Another nightbus trip – 7,400Yen return including day pass – from Shinjuku, Tokyo. I was expecting it to be quieter on a Tuesday than the weekend but was wrong, with the bus crammed with the normal throng of uni students and me, the only gaijin on board! We arrived at Gran Deco at 4.30am and parked up there until it opened at 6 o'clock and a handful of punters disembarked. Then drove another 30 – 40 minutes onto Inawashiro, where we were all ushered into a restaurant/ski rental building and given an introductory “lecture” by the ojisan member of staff. Downstairs to the locker-room (a reasonable 400Yen for the big ones, 200Yen for small) then onto the first lift at 8.20am. The weather was ok, partly cloudy with a few snow flurries and some sunshine.
My first time to the resort so explored the Center/Chuo Area, which is the skier’s right of the 2-sided resort. The previous days had seen some fresh snow and the pistes had been well-groomed, so were nice and soft. There was about 15-20cm in and around the trees and under the lifts, which no-one was riding so I did, in between carving first tracks down the pistes.
Then I took the link lift (No. 3) over to the Minero Area on the skier’s left side of the resort. This is the steeper of the 2 areas, certainly at the top, which is where the moguls are. Not so much fun for boarders but the skiers I saw there seemed to be enjoying themselves. This area is also where some of the tree runs are though, as mentioned in other reviews, these are out-of-bounds even if not roped off, so you run the risk of attracting whistling ski patrol if you go in there. However, forewarned is forearmed and I managed 2 runs though said trees and saw no other lines in there. There was a good foot of decent snow and the pitch and spacing between the trees was perfect for this rider!
The top of Minero is also where you can traverse back to the Center Area, around the back of the disused No.5 lift, one of at least 4 disused lifts here. Not sure why the lifts are out of use but they do leave tempting areas of untouched snow underneath, which I hit up before stopping for lunch. Had a disappointing katsudon at the base restaurant, even with the 100Yen discount voucher and felt decidedly sluggish for the first few post-lunch runs! Therefore headed back over to the Minero trees to get my stoke up and they didn’t disappoint. A few more lift lines on the Centre Area and I decided to take an early bath, visiting the 500Yen onsen in the 1st floor of the Center House Bandai, which was more like a sento than an onsen but nice nonetheless.
Overall, I liked Inawashiro. The Center Area is very good for beginners and intermediates, with wide, mellow slopes and easy lift access. Minero is the more challenging side with moguls and trees up top for the adventurous, though apart from those features, advanced skiers and riders might get bored quickly. The weather wasn’t as good as I’d hoped for so I couldn’t appreciate the lake views, which I imagine would be great on a bluebird day but that didn’t detract from what was a good day out. Recommended!
From 26 February, 2013
Snow condition on visit:
Soft pack on-piste, with 15-20cm off-piste
Things I liked:
Great tree runs in the Minero Area; not busy; Center House Bandai onsen
Things I didn't like:
Base restaurant katsudon!
Families & children
Authentic Japan experience
Not recommended for: