Having won one of the Snow Japan draws, I was eagerly waiting for a decent day to head on up to Sugadaira. The forecast for Saturday was for mixed sun/cloud and a bit of wind, so....packed both Shore-lets in the car, and off we went. After a 30 minute detour caused by a snow-closed road ( who thought too much snow could be a bad thing?) we arrived at Sugadaira, and were greeted by bluebird skies, and lighter winds than I expected. The base area was a little confusing, with a multitude of parking lots, but we got ourselves and our tickets sorted soon enough. IC cards for the lift tickets, and cash only at the window.
The first ride up was with a detachable triple, which got us to the top of what turned out to be Taroyama, and gave a fine view of the Davos area on one side, and Pine Peak on the other. We slowly worked our way around Taro, riding all of the lifts in turn, but staying away from the steeper runs, and then the Shorelets decided that they wanted to ski through the tunnel over to Davos.
Davos turned out to be the sunny side of the mountain, so we had lunch and stayed there until the lifts closed. It was mainly wide-open runs, with great views of the valleys below. At the top of lift #1, there was the possibility of taking a further snow-cat ride to the top of Neko-dake. As it was ¥2800, and Shorelet 2 is still at the snowplough stage, it wasn't worth the money - but if I were by myself, it looked like a great descent through open snowfields into large glades. Although the snowpack was advertised as 'only' 150 cm, it seemed like a lot more, and I certainly didn't notice any rocks or suchlike poking through the snow - even in areas where it seemed like the snow should have been scraped off a little by skier activity.
Sadly, we didn't get over to the third area of the resort, Pine Peak. It is connected by bus to the other areas, and the Shorelets were not interested in stopping, taking off their skis, and waiting to go and ski 'over there' when there was skiing to be done 'here.' That being said, it looked, from across the valley, to offer much the same as to two other areas.
There are, to my mind, a few annoyances, though. Firstly, it was really frustrating to watch the lifties wave singles and doubles onto a quad chair, especially while waiting in line for said chair. Minimum of three per chair if there's a lineup, please! Also, the mountain tops are a little flat, and so there was a bit of poling/ skating required when transiting from one area to another. No biggie, but I did end up towing Shorelet 2 a few times...
Can't speak to the après-ski scene, as we did a day trip from Nagano city...
Overall, I really liked Sugadaira. They've spent some money upgrading some of their chairs, there were lots of little restaurants scattered around, and the terrain, while largely beginner and intermediate, did offer some steeps/moguls for the advanced skier. I think that it would be best served by a multi-day visit, in which you could spend a day or two at each mountain, and thoroughly explore it. It would be a great area for a family ski trip, as there were a few different ski/snowboard schools, great beginner/intermediate terrain, and enough difficult terrain to keep the experts occupied for a while. The Shores will return.
a BIG THANK-YOU! to SnowJapan for organizing the contest (and website) and to Sugadaira for offering up a ticket!
From 18 January, 2015
Snow condition on visit:
Trace of fresh on soft groomed..
Things I liked:
Large area - lots of different runs. Opportunities for off-piste.
Things I didn't like:
Poling/skating at transitions. Lifts running at 70% capacity due to poor loading
Authentic Japan experience