Maybe I was having a bad day after being soundly pole-axed by a tree at Hakuba 47 two days before, but like Happo, this resort delivered some disappointment.
After eventually working out which shuttle to catch from Wadano, we arrived at Tsugaike in heavy snow and very limited visibility. With a formidable gondola line we jumped on the nearby 'high-speed' pair and headed uphill or so we thought!
With the flat light further enhancing the lack of gradient, I keep thinking 'it'll get steeper soon', passed over a myriad of barely moving boarders. Finally disgorged by the chair, we must been at least 30m higher than the base! The next lift delivered much of the same, a quad that finished just as the terrain started to get interesting.
Eventually the massive gondola line delivered some vertical and more interesting terrain but even that trended downhill in its last few hundered metres. Spying some fresh powder, nice trees and no ropes up near the top terrain park, we indulged, however within seconds of dropping into the trees, a bilingual announcement blared over the PA declared 'Will the customers in the woods please return to courses immediately, you will be pursued by patrol!!'. I think the recent fatal accident at Tsugaike meant that patrol were being ultra-tight on any off-piste riding.
In summary I felt Tsugaike had acres of boring terrain and stacks of lifts that did'nt really go anyhwere. First time I've encountered a lift part way down a run that actually takes you over an uphill section. Pistes tended to have some short slightly steeper sections up high before vast gently angled to flat sections full of people falling over and much frustration. The low visibility didn't allow the whole mountain to be easily viewed, but after riding here I did find it hard to believe the claims this place has the second highest vertical in the valley.
Certainly a great place for beginners, but overall I felt Tsugaike didn't deliver the goods and could a be a whole lot better with some more controlled back-country access and advanced terrain.
From 17 February, 2008
Snow condition on visit:
10-20cm of fresh powder off-piste, snowing solidly almost all day, limited visibility
Things I liked:
Large area, no shortage of snow, terrain potential of piste.
Things I didn't like:
Poorly planned lifts, miles of open, almost flat slopes, very strict off-piste policy.