Alts Bandai Ski Resort
Alts Bandai in Japan is a ski resort that’s a good all-rounder. Alts Ski Resort has lots of bells and whistles and continues to be modernised. Unlike many other Japanese ski resorts, Alts Bandai is definitely not stuck in a bubble era time warp! Alts primarily has a reputation for family friendliness as well as being a hip mecca for park junkies.
The “Alts Snow Park & Resort” refers to the Alts family of ski resorts which consists of Alts Bandai on the south (front) face of Mount Bandai, and Nekoma Ski Resort
on the north or back face (Ura-bandai).
Alts Bandai Ski and Snowboard Terrain
Alts is a medium sized resort with 29 courses (runs) that total 30km in length and make up 121 hectares of piste terrain. The official trail statistics are 35% beginner, 40% intermediate and 25% advanced. The beginner trails are highway wide and the Family Zone is particularly well suited to novices who want their own space to crash into each other! Alts Bandai is largely suited to intermediate riders with various well groomed runs, and with a maximum gradient of only 29 degrees, the black runs can mostly be tackled by intermediates as well.
The Freestyle Zone has moguls and pole courses, although the piece de resistance of Alts Bandai is the terrain parks. It no longer sports a half pipe, but there are oodles of jumps and hits to keep the physiotherapists in business.
Advanced riders may want to head off-piste.
Like many other non-westernised Honshu resorts, off-piste skiing and snowboarding is not permitted. Definitely don’t ski under the operational lifts or you’ll risk getting your pass pulled, but with discretion you might be able to play on the old lift lines and in amongst the really well spaced trees. The tree skiing is a little steeper than the piste, although it’s still pretty mellow and the lines tend to be pretty short. Nevertheless the huge bonus is that everyone else pretty much sticks to the rules and stays on-piste, so there are fresh lines galore! Further up is some bowl skiing, but you might have trouble getting in there unless the patrollers are in a really good mood.
Lifts and Crowds
Alts has 8 lifts that include a gondola, 2 quad chairs (one with a bubble hood), and an assortment of pair lifts (a couple might not operate unless it’s busy). The Japanese love night skiing and the resort is very proud that night skiing goes until 11pm on Friday and Saturday nights!
Due to its ease of access from Niigata and Tokyo, Alts scores big crowds on weekends and holidays, which mostly hang on the frontside of the mountain near the base area. Other parts of the mountain are pretty quiet, and on weekdays the mountain is practically deserted.
Alts is a bit further north and a bit colder than the Nagano ski resorts, yet the elevation of the resort is low even relative to resorts that are further north. “Alts” definitely isn’t short for “altitude”! The Alts Bandai snow can be variable but generally it is pretty good and just a fraction heavy by Japanese snow standards. The low elevation also leads to a relatively short season (late Dec to late March).
Where is Alts Bandai?
Alts Bandai is located about 290km north of Tokyo in the Fukushima Prefecture of the Tohoku region (ie northern Honshu). The Alts Bandai ski resort is situated on the front side of the majestic Mount Bandai not far from the little town of Inawashiro and the Inawashiro train station. Several other ski resorts sit on the slopes of Mount Bandai, which include Inawashiro
. There are Alts Snow Park and Resort shuttles that connect Alts Bandai and Urabandai Nekoma.
From Tokyo you can catch the Tohoku Shinkansen to Koriyama Station (about 1:20 to 1:45 hours), and then free resort shuttle buses cover the 64km (about 90 minutes) to Alts Bandai (3 schedules in each direction). Considering the ease of access, lots of Tokyo-ites do day trips to Alts Bandai!
There is no village at the resort, with accommodation and overnight amenities housed within the Mt Bandai Hot Springs Hotel. The hotel is conveniently ski-in ski-out and inter-connected with the day lodges at the base of the ski area. The deluxe 4-star Mt Bandai Hot Springs Hotel features stylish and modern Japanese décor, western style twin accommodation, a delightful buffet restaurant, bar lounge, retail shop, ski storage, and a lovely onsen. The Alts Bandai hotel also features a sizeable indoor swimming pool.
Ski Resort Facilities and Services
Alts Bandai has lots of contemporary amenities for skiers and snowboarders, housed within two adjoining buildings at the base area of the ski resort. In addition to on-mountain restaurants, there are a couple of massive cafeterias at the base, a popular creperie, and the Whistler Café where you can score Canadian fare such as poutine and enjoy the free wifi. Food tends to cost a little more than most other Honshu ski resorts.
Alts has a reputable ski and snowboard school, and lessons in English can be provided in a private format (these are half price on weekdays!). Alts has high quality ski and snowboard rentals and a large pro retail shop with snowboards and boots, no ski hardware, a smidgeon of outerwear, souvenirs, and loads and loads of ski and snowboard accessories (including rack after rack of funky lift ticket holders – why doesn’t such a modern resort get with the times and ditch those silly paper lift passes??).
Alts Bandai is very family oriented, particularly for children that speak Japanese. In addition to ski lessons, there is a kids’ play room, child care facilities for ages 8 months to 6 years old, and an adventure land with banana boating, tubing and sledding.
Summary of Pros and Cons
- The resort can cater reasonably well for English speaking guests (the resort is proud that they have English speaking staff on duty 24 hours a day), yet there is minimal foreign influence at Alts Bandai. Very few westerners head there, so you can check out how the trendy Japanese do ski holidays.
- Alts Bandai has a lovely ski-in ski-out hotel with an equally lovely onsen.
- The hotel and resort infrastructure is very contemporary.
- There is a good terrain park.
- Japan is the capital of powder, except for Alts where the snow quality is more akin to other parts of the world.
Pro or Con Depending on Your Perspective
- Like lots of other “Japanese” Japanese ski resorts, off-piste skiing and boarding is prohibited. If you can be simultaneously discrete and respectful, no one else is likely to be riding off-piste so the fresh lines will belong to you and only you.
- For powder hounds, the terrain only provides enough variety for a day or two max, but it makes for a fabulous adjunct to other Fukushima resorts as part of a multi-resort tour.
Tours That May Visit Alts Bandai