A very nice little place Adatara Kogen turned out to be. Compact, but with plenty of trails of different types packed into the space, so lots of variety. Highlights include the ungroomed upper Andromeda course, with knee-high powder "moguls" (for freshies, pay 1,000 yen for first tracks in the morning), the Cassiopeia course which consists of a switchback track with powdery steeps between the straightaways, a pole bahn, a mogul bahn (but too early in the season, apparently -- for now it is just powder moguls a la upper Andromeda course), and another ungroomed run off the top of the recently extended Gold Line chair.
It is pretty easy to get to, about 20+ minutes off the expressway. On the way to the ski area you pass through Dake Onsen town, which looks like it could be a nice place to stay if doing a weekender. There is also a small hotel with onsen at the base of the ski area itself.
We went on a Saturday, and it was not very crowded at all. The parking is free, and they offer lots of discounts on tickets, rentals and lessons on their web page, so be sure to scour it carefully and print out the ones you need before you go. (They even have a discount for showing them a season ticket from any other ski area in the country, which is an interesting idea.)
The kid took a snowboarding lesson, and liked the teacher very much. The staff also nicely gave me a web discount for the lesson even though I had forgotten to print out the web coupon for it.
All in all, this place tickled my fancy. I will definitely go back.
From 15 January, 2011
Snow condition on visit:
Weather: Snowing, no wind. On piste: powder or groomed depending on course, no ice.