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  1. I’m interested in ski resorts that are very close to each other, where a physical connection seems possible - almost obvious - but they don’t happen. Like Iwappara and Maiko in the Yuzawa area. Like Alts Bandai and Nekoma in Fukushima. Any more? Or even stories behind those.
  2. Some pictures from Alts Bandai on Saturday, 18 Feb. 2012. A carload of us went up, all first-timers to Alts. The fact that it is bigger than most places I usually visit was brought home from the parking lot, from which there is no walking to the base area -- have to take a shuttle bus. I normally hate little time-wasters like that, but it was a fast, efficient bus with no waiting, so no complaints as it turned out. Then to the base area. If one wanted to make a movie set in a bubble-jidai ski area, this would be the set to use. This is obviously not a small place that grew organically over the years, it was a single, unified project set down in one go by people who were thinking big. I rather liked the retro triangles of colored lights that came on in late afternoon to guide people down at the end of the day. (In normal years, they would be used for nighters as well, but nighters are cancelled this year to save power, except for special events.) Besides stylistic notes, the other thing that strikes one immediately is the sheer size of the base area. All areas of the mountain radiate out from the Resort Center, with a giant flat area between the Resort Area and the lifts. This means lots of skating to get from one area to another; even as a skier, this seemed a bit tiresome. Can only imagine how boarders feel. But, once one is away from the base area, this issue goes away. One of our group was a first-timer, so we started out at the snow escalator area. While there, we heard sirens, and saw a snow patrol snowmobile zip up past towards the back road that snakes through the resort. Later we realized this may have been one of fruity-sachi's group being rescued. Some of us peeled off to hit the #4 quad, which leads to the back bowls. We never hit the back bowls that day -- something I want to check out some other time. Did a mellow long intermediate cruiser back to base, to regroup and have lunch. We were supposed to meet up with fruity-sachi's group at lunch time, but of course that never happened. At the time I thought the restaurant was just too crowded to find each other. Unfortunately, as we later learned, one of fruity's group had ended up in the hospital with injuries instead... After lunch, we hit the #5 pair lift to make sure the new skier's legs were somewhat established, then spent much of the afternoon looping the gondola. The gondola runs are long cruiser type beginner and intermediate runs, with some features like waves for amusement. Very pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Only bad part is the loooong run-out at the bottom. Some nice treed areas just to the side of the run: Once the gondola shut down for the day, we did a couple of laps on the #5 pair lift. The weather cleared up enough by then to provide some lovely views of Lake Inawashiro from there: All in all, we had a very nice day there. Snow was in good condition, both on- and side-piste, and the brief periods of relatively clear weather afforded some very nice views. Some day I would like to go back and check out the back bowls. Very sorry that fruity-sachi's group was not able to have as nice a day as we did.


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SnowJapan.com is the independent guide to skiing and snowboarding in Japan and has been online since 1999.

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