Japan’s biggest resort area
It’s become common knowledge that Japan has a number of impressive powder resorts, all vying for attention with their huge snowfalls, relaxing hot springs, and exceptionally good local cuisine. There’s only one though, that comes complete with snow monkeys.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Shiga Kogen resort area in Nagano Prefecture. For skiers and boarders, it’s like going to a music festival with more great bands than you can physically manage to see.
As well as the snow monkeys, the bill at Shiga Kogen features 19 different resort areas across 400ha of snowy land, which lies at altitudes of between 1,340m and 2,307m within Joshin’etsu Kogen National Park. The 52 lifts and gondolas that connect to all courses and the inter-resort shuttle buses can be accessed with one single pass. Their season is one of Japan’s longest, beginning in mid November and continuing in the uppermost areas through until late May, and they are accessible from Tokyo by bullet train and bus in just over three hours.
To satisfy serious powder skiers and boarders, Shiga Kogen implements a no-grooming policy the morning after a fresh dump at its Terakoya, Ichinose Family, Ichinose Diamond, Higashidateyama and Nishidateyama resorts, while there are permanently non-groomed slopes at its Takamagahara and Mauruike resorts.
Yokoteyama Ski Resort is home to Japan’s highest ski field and highest slopes in Shiga Kogen. Seeing juhyo or frost-covered trees known as snow monsters – a rare natural phenomenon – adds to the excitement of skiing down from the 2,307 summit of Mt Yokote. Yokoteyama is a mecca for riders hungry for a taste of quality powder all season long.
The most expansive and well-developed of Shiga Kogen’s resorts is Yakebitaiyama, which has 19 courses connected by two gondolas and two high speed chairlifts, as well as a terrain park. Experienced riders will enjoy the challenge of its Olympic Course – specially constructed for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics – and Expert Course, which has a cartwheel-inducing 39º incline.
Recently, Shiga Kogen was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which are known as UNESCO Eco Parks in Japan. The area has been loved by skiers since 1960, and although it has undergone many man-made developments, most of Shiga Kogen has been maintained in its natural state. The surrounding environment is well looked after and maintained to live up to its title as a Biosphere Reserve. Shiga Kogen is also pursuing a ecologically friendly way to develop and enjoy all that the area has to offer to encourange eco tourism in the area.
Accommodation options in Shiga Kogen are as vast as the resort area itself. In addition to the convenience and comfort of plush ski-in, ski-out hotels, there are a number of traditional Japanese hot spring inns located in towns and villages inside the resort area, like Yamanouchi, Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen.
The inns are a great opportunity to experience an outstanding kaiseki degustation banquet prepared with the seasonal produce of Nagano Prefecture, which can include delicious salmon, beef and mountain vegetables. They make superb bases to enjoy the powder at a variety of resorts, visit must-see attractions in the area like the snow monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park, boutique breweries and restaurants, returning at the end of the day to the luxury of a steaming hot spring bath.
How close is Shiga Kogen to?
Tokyo: 3 hrs 10 min (car)
Osaka: 4 hrs 45 min (train)
Challenge yourself and try everything at Shiga Kogen’s finest ski area
The variety of slopes and the quality of snow in the Shiga Kogen Central Area will turn any skier into a kid in a snowy candy shop – there’s so much to try. Located right in the middle of Shiga Kogen, this area takes up approximately two thirds of Shiga Kogen. With 13 ski fields and 26 lifts, riders of all levels can pick and choose the right aisle of candy for them.
Both Maruike Ski Field and Ichinose Diamond Ski Field have safe and fantastic kids areas that parents ski close to. From there it’s an easy walk to the Yakebitaiyama Ski Resort, and both Kumanoyu and Yokoteyama Ski Fields are just a shuttle bus ride away. The majority of the ski fields have a high altitude of over 1,500m that comes with grand, mountainous views. One of the highest peaks in the area is the Terakoya Ski Field, where you can enjoy a fantastic panoramic view. Another perk to be enjoyed is the dry powder that falls here, thanks to the unique topography of the ski field. Most of the courses here are very lengthy and satisfying to ski down. The Higashidateyama Ski Field is one of the longest of the bunch, and its advanced course for experienced skiers has been used for the Olympics. In contrast to the Higashidateyama Ski Fields, the Tanneno Mori Okojo Ski Field has a more relaxed atmosphere suitable for beginners.
• Snow depth– December 150cm, January 250cm, February 280cm, March 250cm, April 150cm
• Terrain – Beg 40%, Int 40%, Adv 20%
• Longest run 8.0km
• Gondolas 1
• Chairlifts 25
• Vertical drop 785m
• Steepest slope 36°
|1||Sunvalley Ski Field||3|
|2||Maruike Ski Field||2|
|3||Hasuike Ski Field||1|
|4||Giant Ski Field||1|
|5||Hoppo Bunadaira Ski Field||2|
|6||Nishidateyama Ski Field||3|
|7||Higashidateyama Ski Field||1|
|8||Terakoya Ski Field||2|
|9||Takamagahara Mammoth Ski Field||3|
|10||Tanneno Mori Okojo Ski Field||1|
|11||Ichinose Family Ski Field||4|
|12||Ichinose Diamond Ski Field||2|
|13||Ichinose Yamanokami Ski Field||1|
*Total ski field area: 274 ha