included for less per day than a lift pass costs in Australia!

If you are staying off-mountain – or on-mountain in the car park motorhome park (yes, how good is that!) – daily lift passes for Alts Nekoma were only ¥4,300 last season, approximately $AUD 55 / $USD 37 .. a tad cheaper than $230 at home !

With more flights and much better airfares for the upcoming 2023-2024 winter it’s a great time to snare a good deal.

Enjoy very comfortable rooms, a sake bar for après, and natural spring water onsen with the therapeutic benefits of soaking in the thermal baths every day after skiing.

Check the latest Alts Bandai on snow package deals on the official Bandaisan Onsen website here

Dawn at Alts Bandaisan Hotel in Aizu
Some of Japan’s best ski in/ski out value awaits at the Bandaisan Onsen Hotel © Hoshino Resorts

Alts Bandai Nekoma Area Attractions

The Aizu region has plenty to offer for culture and cuisine fans too. Like several other regions, it claims the best rice in Japan – we are not really qualified to judge that, but we sure had some great food here, and the hotel features the local cusine.

A mini food court at the Alts side base and the restaurant at the Nekoma base offer more on-mountain dining options.

Most must see of the sights has to be Tsurago-jo castle about 30 minutes down the road in Aizu Wakamatsu city. The city has lots of shopping options and some funky izakayas to visit for variety.

Tsuruga-jo Castle © Owain Price