Urabandai Nekoma Ski Resort
At Nekoma Ski Resort you can ski like a demonic cat even though you’re a dog (a powder hound). Nekoma, which loosely translates to “demonic cat”, is a ski resort where powder hounds can revel in the powder amongst the trees with no competition from gaijin or other powder punters.
Nekoma Ski and Snowboard Terrain
At Nekoma you could potentially experience a little déjà vu if you’ve visited other non-westernised ski resorts in Honshu. Many of them feel a bit the same and it’s not just the chicken katsu curry for lunch: small terrain size below the treeline; an even spread of trails for beginners, intermediates and advanced riders; and some trees to play in when the patrollers aren’t looking.
The Urabandai Nekoma Ski Resort has 68 hectares of piste terrain across only 311 metres of vertical (1,027 - 1,338m), 10 courses and 8 chair lifts (1 hooded fast quad, 1 fast triple hooded chair, 5 doubles & 1 single).
With a terrain split of 30% beginners, 30% intermediates, and 40% advanced, Nekoma has a slightly greater bias towards black runs and is a fraction steeper than some of the other Bandai ski resorts. However there’s no need to start plans to make an extreme skiing video, because it’s not super steep and the two “steepest” black runs have a maximum gradient of only 33 degrees. What’s scary about these runs (especially for snowboarders) is that they are typically a mess of moguls, even if it’s called a “powder course”!
Like most Japan ski resorts, the real fun for advanced skiers and snowboarders is in the trees. Urabandai Nekoma offers a good range of short but sweet lines in the off-piste areas (ie within resort boundaries) as well as the sidecountry (ie just outside the resort boundaries). Short hikes up to the peak open up even better and longer fall-line tree skiing. Officially off-piste skiing is banned, so major disretion is required.
One of the huge advantages of Urabandai Nekoma is that on weekdays in particular, you feel like you have your own private resort. There’s no competition for freshies in the trees, and unless there are school groups present, you’ll probably score fresh ‘roys at lunchtime too.
The Bandai ski resorts are not particularly high, so whilst the snow quantity and quality is generally very good, it’s generally not the super amazing powder that Japan is famous for. Pros for the Nekoma snow quality are that the elevation is a fraction higher than Alts Bandai
, and many of the slopes are north facing. As with its neighbours, the season starts pretty late but it tends to stay open longer.
Where is Nekoma?
Nekoma Ski Resort is situated on the north or back face (Ura-bandai) of Mount Bandai in the Fukushima Prefecture, 24km northwest of the Inawashiro town and train station. The Urabandai Nekoma Ski resort shouldn’t be confused with the Urabandai Ski Resort which is located next door.
Being on a multi-resort tour which includes transport or self-driving to Nekoma provides the most flexibility to travel around the area. Otherwise it’s easy enough to get there from Tokyo via train and bus:
- Tohoku Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Koriyama Station – 1:30 hours
- 65km shuttle bus ride to Nekoma – 2 hours
- for multi-day stays you’ll need to use lodging shuttles to travel to the resort each day
There are lots of other Bandai ski resorts nearby including Alts Bandai
(the two resorts are interconnected via Alts Snow Park and Resort buses), Inawashiro
, Gran Deco Snow Resort
, Minowa Snow Park
, Numajiri Ski Resort and Listel Ski Fantasia.
Urabandai Nekoma Accommodation
There is no lodging at the base of the ski resort, but the Nekoma Hotel with a hot spring and western beds is 4.5km away, and the very lovely Urabandai Royal Hotel
is only 8km away. This large Japanese style hotel has a fantastic onsen and very good food.
Urabandai Accommodation Listings
Ski Resort Facilities
All the Nekoma ski resort facilities are housed within a day lodge at the base of the ski area. Amenities include a restaurant upstairs with a good selection of Japanese fare, child care (no English speaking staff), ski school (private lessons in English if pre-arranged), ski and snowboard rentals, and a retail shop with souvenirs, snacks, and ski and snowboard gear including some Patagonia outerwear.
Summary of Pros and Cons of Nekoma Japan
- The Nekoma ski resort is pretty much deserted on weekdays so the powder (and ‘roys) will belong to you only.
- Nekoma is off the beaten track of international skiers and is not at all westernised. In combination with the nice local Japanese hotels and onsen, you’ll experience plenty of Japanese culture.
- Nekoma is just a small resort but it makes a fabulous adjunct to skiing at the various other resorts that flank Bandai-san.
Pro or Con Depending on Your Perspective
- There is no ski-in ski-out accommodation or on-mountain accommodation.
- If you’re looking for luxury shopping, day spas, sleigh rides, and vibrant nightlife, Nekoma should definitely not be on your bucket list. Nekoma is very low key (which is a pro for some).
- As a stand-alone ski resort, there’s probably only enough terrain variety for intermediate and advanced riders for a day or two.
- Negligible English is spoken at Nekoma and the nearby lodging.
- Like many other non-westernised Honshu ski resorts, you’re not allowed to ride the trees. You can wear an all-white outfit and hide from the patrollers, or if you’re on a tour the guides will have experience at negotiating this.
Tours That May Include Nekoma