This mountian is a gem in the rough. If you are living in the Niigata City area, and want to head somewhere for the day without spending a fortune on highway tolls, then Tainai is the place to go. Tainai's runs on the front side are mellow and wide, and offer up some great lines to the beginner. This side also has a couple of small one makes that offer ample air-time for would be sky junkies.
However, it is the backside of the mountain that gives it up for those who sometimes can't stay inside the orange. This is not meant to persuade anyone to go out of bounds, but for powder hounds who don't mind the risk of getting nabbed by the yellow suit donning patrol boys, it is the reason to go.
From the bottom, you'll have a choice of two lifts. If you're there on a weekday morning, you won't have to worry about crowds, as they are nonexistent. However, the Niigata and Murakami folks do tend to tumble in on weekends. Anyway, you'll have to make the call on the day you're there. If the night before saw a good dump, then you're in for more than a few good turns.
Taking the lift on the left brings you to a nice little run that provides a steep, ungroomed course on an open face. To get to it, stick to the left of the piste and you can't miss it. This run is easy to spot from the lift lines and will get tracked up quickly. Best to hit it first and move on to lesser accessible runs later.
If you're into the rope duck, continue down from the run and you'll end up right next to the lift that took you up, but be careful, as you are easy prey for the patrol. Once you've tracked that section out, take the opposite lift on the same side. This brings you a little higher up the mountain where you can choose to make the connecting lift that gently takes you to the top of Tainai, which isn't anything special. The goods are down low. From the lift, make a hard left and head down. You'll go under some not too scenic, but all too familiar power lines, and down the groomed course. If you stick to the extreme left or right of this run, you can get some powder, but you might not have enough speed at the flat to hit the real deal. On the right of this is a course that is rarely open. Why? I don't know, but it is good. Duck under the orange and head DOWN. This is a ridge run of knee deep pow with a couple of convexes that provide great launch pads for super airs and soft landings.
If you've got a shovel, a kicker would send you even higher. Don't head off through the trees, as this will lead you to a real nasty day and maybe even season ending set of nar-nar rocks and a small creek. Just stick with the wide open powder field and get some sick turns. You'll be happy you did.
There are few more spots of joy on the backside, but I'm keeping those to myself. If you want em, find em yourself!
Not sure how this season is playing out at Tainai, but last year was great. I hit the described runs 4 times per week with no one but me and the monkeys. Yes, the ubiquitous saru are all over Tainai.
At break time, make sure to have the local beer. It's purty darned tasty. On the way back to Niigata, drive through Nakajo and look for a restaurant call Shicago. The spelling, like mine, is a little off, but the fried chicken and pork-cutlet Teishokus (sets) are wonderful.
That's it. If you live in Niigata, head out and enjoy. It's not a big place, but given a fresh dump and a weekday, you'll be stoked!
Snow condition on visit:
Little heavy, but the 2001 season provided lots of fresh dumps