First things first--if you're a beginner, Tsugaike is a great place. Most of the resort, especially the bottom half, is very flat and well-groomed, with a pitch ranging from pancake flat to gently inclined. The broad, flat area at the base is well-served by numerous chairlifts.
However, for those of us with more vertiginous preferences, Tsugaike is sorely lacking. There is no sustained steep terrain, except out of bounds (will get back to that in a minute). The best skiing for more advanced skiers is in the forested slope below the upper part of the gondola. This treed area is open (ski patrol will not hassle you) and has nice, widely spaced deciduous trees with no tree wells to worry about. The pitch is not terribly steep, except for the upper 50 meters or so. Unfortunately it's all facing south, so it quickly gets turned to mank if exposed to the sun. If you stay off the steeper solar-facing aspects you can find some nice snow.
If you can manage the risk and feel comfortable in avalanche terrain, drop off the north side of the main ridge (opposite side from the gondola) which holds the best snow and steepest slopes on the mountain. The vertical is not very long, it feels a bit shorter than Cortina but nice and steep anyway. At the bottom of this ravine, it requires a bit of negotiation to get past the dam. After that unfortunately you have to go all the way back to the base area to get back to the upper mountain on the gondola.
Which brings me to the next issue, the lift system is quite poorly laid out. Instead of chairs and gondolas going up the mountain, they generally traverse across the terrain. Very strange and incomprehensible. It is a bit inefficient to do laps on the upper tree runs because of this.
Tsugaike is worth a visit if you're a beginner or intermediate. If you're interested in steep powder and/or lots of big fall-line backcountry terrain, don't bother.
From January, 2014 To January, 2014
Snow condition on visit:
Powder, 50cm over the previous two days
Things I liked:
Nice views, decent tree skiing, patrol seems laid-back (at least when I was there)
Things I didn't like:
Poorly planned lift system, generally flat, long lineups on the gondola, small terrain for such a big resort