One thing Fukushima is famous for is the amount of snow that absolutely covers the area from December to March. You don’t have to hibernate under your kotatsu until spring, because now it’s winter and ski season has just kicked off in full force! Whether you snowboard or ski, there’s nothing better than hitting the slopes all day, with a trip to one of Fukushima’s many onsen to relax at night! There are over twenty ski resorts in Fukushima, so let’s narrow it down and talk about a just a few of the great local ski hills in the prefecture.
Mount Bandai (磐梯山）Mount Bandai, often called the Mount Fuji of Fukushima, dominates the Aizu skyline. Its picturesque beauty makes for great hiking in the warmer months, and even better skiing in the winter! There are many ski hills all over the mountain, and each has something great to offer to skiers and boarders for any level of ability.
ALTS Bandai is the largest and most popular ski resort in Fukushima. Located on the mountain’s south side, it has 29 runs for you to enjoy. Due to its size and popularity with foreigners, they have plenty of English-speaking staff to help out. ALTS is also open late for night-skiing, which is a great way to really make the most of the ski season in Aizu. One feature that really surprised me is the Whistler Cafe, located in the chalet, which serves some Canadian favourites like maple cookies and poutine. One of the locals told me that Bandai has a long history of intercultural exchange with Canada, and it felt like coming home to see a little bit of Canada in Fukushima.
Nekoma is located on the Urabandai side to the east of the mountain. It is often associated with the ALTS Bandai resort, and you can get a combined lift pass and make use of the shuttle between the two hills. While Nekoma is smaller than ALTS with only ten courses, the Urabandai side of the mountain gets much more powder snow, making for better ski conditions and a longer ski season. It’s also much less crowded than the ALTS side. Another advantage is the large terrain park, making for some great jumps.
Inawashiro Ski Hill is smaller than ALTS, but still offers sixteen courses of intermediate and beginner levels. It’s a great hill to learn and practice the basics of skiing or boarding, as the lift passes are also much cheaper than ALTS. Every year, a group of ex-pats living in Fukushima do a charity “Boxer Run” at Inawashiro Ski Hill, going down the main course in nothing but some boxers for modesty. What better way to raise money for our local charity, The Japan Cat Network?
Grandeco is a great beginner ski hill! There are plenty of easy runs for you to learn on! There are plenty of lifts and a gondola that service long, wide courses so it’s perfect for beginners!
Minami Aizu (南会津）
Minami Aizu gets a ridiculous amount of snow every winter, and it’s rural location makes for less crowded ski resorts. If you’re willing to brave the drive, Minami Aizu has got some of the best skiing and boarding to be had in the prefecture!
Takatsue is the largest of the ski resorts in Minami Aizu, and it’s proximity to the Tochigi border means a lot of skiers and boarders from down south come up to enjoy the slopes. It’s a great hill for intermediate runs, but there are also beginner and expert courses to enjoy!
Daikura is smaller than Takatsue, but has a great range of courses for all levels to enjoy! It’s also not as busy, so you don’t have to wait for the chair lifts as much as Takatsue. There’s also a nice cafe and Italian pizza restaurant in the lodge for you to enjoy on your down time.
Takahata is a resort specialized for skiers, no snowboarding allowed! That being said, if you’re a skier, it’s a great little hill to do some serious ski practice!
While it may be smaller than Takatsue, Nagou has got a lot to offer! It has a great half pipe and terrain park so you can practice your jumps. There are also plenty of intermediate runs for everyone to enjoy!
Discount Lift Ticket Campaigns
Snow Magic Fukushima: If you’re between the ages of 20 to 22, you can get free lift passes at all participating ski resorts on weekdays! What a great deal! [link] Also, if you’re 19 years old, you get free lift passes to many ski resorts all over Japan! Download the app by the end of December! [link]
Snow Japan: A great guide to ski resorts all over the country. [link]
Surf & Snow: A guide to when ski resorts open around Japan: [link]
Trace Snow (formerly Alpine Replay): Use this app to track your skiing and boarding, including top speed, distance, how much air you get on your jumps, and more![link]
Fukushima no Tabi: Information about travelling around Fukushima, including ski resorts, and campaign information. [link]
Fukushima Snowboarders and Skiers Facebook Group: Have a question about skiing or boarding in Fukushima? Want to see who’s on the hill this weekend? Join our Facebook group! [link]