I first visited Tengendai Kogen at the end of last season, during Golden Week. The weather was terrible then, but the place looked intriguing, so I wanted to go back some time. Which I did.
I hoped to hit during peak snow monster season, but suspect one week later (or maybe a couple of weeks earlier) would have been better, since I got there after some warm spells. As a result, while I could see some snow monsters looming above the hill from the slopes, they had retreated quite a way from arm's reach. There are apparently some hiking routes available to get into better snow monster patches at the tops of the mountains, but, well, I passed on the opportunity.
Anyway, the place consists of 3 romance pair lifts in a row, with the end of the top lift at 1800 m. This gives them pretty good snow and a long season. The layout is pretty narrow, with only 2 or three parallel routes to come down from each lift, and all the courses are groomed except for two, one at the very top, and one at the very bottom.
Though it was a Sunday, there wasn't much of a crowd, with most of the visitors being there for a slalom race. This left acres of corduroy to enjoy well into the afternoon. More corduroy than a 1970s science fiction convention.
Powder to the sides was a bit heavy in the morning, but lightened up as temperatures went down during the day. New snow started falling in the afternoon, adding a velvety layer. After this week's dump, it should be some pretty good conditions up there.
Some great views out over Yamagata. I could see Gassan in the distance, and was pretty sure I saw Mt. Zao beyond a lake of clouds.
There is a rest house midway up the hill, used to have a restaurant I think, but now just a fireplace (which was lit).
The bottom of the top lift is at 1590 meters, which is where Grandeco (on the other side of the mountain ridge) tops out, by law. Tengendai was built before environmental restrictions prohibited going above 1600 m in that area.
The topmost lift is rather long, and being a fixed chair lift, got to be a bit of a cold ride. But my favorite run ended up being to hit the ungroomed run from the top lift, cross over and zip down behind the mid-hill rest house, where there was almost a secret run (very few other tracks), but apparently legal, with corduroy and powder fields to either side, then cross over again to hit the other side of the middle lift. So ended up riding two lifts in a row much of the time. Quite a few boarders were taking the line under the top lift.
I noticed that the top two lifts have adjustable height wheel arms, like the lift at Gassan. Presumably they lower the arms for the summer scenic season. They could actually use a bit more height in the winter -- the snow had built up enough under the middle lift that there wasn't really enough clearance to ski under it without ducking where the course crosses over.
End of the day took the run down from the base of the ski area to the bottom ropeway station. This course is really a hairpin road that gets covered up in winter. Last season we were driven down it at the end of the day, which was a hairy ride. Much better to ski down it.
Overall, some fine views and good high-altitude snow conditions. Kind of slow lifts, but not much in the way of crowds. A good day was had.
From 08 February, 2015
Snow condition on visit:
Corduroy, with powder to the sides, and some fresh starting to fall in the afternoon.