Courtesy of a SnowJapan ticket giveaway (thankyou very much SJ) it's been a while since Grandeco has been reviewed, so I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring.
A mate and I ventured there on a Tuesday early in February and coming off the back end of a three day dump, we were rewarded with excellent snow conditions. Being of a slightly higher elevation to the other resorts in the Bandai area (with the exception of Minowa) the snow quality was very good.
I visited Grandeco a few years ago on a Sunday and remembered it to be very busy with quite a long wait for the Gondola. Back then the wait for the other chairs wasn't so bad. This time around, it was the exact opposite. To say the resort was quiet would be an understatement, there were no waits whatsoever for any lifts including the Gondola which is to your right as you enter the resort and pass through the breezeway. There were a few people there including several Junior high school groups but you could hardly call the resort busy.
Which brings me to the Gondola, it's reasonably quick but so small. I'm not sure how many each car is built to accommodate but I can assure you, if you are 6ft+, 90kg+ and carrying a board longer than 160cm, you'll be in for a tight squeeze. Multiply that by 2 and it's positively cramped. In retrospect, because it was so quiet and the Gondola cars have a back to back configuration, we should have just done that and sat back to back as singles. Anyway, we only rode the Gondola twice thank goodness and had no problem with the other lifts which are all covered making for a toasty ride back up the hill.
It's been said before and I'll have to say it again, there's tons of flat spots at Grandeco which make it difficult for the boarders and makes for a lot of skating. This resort is definitely more suited to skiers but having said that, if you keep your speed up you can usually get over most of the flat spots. There are some reasonably steep runs up at the higher parts of the hill and one directly in front of you as you enter the resort, but they seem to be over oh so quickly and then it's a coast back to the chair where you can get your glide on or presses or whatever takes your fancy. Off piste didn't seem to offer much however we ducked in and out of the trees here and there and found some leftover goodness from the previous couple of days. Having said that though, up the top a fully kitted out boarder popped out of the trees right in front of us and fell in an exhausted heap at our feet. We learnt from him that he'd done a huge hike with a couple of friends into the back country and scored some sweet waist deep lines back to the resort. So I'm sure there's some back country options to be had with the right gear and somebody in the know to accompany you.
Foodwise, they have several options including a restaurant up the top of the hill which upon memory was pretty good. This time we opted to go down to the large cafe at the base of the hill serving an array of the standard Japanese ski resort fare. I opted for the Spaghetti with meat sauce and salad and a Pepsi. All up about 1500 yen. It was pretty good.
Special mention must go out to the staff. They are all really friendly and helpful from the get go. I know it's typical of Japan but everyone at Grandeco was genuinely friendly and seemed pleased to have a couple of gaijins cruising around there. Come to mention it, it was a good vibe on the hill too with random people willing to have a chat or wave to the camera when passing by. Yes we had our Go-pros and vanity sticks.
In conclusion, Grandeco was a nice small resort. I'd say advanced boarders and skiers would get bored real quick but there is enough there to keep you occupied for a day. There's a reasonable park run with a few boxes and rails and a couple of small kickers but hardly what you'd call X-games quality but if you wanted to get a bit of air-time it's there for you. The resort seems to be definitely geared around the families and from most Japanese people I know with kids, this is the resort they choose in my area. We had fun but I'm not in a hurry to go back there, but if I had to it wouldn't kill me.
From 03 February, 2015 To 03 February, 2015
Snow condition on visit:
About 5cm of fresh powder coming off the back of a 3 day dump. Light and fluffy. Some knee deep stashes here and there.
Things I liked:
Staff. Snow quality. Covered lifts. Food.
Things I didn't like:
Cramped Gondola. Flat spots. Skating. Steep parts too short.
Authentic Japan experience