Shiga Kogen: Japan’s Largest Ski Resort
As Japan’s largest ski resort, Shiga Kogen offers an expansive area to explore and conquer – around 80 courses, spread over a huge variety of terrain connected by more than 50 chairlifts and gondolas. In total, Shiga Kogen offers around 600 hectares of terrain and 80+ km of trails covered by one all-mountain pass.
Shiga Kogen is in fact comprised of 18 ski areas – some large, some small – spread between five mountain peaks. The topography and layout of Shiga is reminiscent of European resorts, with ski runs leading into the valleys between the mountains where a seemingly endless expanse of terrain is waiting to be discovered.
Shiga Kogen is both the largest and highest ski resort in Japan. Boasting the highest chair-lifted ski run in Japan – reaching 2307 metres at Yokoteayama – Shiga is notably higher than the nearby resorts of Nozawa Onsen, Myoko Kogen and Hakuba. The altitude and topography of the mountain means that Shiga is blessed with Nagano’s best and most reliable powder snow and stunning natural beauty.
The resort also boasts the first ever chair-lifts built in Japan and has been attracting skiers to the mountains since the 1950s. Shiga Kogen hosted several events during the 1998 Winter Olympics, the preparation for which brought the resorts busiest period of development. Since that time however the resort has seen little meaningful development, with some areas showing their age.
The resort lies within the boundaries of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. Declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981, regulations intended to protect this important ecosystem have also contributed to the limited development of Shiga Kogen – for better and for worse.
Don’t expect this to last for long. While Shiga has somewhat flown under the radar for international visitors, more and more people are discovering that it boasts the longest season and most reliable snow in Nagano; while its relative lack of recent development has preserved a more authentic Japanese character than resorts such as those of Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen.
The size of Shiga Kogen makes it an ideal destination for visitors wanting to enjoy a multi-day ski holiday at one resort. Given its size, visitors need at least two to three days to explore all ski areas on what is fondly referred to by locals as ‘Ski Safari’.
To assist in understanding the lay-out of the resort, it helps to break it down into the following areas:
Comprising approximately 50 ski runs serviced by 30 chairlifts and 1 gondola, Shiga Kogen’s Central Area is by itself bigger than most Japanese resorts. With the greatest concentration of accommodation, restaurants, bars, and services including public transport, rental, currency exchange and a medical facility, the ski fields of the Central Area are the ideal to base yourself when coming to Shiga Kogen.
The unofficial stats are: 50 ski runs – beginner 50% / intermediate 35% / advanced 15% – serviced by 30 chairlifts and 1 gondola.
The Central Area is made-up of many ski fields and runs. To get your head around everything included it is helpful to group them as follows:
1 / Ichinose Diamond, Ichinose Family, Ichinose Yama-no-kami, Terakoya, Tanne-no-mori Okoho, and Takamagahara.
2 / Terakoya, Higashidateyama, Nishidateyama, Happo Bunadaira and Giant.
3 / Sun Valley, Maruike and Hasuike – including the Shiga Kogen Yamanoeki Bus Station.
Further detail regarding each area can be founded at our ‘Central Area General Information’ page.
Yakebitai & Okushiga
Connected to the Central Area by the Ichinose Yama-no-kami ski field and chairlift, Yakebetai and Okushiga offer some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the resort. These areas are (typically) less busy than those of the Central Area and offer some of the resorts best powder and ski in/out accommodation.
The unofficial stats for Yakebitaiyama are: 15 ski runs – beginner 35% / intermediate 45% / advanced 20% – serviced by 3 chairlifts and 2 gondolas.
The unofficial stats for Okushiga are: 10 ski runs – beginner 20% / intermediate 60% / advanced 20% – serviced by 5 chairlifts and 1 gondola.
Both ski areas summit at just over 2000 meters with Okushiga offering some beautiful tree runs and epic powder.
Kumanoyu, Yokoteyama & Shibutoge
These ski areas are not connected to the rest of the resort but can be readily accessed using free shuttle buses that circulate around Shiga Kogen during the day. Yokoteyama boasts the highest chair-lifted ski run in Japan at 2307 meters and on a clear day, astounding views of the surrounding landscape including the North Japan Alps which dominates the horizon.
Individually, the three ski areas are small but combine to provide the following unofficial stats: 20 ski runs – beginner 60% / intermediate 20% / advanced 20 – serviced by chairlifts.
The point is, Shiga is as big as it gets in Japan! Boasting the longest season and most reliable snow of any resort in the region, Shiga Kogen is the nearest resort to the Jigokudani Monkey Park and our recommendation when visiting Nagano in winter.