Grandeco Snow Resort
The Grandeco Ski Resort is somewhat typical of many of the Japanese ski resorts that are not on the radar of most international skiers and snowboarders. It’s a small resort with mostly mellow terrain and it’s practically deserted on weekdays, and even on weekends there’s negligible competition for the powder in the trees.
Grandeco Ski Resort is ideal for L-plate powder hound skiers (not so much for snowboarders) because there is some nice mellow tree skiing. There are also short but sweet steep lines that are much harder to find, but if you have a guide or you’re an adventurous exploring powder hound with a topo GPS app on your phone, then Grandeco provides more than enough merriment.
Gran Deco Resort offers enough fun for a one to two visit, and it’s ideally combined with visits to other Bandai ski resorts such as Inawashiro
, and Urabandai Nekoma
Grandeco Ski and Snowboard Terrain
The Grandeco ski area looks rather small on the trail map and it’s equally small in real life. Grandeco Snow Resort only has 8 courses, 580 metres of vertical (1,010-1,590m), and 5 lifts.
The lift infrastructure is pretty impressive with 4 hooded quad chair lifts which are nice and toasty for the cold days. The other lift is a gondola, which is also good during inclement weather, but it’s soooo cramped.
The official trail statistics are 40% beginner, 45% intermediate and 15% advanced. The beginner terrain is terrific with wide trails and nice fall lines. Despite the stat, there is very little intermediate rated terrain and all of the blue runs require some time on a green or black run. However the supposed black runs off the top are so easy that even a low-level intermediate could tackle them. It’s a joke that these trails are rated as black considering that they’re often groomed and one trail reaches a maximum of 28 degrees and the other 25 degrees. OOOhhh scary! Thankfully there are a couple of black runs further down the hill that are a smidgeon steeper (up to 33 degrees – whoop-dee-doo!!).
Off Piste Skiing Gran Deco
Off-piste skiing at Grandeco Resort is expressly forbidden and it’s sometimes heavily policed, especially if you’re silly enough to ride the lift lines. Thankfully it is possible to remain reasonably invisible. The mellow off-piste trees off the top two lifts are easily enough to navigate, but on powder days snowboarders will find it particularly hard to have a tree buddy ie ride slow enough to keep track of someone else.
The trees off to skiers’ left of the gondola line are much steeper but the first “pitch” off the gondola is really really flat so a lot of poling and/or skating will be required to access the goods. There are also steep side-country lines in this area if you’ve got a guide or significant route finding experience.
Above the resort is some great backcountry terrain that heads up to the summit of Mt Nishi-Daiten, offering nearly 400 metres of vertical tree skiing (mostly snow monsters).
Grandeco is renowned for its good snow, which contributes to a relatively long season from late November to early May. A positive contribution to the snow quality is the high elevation relative to the other Bandai ski resorts (except Minowa
with a similar top elevation), however Grandeco has a crap aspect so the sun could sour the snow in a flash.
Where is Grandeco Ski Resort?
Grandeco Snow Resort is located near the town of Kitikata, north of Mt Bandai in the Fukushima Prefecture and Tohoku region of Japan. Grandeco is about 300km north of Tokyo.
Grandeco Resort is 24km north of the Inawashiro train station (on the Banetsu Nishi line), and there are semi-regular buses to the resort (40 mins). Grandeco is 61km northwest of the Koriyama station (Tohoku Shinkansen – 1:15 hours from Tokyo), and there is a daily bus (1:50 hours) to the resort for hotel guests.
Getting to the Grandeco Ski Resort is easiest if you have a rental car
(the phone number for GPS navigation is 81-241-32-3242) or if you go on a multi-resort tour (see below).
There is no village at the base of the ski resort, yet there is a large hotel that’s ski-in ski-out via a connecting run. It’s a 5-10 minute walk to the base lodge or there are free shuttle buses that connect the hotel and ski centre.
rates itself as a 5 star hotel although it’s probably more akin to a 4 star, offering deluxe rooms with western beds and some luxury suites. The hotel has a couple of restaurants, a swimming pool, and an onsen that is also open for non-guests.
Alternatively there are other Urabandai hotels
or you could stay in nearby Inawashiro accommodation
Like many Japanese ski resorts, the scope of the facilities and services is larger than what you’d expect for such a small ski area.
The base building has a large cafeteria and restaurant, a crepe shop, ski and snowboard rentals, snowsports school (no English group lessons), child care, kids’ play room, lockers and a retail shop. The Ski Center also has a nap area, because we know that many Japanese love a little siesta!
There are also two more restaurants located mid-mountain, offering nice views of Mt Bandai and Lake Inawashiro. Buna Buna serves up Italian fare supposedly, but it is definitely Japanese fusion.
Deco Land is a little kids’ area at the base with snowplay equipment.
Summary of Pros and Cons of Grandeco Japan
- It’s super quiet on weekdays and there is negligible competition for the powder on any day of the week.
- For those with a guide and/or route finding experience, there are some nice tree lines.
- Grandeco has great lifts, except for the cramped gondola, and having high-speed quad chairs with hoods is rather decadent.
- There is no cheesy music blaring out of loudspeakers. Yippee!
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
- There are lots of flat patches around the resort, both on-piste and off-piste, which may annoy some snowboarders.
- Grandeco doesn’t have enough strong intermediate to advanced terrain to make it worthy of a multi-day trip. This helps to keep the crowds away, as does the lack of public transport options to get around to the various Mt Bandai ski resorts.