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  1. I noticed on the Aizu Bandai Now report that some of the ski hills around there are not open every day. Is there any particular reason for that? Is it just simply that they have usually not been busy on some days so they decided not to open? Or perhaps some other reason? Cheers.
  2. With Minowa opening today, the 2013/2014 season has officially started in Fukushima. And hence, time for this season's thread. Previous season's threads: 2010/2011 2011/2012 2012/2013 Planned openings: 11.15 Minowa (B lift) 11.30 Grandeco 12.14 Adatara Kogen Nekoma 12.15 Oze Hinoemata Onsen 12.19 Aizu Kogen Daikura 12.20 Grandsunpia Inawashiro Resort Numajiri 12.21 Aizu Kogen Takatsue Alts Bandai Fairyland Kaneyama Family Snow Park Bandai x2 Grandee Hatoriko Inawashiro Listel Ski Fantasia Nihonmatsu Shiozawa Tadami Ten-Ei Urabandai 12.22 Aizu Kogen Nango Aizu Kogen Takahata 12.23 Yanaizu Onsen From 14 Jan. to 31 March 2014, 21 resorts in Fukushima are offering free weekday skiing to 20-22 year-olds who register through the 雪マジ!ふくしま/Snow Magic Fukushima program. (Separate from, and in addition to, the nationwide 雪マジ!19 program for 19-year-olds.)
  3. Sunday at Grandeco was predicted to be snowy and blustery. Turned out to be a calm, gorgeous day. Muikabochi gorgeous -- blue skies above, fresh packed powder underfoot (and unpacked to the sides). Excellent day for high-speed carving, mogul runs, and the cross course which was used for competition in the morning, then opened to the public from the afternoon. Had my fill of all the above, thighs still aching the next day. Couldn't ask for more. Cross course: Mt. Adatara seen above gondola station: Lake Inawashiro and Mt. Bandai (plus... is that Nasu, Tochigi faintly in the far background?):
  4. Took the drive through Tochigi on regular roads, past Shiobara Onsen, to Aizu Kogen Daikura on Saturday. That part of southern Fukushima had always seemed hard to get to, but in fact it takes not much more time to reach than it does to get to the Bandai-area ski areas using the expressway. Snowed constantly all day. Visibility sufficient for the most part, wind not as bad as predicted (though gusted occasionally), lots of fresh snow. Arriving: The base area is split into two parts, the older part to the right, and the newer part to the lower left: The lifts on the right are uncovered pairs and a single. The two left-most lifts are covered triples. Bottom of main triple: Top of main triple: A conveyor-belt lift takes one from the lower base area to the upper one: Newer base area: The D.J. Room is in the newer base area: Though nobody was inside. The ghost (robot?) DJ was playing mostly Olympic-themed tunes. Older base area (to the right in the following picture is the park area, where they were holding a contest that day): The left-most triple lift serves a couple of beginner courses (I and H on the map): The left-most course, the I course, has a horrible flat section in the middle. Boarders and skiers both were skating through it. The H course starts out with a long skating section, before splitting into two. One side veered towards the lift, where someone was setting up a pole bahn. Good place to do it without bother, since most people won't hike out to get to it. The only redeeming feature is the branch from the H course back to the I course, with some relatively untouched shin-to-knee-deep powder to the sides: That was good for about 4-5 turns. Otherwise, if one rides the left-most lift, the best course of action is to take the intermediate G course to skier's left: Though actually, if one is going to ski that course, better off taking it from the right-hand triple, and getting more vertical out of it. That ended up being the kid's favorite course: good for carving practice in the upper part, グラトリ practice in the lower part. As for me, the goods were all on the right-hand side of the ski area. In particular, the crown jewel of the ski area, the Daikura Gelaende. Average pitch 35 degrees, maximum pitch 38 degrees: Access via the Daikura single chair: Spec-wise, the Daikura Gelaende is similar to Zao's Yokokura no Kabe. Difference being, once one goes up, there is no other way down. You're committed. With a dedicated lift, one can just lap it freely without faffing around with lead-in or run-out sections, until one's thighs or knees give out. So that's what I did. Surprisingly for March, no real moguls, but lots of thick, chopped, shin-to-knee-deep powder. A real work-out. Very satisfying. Some more bits on the right-hand side: One thing I liked about this place is that it is very three-dimensional. Not large, but lots of hills and valleys, with courses in the valleys. Kind of like Marunuma Kogen: All in all, a compact and very local-feeling ski area, but with good variety. The 38-degree course is what makes it all worth visiting, but one could also spend a good day just bombing the intermediate runs. Having discovered how reasonable it is to get to that general area, I want to try some of the other Aizu Kogen ski areas some time, too.
  5. It was supposed to be clear and sunny yesterday at Grandeco, though as can be seen from the photos, it pretty much wasn't except at the very top of the mountain, later in the day. No matter, good skiing weather, cold enough but not too cold. They have added a third park area on the bottom leg of the Akadeko course, which is the long beginner course that winds its way down to the bottom from the top of the gondola. The main mogul course also empties out into this leg, after which that leg always felt like an overly long (kilometer or so?) run-out, so the park features are a nice addition to make that section more enjoyable. Good addition. There are some PR articles posted in the main building, one of which quotes the manager of the resort as saying that skiing the trees off-piste is officially ok. Patrol will not only not stop people for going into the trees, but will actually give advice on where to go. Instructor guides can be hired as guides to areas outside resort bounds. This seems to be a change from several years ago, when reports indicate that they were pretty aggressive about trying to keep people out of the trees (though without much success, from what I have ever seen). Good to know that it is now officially ok. Bad news: The Kashmir on-hill restaurant is closed this season, deleted from the list of restaurants. This means: no Deco Rangers! (I peeked into the other restaurants to see if they had relocated. Nope, no sign of them.) Looking for more information on the web, I found the following video from last spring, which purports to be the final Deco Ranger video. The horsing around they are doing with the plastic food samples seems to confirm that the decision had already been made to shut the place down: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reAk4L-NlN0 Saraba, Deco Rangers. Thanks for the memories!
  6. So, last time (http://www.snowjapan...ushima-2014211/), I reported that skiing the trees off-piste appears to now be officially sanctioned at Grandeco. It appears I may have to issue a correction on that. What made me think the policy had been liberalized was a wall of PR material, posters and travel mag spreads, in the main building. In particular, a couple of bits of text from there caught my eye. The first one quotes a manager as saying: The second has more details, though no direct quote: So, I thought, and reported, that skiing off-piste appears now to be officially ok, as long as one does not duck ropes to do so. With that in mind, I peeked a bit into the edges while killing time when the kid was occupied elsewhere. Here is what I saw: Now, I was alone, and had a kid to drive back home at the end of the day, so was not about to go following the tracks above to go far from view of the piste. But clearly there are others not so constrained. In fact, if one looks closely around, there are tracks all over the place through the trees. Spotting a particularly well-travelled path leading to an unroped area just parallel to the course, I popped over to investigate... 「赤いコートの方、コースに戻ってください!」 My face turning as red as my coat, I heeded the loudspeaker and hurriedly popped back onto the piste proper. After calming down, I thought, oh, perhaps that is one of the places they offer a warning about. Not seeing any ski patrol about to ask about where is safe, I asked a lift attendant, who replied all areas off-course are forbidden. Really? I asked. I thought I read that it was ok in places. Nope. Later at the base building, I inquired of someone else, pointing to the text on the wall. The clarification I got was that it is ok to hike UP from the top lifts in order to visit the snow monsters at the top of the mountain. That's it. No other off-course areas either in or out of resort bounds are ok to enter. So what to make of this? I guess either the travel writers quoted above got it completely wrong, or it's a wink-nudge kind of situation: maybe they won't yank your ticket for skiing the trees (if the quoted article is even right about that), but they'll still yell at you over the loudspeaker? Not a very relaxing experience, that, so I'll keep out of the trees in any case. No matter for me, I'm happy on-piste, but just in case anyone else is influenced by my previous trip report, or by the travel magazine quotes, I feel obliged to report that the facts on the ground show that it is clearly NOT open season on the trees at Grandeco. Don't believe everything you read on the internet (even if it was written by me). On a lighter note, I close with some gratuitous shots of a hard-working tiger and a reclining mannequin:
  7. We had planned to go to Grandeco for the first outing of the season, but the weather forecast was looking way too blustery there. Grandee Hatoriko looked more reasonable, so off we went, for the first time in almost 4 years (http://www.snowjapan...shima-201019-10). Heading into the tunnel that separates Ibaraki and Tochigi on the Kita Kanto Expressway, still Autumn colors in Ibaraki: Emerging into Tochigi, winter in the distance: Shirakawa is the first exit off the Tohoku Expressway after the Tochigi/Fukushima border. From Shirakawa, you can see Mt. Jeans (center), and if you look closely, Nasu Onsen Family Ski Area (center left): Just to the right of Mt. Jeans are the remains of the former Akazurayama/Shirakawa Kogen ski area (the border between Tochigi and Fukushima prefectures goes right between the defunct ski area and Mt. Jeans): Grandee Hatoriko is about a 45 minute drive from the expressway. Coming into view: The base area: The weather was a good call. Sunny all morning, good visibility: Snow was packed powder, nice and dry, with side stashes. The lake in the distance is Hatoriko: To the left of that is Hatoriko Kogen, a highland populated with hotels and besso (kind of like neighboring Nasu, I guess): Looking further left, the windfarm atop Aizununobikiyama can be seen, which lies about halfway between Grandee Hatoriko and Lake Inawashiro: Some more photos: The kid was trying out a new snowboard. As before, when the kid was still a skier, the favorite course was the Border Valley course, a natural halfpipe: (To be continued.)
  8. 11月下旬, time for this season's Fukushima thread. Some planned openings: 11/23: Minowa 12/1: 11/30: Grandeco 12/15: 12/12: Urabandai Nekoma 12/19: Aizu Kogen Takatsue 12/21: Numajiri Grand Sunpia Inawashiro Resort Grandee Hatoriko 12/22: ALTS Bandai Adatara Kogen Listel Ski Fantasia Family Snow Park Bandai x2 Inawashiro Urabandai Sannokura Tadami TenEi 12/27: Aizu Kogen Takahata Aizu Kogen Nango Minowa were the first in the region to open last year. Judging from webcams they look to be in the running for that record this year as well, though no word yet on plans. We'll see. and now, they have just announced they will open Friday, Nov. 23.
  9. Interest has been expressed in making another attempt at a meet-up in Fukushima, this season. So, who is up for it, and when and where? If a preferred date or ski area has been omitted from the poll, let me know and I will add them. I believe poll answers can be changed (by deleting and re-voting), so you can go back and modify your answers as circumstances change.
  10. In a theme with recent threads, Inawashiro Resort ski area is now under new ownership, and has been renamed Grand Sunpia Inawashiro Resort. Kind of going the reverse direction as Maiko in terms of name length and complication. Should at least be less confusion with Inawashiro ski area, I suppose.
  11. It seems a good time to kick off a Fukushima 2011/2012 thread. Opening dates (or planned opening dates) for some Fukushima resorts: (List being updated as season opening progresses.) 11/26: Minowa (640 m E.T Course to start) 11/27: Grandeco (2 km Center Course only, 10-30 cm of mostly artificial snow -- they advise against bringing new equipment, so expect some "stubble" in places) Note: temporarily closing from 11/30, due to snow loss from warm weather. ...and reopening from 12/3. 12/17: Urabandai Nekoma 12/21: Aizu Kogen Takatsue 12/22: Numajiri Family Snow Park Bandai x2 12/23: Adatara Kogen Nihonmatsu Shiozawa Ura Bandai Inawashiro Inawashiro Resort Listel Ski Fantasia Kitakata Sannokura Grandee Hatoriko Fairy Land Kaneyama Aizu Kogen Daikura 12/27: Aizu Kogen Nango Aizu Kogen Takahata 12/28: ALTS Bandai ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Note: I started a thread on Fukushima last year (http://www.snowjapan...shima%20%202010), mostly on a lark, because a) it was a place hardly anyone talked about at the time, not getting the publicity some other places get, and b ) while I don't live there, it is the easiest, best place for me to get to for skiing, and I have a great fondness for the area. I thought it kind of a hidden gem. Obviously, now it is a place that everyone knows about. It pains me to see how much damage has been done by that power plant to the rest of the prefecture -- and to the prefectures around it. And for that matter to all of Japan, reputationally. I think one of the best ways to fight back against this reputational damage is to go right to the core of what everyone is afraid of, and show that even in Fukushima itself, there is some fine skiing and boarding to enjoy -- and being enjoyed. Decontaminate, even slightly, the name of Fukushima, not only for the sake of the people who live there, but for the sake of all of us living in Japan. We all gain if Fukushima gains. So even if you plan to spend most of your time elsewhere, and would not have visited Fukushima ordinarily anyway, I would like to suggest giving a thought to making just one trip there this season, and posting a trip report and pictures. If you're so inclined.
  12. 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.
  13. I had been wanting to visit Adatara Kogen again after first visiting it last year (http://www.snowjapan...__fromsearch__1), at which time the skiing was great but the visibility was terrible. I hoped for clearer weather to get some nice views of, and from, Mt. Adatara, one of the "100 famous mountains" of Japan. Finally made it yesterday, and got at least part of my wish. It was very foggy in the base area when we arrived: But once one took the gondola up, it was a whole new prospect: Looking back towards the direction of the base area, a huge wall of clouds loomed, like something out of a movie: This wall of clouds persisted most of the day, blocking the view towards the Pacific, and cutting the ski area in half. In one direction, blue skies and fluffy clouds: But as one turned in the other direction...: ...Wall of Doom: It certainly added a dramatic note to the scenery. Some more pics: The following may look inviting, but unfortunately, with the sun hitting this slope and the temperature close to freezing, off-piste was all pretty much cotton-candy, a bit of a slog to get through really, not at all like the powder-fest it was in January of last year. Even on piste it was almost spring-skiing conditions (not slushy or anything like that, but not very soft, either). Well, it is March: Adatara Kogen has a sort of cozy, slightly old-fashioned base area that appeals to me: Finally got a clear shot of the mountain from the base area in the afternoon: Then we drove down into the clouds and home. Compared to the visit last year, the skiing was not as good (though still fun!), but the weather and scenery were certainly much more spectacular. As I observed last year, it is a small ski area, but interestingly laid out, with lots of trails carved out through the woods and good variety for its size. Anyway, it appeals to me, and we had a good time. I can definitely see keeping this place in the rotation for yearly visits.
  14. Time to start picking dates for an SJ gathering in Fukushima! From the previous thread, the preferred location seems to be Alts Bandai, and preferred dates are January or February, with a slight preference for February: http://www.snowjapan...g-in-fukushima/ Which dates are best for you? Multiple dates can be selected. (I have taken the liberty of omitting some dates that are inconvenient for me. I've voted for the best days for me, but the others are possible too. Of course don't let that stop anyone from arranging something else at another time!)
  15. For a meet-up in Fukushima, I suggest picking somewhere in the northern Fukushima (Inawashiro/Bandai/Adatara) area, which is readily accessible from all directions, being at the intersection of two expressways. The poll includes a suggested list of snow resorts in that area; people should feel free to suggest different places, either in the same area or further south. Multiple resorts and times can be chosen. Maps, descriptions and reviews: http://www.snowjapan...cture=Fukushima
  16. Anyone born between April 2, 1989 and April 1, 1992 can ski or board for free every day this season until March 31, 2012 at any of the following Fukushima ski areas: Aizu Kogen Daikura Aizu Kogen Takahata Aizu Kogen Nango Adatara Kogen Inawashiro Inawashiro Resort Urabandai Grandee Hatoriko Numajiri Family Snow Park Bandai x2 Minowa Yokomuki Onsen Listel Ski Fantasia Ten-Ei Hinoemata Fairy Land Kaneyama To get a free lift ticket, show one of the following forms of photo ID at the resort ticket counter: --Driver's license --Student ID w/photo --Passport --Juumin Kihon Daichou Card w/photo (写真付き住民基本台帳カード) No other form of ID accepted. Note that this campaign is separate from the nationwide Snow Magic 19 (雪マジ!19) promotion for 19-year-olds, which has different conditions.
  17. Actually, it was yesterday, just a sprinkling, and already gone today it seems. But snow nevertheless. And an excuse to try out the new topic prefixes. From the Grandeco web site:


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