With winter fast approaching it’s time to get serious and decide where you’re headed! The big question for many people coming to Japan is which region best fits their needs – Nagano or Hokkaido? Both destinations are fantastic and promise some of the best snow conditions in the world. You really can’t go wrong with either but for the reasons outlined in our previous blog we recommend choosing Nagano.
As the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano’s credentials speak for themselves. Home to more than 30 independent resorts, deep powder, friendly locals, and great food, the resorts of Nagano are within easy access of the Tokyo airports and JR Nagano Station (via the Hokuriku Shinkansen).
Among Nagano’s many resorts, Shiga Kogen stands-out for many reasons. It is Japan’s largest resort with 79 courses interconnected by 51 chairlifts and gondolas giving skiers and snowboarders more than 600 hectares of terrain to explore over 18 ski areas – all covered by an all-mountain pass. It takes days to explore the whole resort on “ski safari”, making Shiga a great destination for visitors seeking a multi-day snow adventure.
Another big appeal of Shiga is it’s snow, regarded as the best powder in Nagano! The quality of Shiga Kogen’s snow comes down to three important factors 1. its more central location away from the coast, 2. its natural topography, and 3. its altitude.
Nagano’s cold and snowy winter weather has its origins as faraway as Siberia. As the the cold winds move over the Sea of Japan they pickup moisture before hitting the Japanese mainland and dropping huge amounts of snow on Nagano. Moving from west to east the air gradually losses moisture as it moves overland, ultimately dropping the driest powder on the inland resort of Shiga Kogen.
Shiga’s topography – cradled between mountains on all sides – then protects the snow from winds that would otherwise make it icy over time. Added to this, Shiga’s higher elevation compared to other resorts keeps temperatures lower, the air is drier, and limits rainfall meaning that the snow remains in better condition for longer. All of this means that not only is Shiga Kogen known for the best powder in Nagano, it also has more reliable snow conditions and a notably longer season than many other resorts.
Not only does Shiga Kogen have Japan’s highest chairlift ski run at 2307 meters, the base altitude is also notably higher than other resorts at 1340 meters. To put that in perspective, the majority of nearby Nozawa Onsen (565 to 1650 meters) and (effectively) the entire resort of Madarao (910 to 1350 meters) are located below Shiga’s lowest ski areas.
The expansive Hakuba Valley (700 to 1831 meters) and less developed Myoko Kogen (650 to 1855 meters) are made-up of independent resorts which are largely not connected to each other, meaning that even the resorts with higher elevations are limited in size. Notably, even at their highest elevations both Hakuba and Myoko are still 500 meters below Shiga Kogen’s peak ski area – Yokoteyama.
Shiga’s higher elevation makes it unique. Accessed via a long, winding mountain road your ascent to the vast ski fields above marks a transition into a winter landscape which feels separate to and isolated from the world below. And on those warmer winter days when the resorts below are receiving rainfall, the higher elevation of Shiga means it is most likely experiencing dry conditions or even more snow!
In every sense, Shiga Kogen really is bigger, higher, and better!
Getting to Shiga Kogen
Shiga is accessible by public transport from Tokyo and its airports or via JR Nagano Station using the express bus service or train. For visitors wanting the convenience and comfort of their own transport directly to Shiga Kogen (including transfers to and between other Nagano resorts), Snow Monkey Resorts operates a fleet of charter vehicles suitable for single travelers, couples and families, and groups of up to 45 persons.
As a locally-based tour and charter operator, our vehicles and drivers are fully accredited and the best way to get yourself to Shiga and beyond this winter.