A skier's guide to what's hot and what's cool in Fukushima
of the advantages of living in a rural prefecture like Fukushima is the
easy access to natural attractions like hiking trails, hot springs, and,
of course, skiing. Around thirty different downhill areas will be open
in the prefecture this winter;from the smaller hills to the big resorts,
there is something for every ski appetite.Skiing in Japan is often quite
unlike most other countries, with the most noticeable difference being
price. The average cost of a day pass is about 4000 yen, with parking
costing an additional 1000 yen. Buses and trains are also available, but
often seem to be scheduled quite randomly. Skiing is half sport, half
fashion show in Japan, and Fukushima is no exception. Brightly coloured
outfits are the order of the day, with all sorts of matching accessories.
The number of people, especially onweekends, that take to the hills is
another uniquely Japanese skiing experience. Most ski resorts are wired
for light and sound so night skiing is very common, as is the ever' present
barrage of pop music. Despite the crowds, however, there is some fantastic
skiing to be found around the prefecture.
The Fukushima ski season starts around early December and lastswell
into the spring. Many resorts have designated days when they do not
charge for lift tickets, usually on the first and last days of the season,
and some hills will charge less for lifts and parking during the week.
The busiest time of the year is probably the 0-shogatsu New Year holiday,
when the whole country, it seems, goes skiing.
In Fukushima, most resorts are in the Mt. Bandai-Lake Inawashiro area
in the Aizu region, but there are others around the prefecture worth
investigating. Three of the bigger hills worth checking out are ALTS
in the Bandai area, Adatara in the central Naka-dori region and Takatsue
in Southern Aizu.
ALTS is a new resort with plenty of lifts and a great variety of runs
from beginner to advanced. For 1994-95 they have added a second gondola,
some new rest facilities and several new downhill courses. The down
side is that this kind of big resort attracts a lot of people on weekends
and holidays that can mean long waits in lift-lines. The parking lots
are so big that a shuttle bus is required to move people to the main
lodge. ALTS can be reached by following the signs off of Route49.
is an older resort, and not as crowded. A 1600 metre gondola was added
a few years ago, which allowed the opening of some steep advanced runs.
The longest course runs for over two kilometres, and there is night-skiing
as well. Adatara is located just outside of Nihonmatsu off Route 459,
and buses are available from Nihonmatsu station.
Takatsue is on Route 352 in the village of Tateiwa in the Southern
Aizu region. With only one run set aside for beginners, it appears Takatsue
is trying to cater to more intermediate and advanced skiers. On clear
days, a spectacular view can be had from the summit. Buses are available
from Aizu-Kogen station, which is an hour away from Aizu-Wakamatsu city
One of the best things about cross -country skiing is that you do not
necessarily need to stay on a specific trail. While cross country is
nowhere near as popular as downhill skiing in Japan, there are cross
country trails in Fukushima, and they may be used for much less expense
than the big resorts. Otama village, which lies between Fukushima city
and Koriyama, has atotal of five courses that can be used for 1000 yen
and can be reached by bus from Motomiya station. The prefecture and
other organizations sponsor a cross country skiing event every year
in February at another course in the town of Inawashiro.
The popularity of skiing seems to grow every year. Fortunately, the
resorts in Fukushima are trying to keep up with the demand for faster
lifts and longer runs. The best way to avoid the winter blues is to
get out there and try some of the varied ski facilities Fukushima has
to offer. See you on the slopes!