When planning your ski or snowboard trip to Japan there are lots of things to take into consideration for choosing your destination of choice. Of all the questions you might ask when choosing a resort in Nagano, there is perhaps one which stands above all others – which resort has the best powder snow?
The long answer to that question is, well, long… and debatable. The short answer is, Shiga Kogen. Shiga is Japan’s largest ski resort and has long been regarded as having Nagano’s best and most reliable powder. This is clearly a subjective judgement and of course dependent on personal experience, however the claim to having the best powder in Nagano (if not, all of Japan) is also based simple facts – the topography and elevation of the resort.
Nestled within the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, the ski fields of Shiga Kogen are enclosed on all sides by high mountain ranges. This landscape protects it from warm southern winds coming from the Pacific Ocean, which increase temperatures, melt snow, and result in heavier, wetter snow experienced at some other resorts.
At the same time, Shiga is subjected to very cold winds originating as far away as Siberia and coming across the Sea of Japan. These winds are extremely strong and cold, and hit the higher elevations of Shiga keeping temperatures very cold throughout winter.
These conditions result in very dry powder snow which stays on the ground for longer and in better condition than most others resorts. Shiga Kogen makes the most of its powder by intentionally leaving many ski areas ungroomed the morning after a fresh dump of snow. For true powderhounds, hitting the slopes early and heading to areas including Terakoya, Ichinose Family, Ichinose Diamond, and Higashitateyama, guarantees virgin snow to carve and burst through at your pleasure! In addition, Takamagahara and Maruike have runs that are permanently left ungroomed.
Shiga Kogen’s elevation and topography also allows for a longer season than most other resorts – typically open from early-December to late-April/early-May. Despite its size (or perhaps because of it!), Shiga is less developed and quieter than nearby resorts including Nozawa Onsen and those in Hakuba Valley, and retains a uniquely Japanese character.
While it has a lower profile for international visitors than those resorts, Shiga Kogen is extremely popular with locals who will regularly tell you that it’s the best resort in both Nagano and Japan.
Ultimately there’s only one way to decide for yourself. Book your trip. Pack your bags. Hit that powder!
Multi-day Ski Packages
Snow Monkey Resorts is Nagano’s No.1 Tour operator, offering both 3 night/4 day and 5 night/6 day ski and snowboard packages in Shiga Kogen – the most convenient way to get the most out of your winter adventure in Japan!
Including all-mountain lift passes for the duration of your stay, accommodation at Hotel Mount Shiga, a fine dining experience at ‘Hotaru-tei’ (one of the region’s most renowned restaurants), guided visit to the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, and transport from/to JR Nagano Station, our convenient packages take the hassle out of planning your trip and combine the best of Shiga Kogen with all that this beautiful region has to offer!
For visitors wanting to get the most out of their visit to Shiga, and explore all it has to offer, we recommend staying in the most central area, Ichinose Village. Hotel Mount Shiga is a great choice of accommodation in the village offering guests warm and friendly service, both Western and Japanese-style rooms, meal service, and ski hire and tickets.
Hotel Mount Shiga is one of the few guesthouses in Shiga Kogen with its own, in-house ‘onsen’ (natural hot spring) for the exclusive use of guests. At the end of the day on the mountain there is no better way to unwind, relax, and prime yourself for the next day than soaking in the thermal waters, bubbling up from deep below. A huge part of local culture, indulging in onsen is one of the highlights of skiing and snowboarding in Japan!
Easily accessible by public transport and private vehicle, Hotel Mount Shiga is a great option for those looking for a traditional Japanese ski lodge in the heart of the action.
Shiga Kogen is easily accessible using the Nagaden Dentetsu (Nagaden) train line followed by a local bus from JR Yudanaka Station or a direct express bus from JR Nagano Station. For more detailed access information please refer to our earlier article explaining how to make the journey to Shiga Kogen by public transport.
Snow Monkey Resorts Charters
Locally-based and fully accredited, Snow Monkey Resorts is Nagano’s most reliable charter operator operating a range of vehicles suitable for individuals, couples, and families, and groups of up to 44 individuals.
For further information regarding your options please refer to our Charter Services page. Let us worry about the roads and your luggage, so you can focus on what you came here for – mountains, powder, and the endless runs of Shiga Kogen!