Aizu – Zao Powder Tour
10 NIGHTS | 8 DAYS SKIING/RIDING |
FULLY GUIDED & HOSTED SKI & SNOWBOARD TOUR
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING NEW AND OFF THE BEATEN PATH? AFTER RUNNING A FEW TEST TOURS AND SCOPING TRIPS OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS WHITEROOM IS OFFICIALLY LAUNCHING INTO SOUTHERN TOHOKU WITH ITS AIZU-ZAO POWDER TOUR.
Only two hours by Shinkansen from Tokyo, but a world away, the Aizu region sits under the majestic Bandai-san, a towering volcano that is surrounded by 12 ski resorts caked in powder. Few westerners visit this area making it one of the last remaining places in Japan which powder lays untouched days after it snows.
From our base at Urabandai Lake Resort you’ll explore the in-bounds and backcountry terrain of Minowa, Grand Deco, Alts Bandai, Nekoma and Inawashiro ski resorts. Each offers up something different from charging through birch forests in knee deep powder to hiking the ridges of Nekoma or dropping down pillow ladened pitches to a road pick up and an end of day onsen.
Storybook Samurai Japow awaits
If you are needing a rest (optional) from all that pow smashing we will take you on a cultural day tour in the Aizu region. First stop Ouchijuku, one of the few traditional thatched roofed towns left in Japan, famous also for its soba noodles and miso. We will also visit the ancient Samurai town of Aizuwakamatsu and explore Tsuruga Castle once home of samurai loyal to the shogunate during the Edo period, enjoy a traditional tea ceremony, then sample local sake at the famous Suehiro Sake Brewery.
Our last three nights will be spent in Zao Onsen just under 2 hours to the north. Zao is the second oldest onsen town of its kind in Japan. Many travel here seeking out its therapeutic onsens, or to see it’s famous snow monsters, we will also seek out its epic pow.
During the 80’s Zao was a happening ski town crowded with skiers decked out in amazing fluro ski suits and dancing the night away in the towns three discos. Today, like many of Japan’s ski resorts, it is a sleepy town with old lift infrastructure and a slightly dilapidated village. However, it is slowly renewing itself thanks to increasing foreign visitors but it is still largely off the beaten powderhound path.
Here we will explore the lift accessed backcountry by day and wander the streets at night, dropping into a local brewery and sake bar. On the last night we will be taking you Yamagata town where we will end the tour in true Japanese style at one of the towns traditional Japanese restaurants, complete with a private Maiko performance.
This tour is as Japanese as you can get – travelling through storybook Studio Ghilbli countryside seeking out epic pow, local food and unique cultural experiences.
If you’d like to read about taking the train from Tokyo to the north island, check out our blog article on the journey from Tokyo to Hokkaido by Shinkansen Bullet train!
Dates & Prices (Japanese Yen)
EARLYBIRD – GET ¥20,000 OFF !
15 – 25 Jan 2020 – 7 places left
26 Jan – 5 Feb 2020
6 – 16 Feb 2020 – 7 places left
17 – 27 Feb 2020
6 to 1 Client to Guide ratio
12 people max per tour. 4 person minimum.
Skill Level: Advanced and above.
You must be able to ski the whole mountain with confidence and at a reasonable speed in powder, through trees and in variable conditions. You must have a good level of fitness. Snowboarders in this level are able to keep speed in flat sections by planning ahead as well as hold a solid traverse line and be able to hop up and manoeuvre in a way as to not slow down the group. Groups are split up into ski/board/ability levels and some groups we will be doing some hiking (traversing/bootpacking) to get to the goods. Skins or split-boards are not required but if the group has touring gear or wants to hire we will happily take you deeper into the backcountry.
Prices are in Japanese Yen and include consumption tax. Correct as of 11th April 2019. LAND ONLY.
*EARLYBIRD offer requires full payment by 30th August 2019
**The Currency Exchange widget provides an indicative market rate. Please ask your consultant for a quote in your home currency.
FULLY GUIDED & HOSTED
- Transfers from/to Koriyama and Sendai train stations & daily transport
- 7 nights twin/triple share accommodation at Urabandai Hotel
- 3 nights twin/triple share accommodation at Meitoya So Ryokan
- 8 days flexi lift passes in Aizu area. This could include any of the following resorts: Alts Bandia, Nekoma, Minowa, Urabandai, Grand Deco, Inawashiro and Zao Onsen
- Alts Bandai 3 run cat ski experience (if available on the day)
- 9 dinners showcasing the areas delicious food including a welcome Kaseki degustation & farewell dinner party in Yamagata complete with Maiko performance
- Onsen (hot spring) tours
- Daily cooked breakfast
- Whiteroom T-shirt
– Discount flights with Qantas
– Single share accommodation
– Avalanche gear rental – ¥14,500
– Tokyo stopover
– Kyoto cultural side trip
NOTE: Avalanche safety gear is compulsory for all our tours. Please advise us upon booking if you have your own gear or will need to rent.
Day 1 – arrival day
After landing in one of Tokyo’s international airports you will either catch the train to Koriyama Station where your guide will meet you and transfer you to Urabandai Lake Resort or depending on your arrival time there is the option of catching the direct bus to Urabandai Lake Resort. After checking in we will have a welcome drink in the hotels bar where you will get to meet your tour mates and the guides will run you through the current conditions and tour plan. This will be followed by a welcome dinner at the hotels main restaurant.
Day 2 – first day on snow
On the first day our guides will introduce you to the avalanche safety gear, run you through how to use it and ensure that all your gear is functional and ready for the next 9 days of pow smashing. We will hit up one of the many local resorts, warm up our legs and get our first taste of that famous Japanese powder.
Day 3 – 7 Ski/shread, eat, sleep and repeat
Each day your guide will choose one of the 6 resorts in the area. This choice will be made based on prevailing conditions and group.
When we head to Alts Bandai we will have the option, subject to availability, of cat skiing up to three runs on an abandoned part of their ski resort. Enjoy full vert fresh pow!
On one of these days or perhaps the transfer day we will take you down to the town of Aizuwakamatsu and Ouchijuku. First stop Ouchijuku, one of the few traditional thatched roofed towns left in Japan, famous also for its soba noodles and miso. We will also visit the ancient Samurai town of Aizuwakamatsu and explore Tsuruga Castle once home of samurai loyal to the shogunate during the Edo period, enjoy a traditional tea ceremony, then sample local sake at the famous Suehiro Sake Brewery.
Day 8 Transfer to Zao (possible rest/cultural day)
We will say goodbye to the Aizu region and head north to Zao Onsen, a traditional onsen town, the 2nd oldest of its type in Japan. On the way we will either ski at one of the lesser known Zao areas resorts or enjoy a cultural day. In the evening we will check into the newly renovated Ryokan Meitoya So where we will enjoy a Zao welcome dinner.
Day 9 – Ski Zao Onsen
Zao Onsen is home to the most famous snow-monsters in Japan. We will explore the in-bounds and lift accessed backcountry terrain here. Zao is like Nozawa onsen was 8 years ago, a quaint onsen village with lovely restaurants and bars, few people on the mountain loads of fresh tracks to be had. We will take you to see the snow monsters under lights at night as well as the local Sake Brewery, Craft Beer bar and other highlights.
Day 10 Ski Zao Onsen and farewell dinner
We will explore Zao’s backcountry more during the day then it’s off to Yamagata for a special farewell dinner. You will get to experience a traditional Maiko performance at one of Yamagatta’s historic restaurants. The Maiko’s will sing and dance as well as play Japanese drinking games designed to test both skill and sobriety! This will be a truly unique experience.
Day 11 – Departure day
It’s time to say goodbye to your new found friends and be transferred to Sendai station for a Shinkansen train back to reality.
The reviews below are from our Tohoku Powder Tour which is very similar in terms of guiding and duration and is a good indication of what to expect.
Loved the tour. Firstly the group got on well and secondly the places we stayed at and the welcome and farewell meals were superb. Having a Japanese experience as well as ski was a highlight.
By far the most outstanding aspect of the tour was our guide Gareth. He was professional, fun but most of all, always had our safety as his number one priority. He planned our ski days around best options with snow conditions and made sure all of us got the most out of the day’s guiding. He boosted our confidence when we (especially me) needed it and he genuinely wanted everyone to have a good time. His sense of humour was legendary and both on and off the snow he went that extra distance to ensure our comfort. As the last tour and at the end of the season to maintain the enthusiasm for our group as if it was the first one of the season made our holiday fantastic. Please pass on thanks.
I’d like to also mention Graeme (consultant) who helped arrange the tour and whom we met (again he made the effort) and who was delightful. Also my experience with Whiteroom in Niseko (I stayed at the M Hotel for 5 days on their recommendation) and met some of the team there. Thanks Whiteroom. Hopefully will join another tour one day.
– Hilary Fine 2019
Absolutely awesome. The team was amazing. (i left my wallet on the train, they called up the next station, got my wallet back!) The culture tour was great. All of the spots they took us to on the mountains were incredible. Our guide took us to a ton of great local nightlife spots, a snowboard shop when we needed some gear, and over all just could not be any more accommodating. And of course, the guiding on the mountain was amazing. Not just all of the fresh powder, but the education about riding in the conditions, what to look out for, tips and tricks, and the wide diverse experience of all different terrain/snow. It was the best trip of my snowboarding career and I will be back!
– Lev Katsouba 2019
I’ve been on a handful of different Japan tours with Whiteroom over the years, and this one had to be very close to the best – we were immersed in authentic Japanese culture the whole time, and were 100% welcomed everywhere we went. We rode a range of hidden gem resorts with minimal queues, minimal crowding, maximum snow quality, maximum terrain and great, untouched lines. The guides were awesome blokes, as were the crew that came along. Would have no hesitation recommending this trip!
David Coulton – 2018
The Tohoku region of japan truly does still offer the road less travelled from foreigners. The snow never let up while we were there and the crowds were non existent. Traveling with the Whiteroom crew gave us the flexibility to go where the snow was best each day and took the hassle out of having to organize anything. All I had to worry about was riding pow, eating great food and kicking back drinking beers with the crew at the end of the day.
They make it all too easy
– Carl Drechsler 2018
Loved the authentic accommodation at both ends of the trip. Fantastic locations with access to some really awesome terrain & no crowds. The snow quantity & quality were the best I have experienced during my quest for pow. The photos taken by both guides are priceless & offer a truly memorable holiday. Both guides provided invaluable experience & knowledge of the terrain & changing weather conditions
-Gregg Cambourne – 2018
Just wanted to say a big thanks for the awesome time we had in the Tohoku region in February. As always the guides were very experienced and went out of their way to ensure we had fun and stayed save. Another great trip with heaps of memories that will last forever.
Gibbo – 2018
URABANDAI LAKE RESORT
Located within Bandai-asahi National Park and on the shores of Lake Hibara this hotel offers quality deluxe accommodation, beautiful indoor and outdoor onsens over looking the lake as well as delicious restaurants and an aprés ski bar complete with pool tables, tabel tennis, foosball and virtual golf. There is also a Kareoke rooms if you want to get fully into the Japanese resort hotel vibe. The location of this hotel is excellent for our tour allowing us short 20-50min drives to nearby resorts.
Meitoya So Ryokan
This is a tastefully renovated Ryokan with large Japanese and Japanese/Western rooms. Situated in the centre of Zao Onsen this traditional Ryokan is a highlight of the trip. The onsens along make it special as well as the delicious local food and inviting communal spaces. This is a lovely way to spend your last 3 nights on tour.