Tanigawadake Tenjindaira Ski Resort
The Tenjindaira Ski Resort has been somewhat of a well kept secret relative to the sea of high profile Japan ski resorts, so shhhh let’s keep it that way! The Tanigawadake Tenjindaira Ski Resort is a mouthful, so it’s not surprising that the locals just call it Tenjin.
Tenjindaira is renowned for receiving massive amounts of snow, and during the 2014-2015 season it scored 17 metres of Ja-pow! Tenjin daira in the ancient Japanese language means “powder paradise”. OK maybe that’s not quite truthful, but “tenjin” does mean a “sky or weather god”. And Tanigawadake Tenjin certainly gets the weather in full force – all that snow doesn’t come from fine weather!
Meanwhile the Tanigawa-dake backcountry that’s easy accessible from the Tenjin Ski Resort is simultaneously famous and infamous. There is a huge range of backcountry terrain ranging from mellow trees to super steep chutes and cliffs. The legendary mountain offers snow porn at its best, and associated with the avalanche of hype about the terrain are well….. avalanches. The risks are high and one of the main lines, Nishi Kurosawa aka Tenjin Bowling Alley or Avalanche Gully, is very aptly named!
Tenjindaira Ski and Snowboard Terrain
After heading up the Tanigawadake ropeway (gondola) you get to the actual Tenjindaira Snow Resort, which is very small. It only has 9 courses, some of which are groomed, and 3 pair lifts. The middle lift at Tenjin Flat as the name suggests, offers novice terrain. One of the lifts services one intermediate run, whilst the other chair lift offers an ungroomed bowl for strong intermediate to advanced riders. The official trail stats are 30% beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% advanced, but you can pretty much ignore the statistics because they mean very little!
Beginners and intermediates will need to download the ropeway/gondola at the end of the day, whilst others can use the ungroomed slope that heads down into the valley.
Most people don’t come to the Tenjin Ski Resort to ride in the little ski area; they come to check out the amazing sidecountry and backcountry. The chairlift of joy takes you to a ridge where the world is your oyster, either to drop down into the north facing birch trees that are powder laden, or to head up into the big alpine mountain terrain. There’s variability regarding the ski patrollers’ desire to let you go out-of-bounds, so try to be discrete. Also this is not backcountry for newbies. There’s often mega avalanche risk and the propensity for the weather to rapidly change also results in incidents. You need a guide as a bare minimum.
Where is Tanigawadake Tenjindaira?
Tenjin Ski Resort and the associated Mt Tanigawa are located deep in the Joetsu National Park. The base of the Tanigawadake ropeway is 9km north of the town of Minakami (in far north Gunma) and 40km by road southeast of Yuzawa
(Niigata Prefecture) and its many ski resorts.
There is no on-mountain accommodation at Tanigawadake Tenjindaira. Tenjin Lodge
is the closest lodging to the ski area; about 800 metres down the road from the ropeway building. The simple, reasonably priced rooms are either Western or Japanese style, with hot water available in a shared bathroom. Other bonuses of staying here are that the owner can provide guiding, and they rent out ski and snowboard equipment, including backcountry safety gear.
Otherwise you can stay in the town of Minakami, with various hotels to choose from including the very high quality Ryokan Tanigawa
with its beautiful Japanese rooms, onsens and the option of fine kaiseki dinners.
Or you could stay at the Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku
, which is 5km away from Houdaigi Ski Resort and 17km northeast of Tenjindaira. This old ryokan is located at the very famous Takaragawa Onsen (one of the largest outdoor hot springs in Japan) and offers very traditional Japanese style tatami rooms.
Minakami Accommodation Listings
Summary of Pros and Cons of Tenjin
- A major attraction is the easy access to the backcountry that has lots of terrain variety, much of which is steep.
- Tenjindaira is blessed with a lot of Japow and it’s generally of great quality thanks to elevation and a favourable aspect.
- The combination of steep big mountain terrain and big snowfalls is somewhat rare for Japan skiing and snowboarding. If your trip coincides with fine weather, you’re in for a treat!
- The ski area is good for beginners, unless of course it’s a deep powder day!
- Tenjin’s a fabulous place to get away from the hubbub and hordes of the high profile ski resorts.
- Tenjin is notorious for its nasty weather in the height of winter. If the weather hits in full force, you’re relegated to the tiny ski resort, that’s of course if the lifts are running.
- The lifts are often slow to open after a big dump, but just relax, the powder aint going anywhere.
- There’s negligible on offer if you’re not a beginner or hardcore backcountry rider.
- If you hate deep powder, don’t go here (actually stop reading this website!)
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
- Besides the skiing and snowboarding, there’s not much to do except have an onsen, go snowshoeing, and have a quiet beer at the lodge.
Tours That May Include Tenjindaira