Cody Townsend, a professional skier who travels the globe in search of the best skiing experiences, visited the Aizu Urabandai area in central Fukushima Prefecture. This is an area famed for its smooth, dry powder snow. We asked Cody about his experiences on this trip and the unique appeal of skiing in Fukushima.
-What were the best things about skiing in Fukushima?
Cody: It’s hard to pick any one thing. The whole place was so beautiful. It was so peaceful looking at Mt. Bandai and the other mountains and valleys and the blue sky reflecting off the surface of Lake Hibara.
Obviously, the snow was amazing too. The powder’s so good in Urabandai because of the so-called micro-fine snow that falls here-it’s some of the driest snow on earth. Also, compared to other ski areas like Niseko (Hokkaido) and Hakuba (Nagano) there are very few skiers and on the day we visited it was like being at our own private ski area with perfect snow. People will fly around the world to go to somewhere like that.
-What is unique to Urabandai in terms of skiing style and ways to have a good time?
Cody: There are so many ski areas to visit in the region around Mt. Bandai and you can reach any one of them in about 30 minutes by car. If you come to Fukushima you can choose a ski area that fits with the kind of skiing you want to do and also the level that suits you best. As a skier, it is so cool to be able to choose a ski area from so many options. It’s a great environment.
It’s not just about skiing in the Aizu Urabandai area either. There’s also a super awesome place where you can go snowmobile skiing. Accessing the backcountry via snowmobile is a pretty special way to go skiing and quite possibly my favorite way to get out there.
-Other than the skiing, what else about Fukushima made an impression on you?
Cody: Well, first there are the onsens (hot springs). After a day of skiing, I really looked forward to being able to relax in a hot spring. It’s by far one of the coolest parts of Japan! And after I had soaked in the onsen, the woman who owned the onsen taught me how to make an origami crane. It was really cool experiencing that part of Japanese culture.
Going ice fishing in a hole in a frozen lake was fun too.
-What were the most appealing aspects of your Fukushima trip that you want to tell your fans about?
Cody: The main thing is that there are so many amazing ski areas in Japan that are unknown to the rest of the world. Even professional skiers like me only know two places, and they’re Niseko and Hakuba. This was my first trip to Fukushima and I discovered so many new things, from the perfect powder to beautiful scenery and so many ski areas. It’s incredible. Fukushima really is a world-class ski area.
I have been taking pictures of the ski areas and taking GPS locations because I am thinking that have got to come back! It doesn’t get any better than going to an almost private ski area and skiing on perfect powder. I want to come back the next time I am in Japan.