Consisting of 18 ski areas – some large, some small – Shiga Kogen is Japan’s largest mountain resort spread through the peaks and gullies of Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. The expansive resort is less developed than other popular Nagano destinations such as Hakuba Valley and Nozawa Onsen, and away from the central areas, skiers and snowboarders often find themselves alone on empty runs of powder.
Shiga feels wild, with monkeys and ‘kamoshika’ (a native Japanese black deer) a common sight among the trees or dashing across the runs; and for this reason, locals affectionately refer to taking-on “Ski Safari” when navigating across the resort – from one side to the other, taking in all areas and as many runs as possible. With 79 courses to carve up and Nagano’s best powder on offer, there’s plenty to explore so it’s time to map-out just how to take yourself on Ski Safari at Shiga!
Maruike & Sunvalley [Yellow Zone]
These two ski areas are the first that you’ll come to when ascending the mountain road that leads to the resort (approximately 30-35 minutes drive from Yudanaka Station). The Nagaden Express Bus (direct from JR Nagano Station) and both local buses (running from Yudanaka Station) stop at the Hasuike Bus Terminal, so it really is the best place to begin!
The runs in this area are quite short, split between 20% beginner, 40% intermediate, and 20% advanced. The Maruike Course is the longest at 800 meters with the highest point being 1585 meters in Sun Valley. These areas are the lowest ski fields of Shiga Kogen and the gateway to the higher and bigger areas that await!
Giant, Nishitateyama & Hoppo Bunadaira [Red Zone]
From there, it’s time to head toward the central areas of the resort and dropping into Giant, Nishitateyama and Hoppo Bunadaira by making your way past the frozen lake between the Hasuike Mountain Station and Shiga Lake Hotel. There’s a flat trail along the backside of the frozen lake, which will suddenly drop, with a twisting trail down to Giant below!
Giant is a big, open run and the first taste of the wider, steeper, and longer – with the longest stretching to over 1700 meters – that are spread throughout the resort. Starting at Giant and then heading up the lifts to the top runs of Nishitateyama and Hopp will keep you engaged for a good while before heading further into Shiga.
Takamagahara, Higashidateyama & Terakoyayama [Orange Zone]
Dropping down the backside of Hoppo Bundadaira will bring you to the base of Takamagahara Mammoth, a wide run divided into beginner and intermediate courses. Plenty of fun to be had here but the real attraction is further up the mountain and the first of Shiga Kogen’s high peaks – Takamagahara at 1907 meters, Higashidateyama at 2000 meters, and Terakoyayama at 2215 meters.
From these runs you’ll get some of the best views of the expansive resort and landscape surrounding you, and in the midst of winter, when the sun is out and the sky is blue, the snow-wrapped trees in this peak area make the experience even more stunning.
Ichinose Family & Ichinose Diamond [Purple Zone]
By this point you’re probably getting hungry so it’s the perfect time to start from the top of Terakoya and make the run all the way down into the resorts most central and built-up areas of Ichinose Family and Ichinose Diamond.
Not only is it a great area to stop for lunch or a snack to recharge, Ichinose Village is the ideal area to base yourself when staying Shiga, offering numerous accommodation options including Hotel Mount Shiga (see below) and the greatest concentration of restaurants and bars in the resort.
Ichinose Family and Diamond are the busiest areas of the resort, popular with families and beginners so for intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders, these central areas might not hold your interest for long. But for lunch and as a base for accommodation and nightlife, there’s no better area in Shiga!
Ichinose Yamanokami & Yakebitaiyama [Green Zone]
Refueled and ready, it’s time to dive into the afternoon and some of the more distant reaches of the resort. By riding the short chairlift to the top of the Ichinose Diamond Course and heading to your right, you’ll be on a run that splits in two. Head to your left as the course winds its way down before it splits again, where you again go to the left and you’re quickly into the Yamanokami area. This is a picturesque spot, full of trees which when snowing, take on a magical quality, and the launching point into Yakebitaiyama.
Ascending to 2009 meters, Yakebitaiyama is one of the largest ski areas in Shiga Kogen, with long runs cutting through beautiful terrain suitable for all levels. With two gondolas stretching across approximately 2KM in distance each, Yakebitaiyama has plenty to keep you entertained for the afternoon including the Super Giant cross at 2350 meters. But there’s more to see…
Okushiga [Pink Zone]
As one of the furthest regions of Shiga Kogen, Okushiga is often quiet and runs are often empty. Most people never make it here. Good for you as it’s one of the best areas in the resort! Much like Yakebitaiyama, Okushiga has some great runs and trails that break-off from each other, and great side country through the trees, making Okushiga one of our favorite ski areas in all of Shiga.
To access Okushiga, take either gondola from the Yakebitaiyama side to the summit or midpoint and follow the trail signs that will lead you into Okushiga. From the base, a series of chairlifts will allow you to ride back to the summit to do it all again or jump-off a your favorite points along the runs!
If you’ve made it this far you’ve done well. You’ve covered a lot of Shiga on Day 1 of your Ski Safari and it will be getting late, so time to get going…
The sun is setting, where to now?
One option is staying in Okushiga which offers several accommodation options including ski in/ski out guesthouses. Okushiga’s distance from the resort’s central areas make this a great option for those wanting the morning runs all to themselves… and on those mornings of deep powder, there’s no better thing!
Another option is to head back toward the central area or your point of origin – Sun Valley – which is easily done using the free shuttle bus service that runs continuously in the resort through the day. For day-trippers, this is the best option to get yourself back to Sun Valley or the Hasuike bus stop, from where you can take local buses to Yudanaka Station or catch the express bus directly back to JR Nagano Station.
But for those wanting to experience all that Shiga has to offer and complete their Ski Safari on Day 2, you’ll have to stay overnight as there’s plenty you haven’t seen yet, including Shiga and Japan’s highest chair-lifted ski run on Yokoteyama – at 2307 meters. A great option for visitors looking for a traditional ski lodge in the center of the resort, Hotel Mt.Shiga is located Ichinose Village, a short walk from the shuttle bus stop, ski runs, and a number of restaurants and bars.
With in-house meal service including dinner and buffet breakfast, a range of Western and Japanese rooms, and ‘onsen’-style public bath, Hotel Mount Shiga is known for its friendly staff, generous meal service, and for ticking all the boxes of a reliable, well-priced hotel right in the center of the resort.
The perfect place to base yourself for Day 2 of your Ski Safari… (more to follow)!
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.