Zao ski resort 蔵王スキー場
Skiing at a resort in Zao, Yamagata
Snow monsters at Zao ski resort
Credit: Jérôme Laborde
An outdoor foot onsen at Zao onsen
An alpine view at Zao ski resort
One of the cable cars to the summit
Relaxation and sensational slopes
Zao is the largest ski resort in northern Japan. Its slopes and "snow monsters" attract winter sports enthusiasts every year. Enjoy the exceptional setting!
Located in Yamagata prefecture, Zao Ski Resort has been one of the main ski complexes of the Tohoku region since 1925.
An ideal ClimateIn Zao, a rare climatic phenomenon, juhyo, also called snow monsters, assures you great snow all season. With the help of the wind, conifer trees are enveloped with snow and resemble snow sculptures. Skiing in the middle of these natural snowy landscapes is definitely an unforgettable experience. In addition, the sculptures are illuminated each evening to make the sight even more amazing. The resort has 26 trails with different routes, including one nine kilometers long. With varying levels of difficulty, the slopes are a delight for beginners and fans of black runs alike; the steepest of them is a dizzying 38 degrees! Three cable cars and 32 chairlifts are available to take you to the peaks: 780m at the bottom of the slopes and 1661m at the top. Plans for a ski jumping ramp are in the works, for international competitions.
Time to relax
After a good day on the powder, you'll want to relax. The complex offers a wide choice of restaurants, as well as onsen and accommodation. The village of Zao onsen has around sixty establishments, ranging from the simplest hotels to luxury ryokan. To relax completely, the ideal is to enjoy bathing in a hot spring, whose natural sulphurous water has therapeutic benefits. In Zao onsen, several kinds of baths are available: three-foot baths (free) and three public baths (200 yen), as well as five baths excluding accommodation (400-700 yen).
A weekend getawayWhile ski holidays in the West often last around one to two weeks, in Japan, they are generally shorter: it's often a weekend activity. The public transport system is highly developed, including night buses departing from the major centers (Tokyo, Shinjuku, Yokohama, Omiya...) for easy access. For example, you can leave in the evening after work, and arrive early in the morning at the foot of the slopes to fully enjoy a day on the slopes. The Ta-Q-bin system is handy for sending your own equipment in advance, and on-site shops also offer equipment for rent.
Rental prices for skis and snowboards are around 3,000 yen; for ski suits 3,000 yen; for a pair of shoes 1,500 yen.
Read also: Where to go for snow near Tokyo