Lifts & Terrain
The vertical of the Tenjindaira Ski Resort and the Tanigawadake ski terrain can be divided into 3 zones.
The Tanigawadake Ropeway rises from 750 to 1,319 metres and offers steep terrain below the treeline. One course drops just to skiers’ right of the ropeway and another further right (the top drops from one of the pair lifts), otherwise this area is one big off-piste paradise. It might be semantics as to whether you want to call this off-piste or sidecountry, but either way it’s only for advanced and expert riders, and those with backcountry safety gear and know-how, and ideally a guide. After a big snowfall it may take a while for the patrollers to open this area, and the patrollers’ attitude about heading into the sidecountry seems to change from year to year (or day to day).
Skiers’ right offers a myriad of lines in amongst the trees that are ideal for advanced riders and the snow quality is often pristine. Skier’s left is generally much steeper and more east facing, and it includes some treed areas as well as open areas that have been cleared out by big avalanches (such as avalanche gully).
The main part of the Tenjindaira Ski Area is serviced by 3-4 pair lifts from an elevation of 1,319 to 1,502 metres (183m). The ski resort is rather small. The middle lift (lift 1) services Tenjin Flat with 2 groomed beginner runs either side of the lift. Lifts 2 and 3 run in parallel although one of them doesn’t usually run, servicing one intermediate groomed run. Lift 4 provides access to one groomed intermediate run, and an ungroomed powder bowl for strong intermediate to advanced riders (maximum gradient of 38 degrees). Depending on snow cover, this area has some good terrain features for a bit of leaping.
Beginners and intermediates can download the Tanigawadake ropeway at the end of the day.
Above the lifts is the Tanigawa-dake backcountry (1,502- 1,977m) which is mostly big mountain alpine terrain that includes super steeps, chutes and cliffs. When there’s a weather window, you can hike up the ridge and drop in anywhere it looks tasty (and safe) and end up down in the ropeway area. Needless to say, it’s often rather avalanche prone.
Tenjindaira Snow and Weather
The Tenjindaira weather is your friend and enemy. Big storms bring big snowfalls, which are generally accompanied by big winds that may close the lifts and leave zero visibility. Yet on those rare fine days, the views are spectacular (that’s of course if you can see past the face shots)! Keep a close eye on the weather (it tends to receive the Yuzawa weather patterns) because it can come in fast.
The Tenjin snow volumes are huge and the powder is generally of very high quality, in part due to the high elevation of the resort (750-1,500 metres) and the mostly northeast facing slopes. This also results in a long season from late November through to May.
The Tanigawadake Ropeway isn’t a cable car (as a ropeway typically equates to in Japan), but a funitel with two cables that makes it better able to tolerate higher wind speeds (there is also a funitel at Squaw Valley in California). The Tanigawadake Ropeway is rather modern and it moves at a decent speed, so lift capacity is definitely not a problem. It even has some nice seats in case you legs are toasted from too much pow riding!
The pair lifts are fixed grip chair lifts, but thankfully they’re not super slow. There are no safety bars on the chair lifts.
Lift tickets now cover both the Tanigawadake Ropeway and the chair lifts, and they are reasonably inexpensive. They also have lift and lunch tickets where you effectively get a free soft drink. And a bonus for those with XX chromosome is the ladies discounts. A double bonus is that Tanigawadake Tenjindaira accepts credit card payments for lift ticket purchases.