Intriguing. Want to visit again under better conditions.
The second (and final) stop after Gassan on our Golden Week tour was Tengendai Kogen, in Yonezawa, Yamagata. The weather forecast for that day was... not so great. Wind and rain setting in. Was tempted to take in some historical sites instead, but the kid was adamant about trying somewhere new, even if the weather sucked. Doesn't take much to convince me, so off we went.
Went through Shirabu Onsen, to the base of the Tengendai Ropeway. Surprisingly small parking lot.
Rain was falling in fits, but decided to go all cats and dogs while we were riding the ropeway up. Wind also kicked in, stopping our ropeway car a few times on the way up. The ropeway operator said that it was not rare for the weather at the bottom and top of the ropeway to be completely different: above windy and below still, or vice versa.
Anyway, managed to reach the top after a few stops, amid driving rain.
Headed to the restaurant, where the other 5-10 people there that day were hanging out, waiting for the weather to clear. Not an auspicious start, but we knew that going in, so could only laugh at the whole situation.
Pretty soon the wind and rain settled down, and we ventured out.
Tengendai Kogen is at a fairly high altitude, with the base at 1300 meters, and the top around 1800. The top was socked in all day, so we did not make it up there. The bottom half is pretty well developed, even sporting a pension mura.
We got in a couple of hours of skiing/boarding before the weather turned bad again, and it was... surprisingly good!
First of all, the snow quality was better than it had been at Gassan the previous day. The snow was firmer, with just enough looseness on the top layer, to make the whole thing feel... almost floaty, if that makes any sense. Effortless carving, crisp yet forgiving surface. The weather certainly sucked compared to the previous day at Gassan, but the snow quality actually went a long way towards making up for it.
Second of all, the views, when we could see them, seemed pretty dramatic. Tengendai Kogen gives a very unique platform-above-the-clouds feeling. Can only imagine what it would look like on a clear day.
But, eventually, the weather came back with a vengeance. After lunch, we headed out again, just as the wind and rain kicked in and stopped the lifts.
So after that post-prandial run, we decided to head to the ropeway station to head back down -- as did most of the other customers there that day.
Unfortunately, the ropeway was on wind hold, which gave plenty of time to check out the station and surrounds, which includes a shrine with the face of a white monkey carved into a boulder next to it. Monkeys abound in the area, apparently, though we didn't see any.
Tengendai Kogen apparently started out as a sulphur mine! Once supporting a population 2,000 miners and family members. Now there is a pension mura where the mine workers' houses used to be.
While waiting for the ropeway to start again, I fell into talking with a skier from Fukui, who was on his yearly spring-skiing tour of northern Honshu. He had visited Okutadami Maruyama, Iwaki-san, Hakkoda, Appi Kogen and Gassan before coming to Tengendai Kogen. He said that he always comes to Tengendai every year, and said that the spring snow condition was better there than anywhere else he had visited on this tour. He was heading to Marunuma Kogen and Happo-One on his way back home after Tengendai Kogen.
Eventually, the resort staff drove us down the hill, on a single-lane switchback road that serves as a ski trail in the winter, to get back to the (still wind-stalled) ropeway station. There we purchased some commemorative stickers, and headed home.
All in all, though we did not see the place at its best, I have to admit to being rather intrigued by Tengendai Kogen, and would like to visit it again in proper winter. The atmosphere of the place is very pleasant, everybody very nice. From photos, it looks like good powder and snow monsters can be expected in season. The place seems to hold promise. Maybe next year?
From 30 April, 2014
Snow condition on visit:
Surprisingly excellent spring snow -- under absolutely horrible, driving rain.
Things I liked:
Spring snow, views.
Things I didn't like:
Families & children