A wonderful natural world of mountains, forests and sparkling lakes, but it is less than two hours by train from the heart of Tokyo. It starts with amazing, light snow falling across the dense forests and access to 22 ski areas. There is a rich cultural heritage, delicious local food and drink, and lots to do throughout the year. This is Aizu – famous in Japan, but still a hidden treasure for the rest of the world. There is a wealth of great places to stay, ski, enjoy the many adventures of summer camping, fishing, paragliding, boating and other outdoor activities – and enjoy the natural beauty at your own pace. It’s still a secret, but now you know the name: Aizu.

Where do we go? ALTS BANDAI…The region’s largest ski resort

Located on the southwestern slopes of Mt. Bandai, Alts Bandai Ski Resort’s 25 runs make it Aizu’s most expansive ski resort and one of Japan’s largest. It boasts eight lifts, including a gondola. It is known for its incredible depth – much bigger than what you can see from the gondola, with a back bowl waiting beyond the resort. There are many tree runs at the back of the ski area, all accessible from the ski lifts. The ski-in/out Bandaisan Onsen Hotel is one of the best options on the hill for getting first tracks.

One recommendation: many slopes are south facing, so the snow can become soft and wet on warm days; mornings are a good choice for the best conditions.

Ultra-light powder snow, and runs through the beech forest

Nekoma Ski Resort is located on the north face of Mt. Bandai, separated from Alts Bandai by a ridgeline. The high altitude, north-facing slopes and temperatures dropping to -10°C at the height of the season often mean heavy snowfalls and light powder snow. The sun only directly strikes the slopes for a few hours, so snow quality is excellent throughout the day. The top lift takes you to the summit and accesses a vast tree skiing area. Enjoy spectacular steep tree runs through the deep beech forest outside the ski area, with easy access back to the lifts. Just keep in mind a few local rules (for example, skiing under lifts is forbidden) and get ready to enjoy perhaps the best snow in the region.

The region’s biggest tree skiing area

Aizu guide

“Using a local guide is a great way to get the most our of your visit”

With a base at 1,050 meters, rising to the summit at 1,500 meters, the relatively cold conditions at Minowa make it often one of the first ski areas to open in the Tohoku region. One of its biggest draws is its vast tree-skiing area. The lifts get you right up to one of the largest sidecountry areas in Japan, with outstanding slope conditions, terrain and snow quality. The dense trees keep avalanche risk very low – but it’s a big area where it’s easy to get lost! Using a local guide is a great way to get the most our of your visit.

The secret to great powder

“The place with the highest snowfall in the year is, in fact, not somewhere in the Arctic or the Himalayas, but right here in Japan—and very close to Aizu”

Iconic Mt. Bandai is set in almost the exact centre of the Aizu region. Because of the surrounding mountains’ influence and its distance from the coast, cold and dry conditions are prevalent. Moist seasonal winds coming from the Sea of Japan do not directly hit the mountains, so the snowfall in Aizu maintains its quality through the season.

The place with the highest snowfall in the year is, in fact, not somewhere in the Arctic or the Himalayas, but right here in Japan – and very close to Aizu. The terrain is not as steep as in the Northern Alps, such as in Hakuba, so the snow can accumulate – and the average is about 15 meters each winter. The proof of this is the fact that the ski areas can operate all the way into May. Dense beech forests, deep snow, minimum temperatures below -10°C in January and February: you won’t find a natural environment like this anywhere else other than in Aizu.


Japan backcountry skiingOrganise your guided backcountry skiing tour in Japan

There are lots of options in Hokkaido and Honshu that can be tailored to the kind of skiing you like and when you plan to come. Answer a few questions and we’ll get back to you with some recommendations.

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