I’d visited Tsugaike in Dec 2011 [http://www.snowjapan.com/japan-ski-resort-reviews/detail/1998] albeit only for a morning, but had liked what I had seen so was looking forward to a return visit, aided by the free lift ticket I’d received from those kind people at SJ so a big thanks to them and Alpen Resorts.
As previously, I took the free shuttle bus from Happo Information Centre (which goes via Hakuba Iwatake) and was soon heading up the Central Triple Chair Lift at the Tsugaike base. The sun was out and so was the helicopter that runs heli-skiing tours, which would be a fun option one day as there aren't too many heli-operations in Japan. I’m not sure how the snow would have been higher up but it was definitely Spring conditions lower down. I was on beginner-teaching duty so spent the morning lapping the Karamatsu and Oya-no-hara slopes, which are nice and wide and therefore perfect for beginners. Being a Wednesday in March, is was also not very busy on the slopes. Had an ok lunch at the bright yellow-coloured pizza/curry restaurant on the skier's left side of the piste - a clever choice of colour as that place always catches me eye from the chairlift!!
I then met up with fellow SJ'er Chris(elle) and headed up the gondola for a quick sortie of the top runs. On my last visit to Tsugaike the top of the resort had been shrouded in cloud so it was good to finally see it and imagine what the heli-skiing accessed runs are like. As we surveyed the scene Chris thought that a large pylon-like structure looked like a ropeway, which I quickly dismissed but then, sure enough, we spotted a cable car!
Clearly further investigation was required so we made our way over to the ropeway station to be told that it starts running from the beginning of March and costs an additional 700Yen to ride. Sadly it had just closed for the day but is now definitely on this reviewer’s hit-list.
We then did a top-to-bottom run but by now the slopes had become treacle-like so we called it a day. Once again I had enjoyed Tsugaike and the discovery of that top ropeway means I will definitely be returning! Thanks again to SnowJapan and Alpen Resorts for my ticket.
From 20 March, 2013
Snow condition on visit:
Spring conditions - slushy in the morning and treacle in the afternoon!