After very negative experiences at Happo and Tsugaike, I was very pleased with Iwatake. Certainly my favourite of the three 'Alpen Co' resorts and probaly the best of the five that I hit up in the valley while there. (Did'nt get to Cortina area so can't comment).
Iwatake flows much better as a resort, lift system seems well planned, no walking needed, shuttle bus was easy from Wadano and the terrain offered much more diversity in the way of natural features and safe off-piste.
While the crowds where bustling around the Gondola terminus, we found plenty of fresh lines, terrain features and nice powder for our last full day of riding in Japan. Did'nt see as many westerners as Happo and Goryu/47 but swarms of Japanese snowboarders well outnumbering skiers. Highlights were fresh powder on all the upper black runs, the big natural half pipe feature over the back (best natural feature in-bounds in Hakuba I thought) and seeing a deer feeding under the gondola.
The short, narrow section of formed cat track that provides the main thoroughfare between the upper and lower mountain did prove to be a major bottleneck at peak times.
Iwatake was a great days riding and I felt provided as much or more good boarding terrain than Goryu and 47 combined.
From 18 February, 2008
Snow condition on visit:
Medium packed groomers, fresh and chopped medium density powder off-piste.
Things I liked:
Terrain diversity, more efficient lift system, off-piste areas.
Things I didn't like:
Madhouse on main lower runs, bottleneck cat track between upper and lower section, run by same company as Happo.