Shiga Kogen, the largest and highest ski resort in Japan, accommodates 18 interconnected ski areas, each located at an altitude of 1,500 to 2,300 meters. Shiga Kogen is nestled in the north-eastern alps of Nagano Prefecture, and the high-altitude area is directly hit by the Siberian winter clouds which drops huge amounts of snow every winter, providing the resort with the best powder snow in Asia.
On top of that, what distinguishes Shiga Kogen from other ski resorts in Nagano is its extensive size. The ski resort is as big as 450 hectares; this is equivalent to 10 times Tokyo Disneyland. Almost all ski resorts are interconnected with its 52 ski lifts and 4 gondolas, and exploring the whole area by ski/snowboard takes easily more than a full week. The resort has about 100 hotels spread across 18 different areas, and choosing the right hotel in the right area is a time-consuming and tiring task.
We did research to help you plan your stay. This blog is to answer one of the most-asked questions: “Where should I stay in Shiga Kogen?”
- Ichinose Village in the Central Area – Hotel Mt. Shiga –
The first option is Ichinose Village as it is most conveniently located in central Shiga Kogen and a hub for many skiers/snowboarders. Shiga Kogen has four major peaks – Mt. Higashidate, Mt. Nishidate, Mt. Yakebitai, and Mt. Yokote. The area that combines Mt. Higashidate with Mt. Nishidate is called the Central Area, which holds 13 ski areas out of Shiga Kogen’s 18.
Ichinose Village is located at the bottom of Mt. Higashidate and is literally at the heart of the whole of Shiga Kogen. The Higashidate gondola takes you to an altitude of 2,000 meters, and from there you can directly access to popular slopes such as Terakoya, Ichinose Family, Takamagahara, Tanne no Mori, Olympic Course, and from Higashidate Forest Course to Bunadaira, which is Shiga Kogen’s longest downhill course (6 km). The ski slope levels around Ichinose are quite versatile with 20% beginner, 60% intermediate, and 20% advanced.
Although just exploring the Central Area would suffice your craving for the best snow in Japan, Ichinose Village is conveniently linked to neighboring Mt. Yakebitai (2,009 meters) which also offers a great variety of courses of which you would never get bored of even after a full week of gliding. Staying in Ichinose Village allows you to have a direct access to both sides of the resort and to have a greater number of ski slopes to explore around.
Next, about the hotel. Ichinose Village is where the largest number of hotels are at and these all welcome skiers/snowboarders for a comfortable stay. Most of the hotels are owned by local families who have lived in Shiga Kogen for generations and have maintained the resort’s traditions as Japan’s most historic winter resort. Developers have not yet entered the Shiga Kogen market so authentic vibe is very vibrant.
Hotel Mt. Shiga is the most recommended hotel in Ichinose Village. It has a reasonable price. It is centrally located in the village, the nearest ski lift (Ichinose Family) is just 100 meters away, and the bus stop from JR Nagano Station is 1-minute-walk away. The hotel facilities are well-rounded; both western and Japanese-style rooms, onsen-style indoor bath, free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, high quality breakfast and dinner made by Japanese chefs, ski rentals and lockers, and an English ski school with its base inside the hotel. Hotel Mt. Shiga is a wonderful base where you can make all arrangements you would need in one go.
The village also accommodates several dining options, including Kamoshika (ethnic cuisine), Ikariya (wagyu BBQ), Teppa Room (craft beer), Snow Bird (billiard & darts bar), etc, where you can get a good range of après ski options.
- Okushiga Kogen Area – Hotel Grand Phoenix –
If you want to stay at a classic and luxurious hotel, there is no doubt that Hotel Grand Phoenix in Okushiga Kogen would be your perfect choice. First of all, Okushiga Kogen is located in the north-edge of Shiga Kogen and is the most internationally oriented area. The snow quality is tiptop and the area has the largest amount of snowfall in Shiga Kogen due to its geographical location at the northern edge.
Because the Okushiga Kogen area was developed independently by one company, the area has been successful at maintaining its unique and tranquil atmosphere in an international setting. The area is popular especially among those who want to enjoy Japanese winter in a less crowded environment
The area’s top peak is Mt. Yakebitai (2,009 meters), one of the 4 major peaks of Shiga Kogen as mentioned above. The bottom area lies at 1,500 meters high and has a 1 km long, wide-stretched beginner slope which is perfect for practice or for experienced skiers to first get used to new tricks. Inside of the Okushiga Kogen base building, there is the Shiga Kogen International Ski School, a renowned ski/snowboard school with certified professional instructors from all over the world, and high-quality rental gear that is available for all levels and sizes.
Hotel Grand Phoenix is known as Shiga Kogen’s most high-end hotel with a completely European-style setting.Its unique designs can be found at every corner of the hotel facility. The location is right next to the 1stski lift of Okushiga Kogen bottom slope, so it is a ski-in/out accommodation. The hotel also has an open-air spa, a great way to relax your muscles after ski/snowboarding, as well as a sauna and an indoor bath with a majestic view of the mountain. Their western-style rooms are very spacious and have twin & suite options and extra beds can be requested according to your needs. There are three built-in restaurants with different cuisines (Japanese, Chinese, and Italian), catering high-quality foods prepared by professional chefs as ordered.
Another option we would also recommend other than the above two is Sun Valley in the Central Area. Sun Valley is located at the entrance of Shiga Kogen and is at the first bus stop of the ski resort when you come from JR Nagano Station. It is in an easy location if you want to visit the Snow Monkey Park, located one bus stop away from Sun Valley.
To sum up the article, Hotel Mt. Shiga in Ichinose Village or Hotel Grand Phoenix in Okushiga Kogen are two safe bases to pick in Shiga Kogen. Both hotels have great service and good location, decorated in different style and environment. You may choose between the two according to your preference over 1) which area of Shiga Kogen you want to focus the most, 2) your budget, or 3) après ski options. If you want to prioritize being close to other cultural sites like the Snow Monkey Park / Shibu Onsen, Sun Valley could be a good option, but you may have to compromise the number and variety of slopes around your hotel.
Japanese restaurant with free pickup/drop-off service from/to Shiga Kogen
While staying in Shiga Kogen, if you start craving delicious Japanese foods, such as fresh sushi, sashimi, tempura, tofu, or locally produced fine Japanese sake, etc., GOEN, a fine dining restaurant located just in front of Yudanaka Station, offers a free pickup & drop-off service for those staying in Shiga Kogen during winter. Note that free transfer service is limited to Okushiga Kogen & Yakebitai area, Ichinose Village, Sun Valley, but does NOT include Mt. Yokote. You can reserve the bus through your hotel.
Hope all this information would be of help when planning your visit to Shiga Kogen. The below articles have more information about Shiga Kogen, as well as a package tour option starting from JR Nagano Station.