DESTINATIONS
03. SHIGA KOGEN
Shiga Kogen Ski Resort

Shiga Kogen Ski Resort

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Located around 45km from central Nagano City, Shiga Kogen is Japan’s largest and highest ski resort, boasting an unmatched expanse of interconnected terrain and Nagano’s longest ski season. Comprising 18 ski areas – some large, some small – the entire resort is covered by an all-mountain pass and best enjoyed on a multi-day visit. Shiga’s ski fields lie between 1340 and 2307 metres and as such, are notably higher than any other resort in the region.

The combination of the resorts altitude and natural topography – surrounded by mountains and protected from strong winds – means that Shiga Kogen’s snow stays in better condition and longer. It’s no surprise that the resort is known for the reliability of its powder and length of its season. Running from November to late-April (and into May in a good year), Shiga offers Nagano’s best spring-skiing.

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Having hosted events during the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Shiga Kogen hasn’t seen much development in recent years. While some areas look a little tired and are in need of updating, the resort retains its Japanese and distinctly local character. But don’t count on that remaining the case. Winter 2020/21 will bring the opening of the new ‘Pulse’ Gondola at Shiga Kogen Yamanoeki (Mountain Station), a sign that things are changing and the resort is about to become a whole lot more popular as more and more people discover Shiga Kogen – Japan’s largest and highest ski resort.

SHIGA KOGEN – JAPAN’S LARGEST SKI RESORT


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Shiga Kogen boasts over 600 hectares of terrain with just under 90 ski runs – or over 100 when we take into account linked-course runs. To help get your head around the size and extent of the resort it will be useful to break Shiga Kogen’s 18 ski areas into three groupings:

1 / Central Area / 13 of the resort’s 18 ski areas

2 / Yakebitai & Okushiga / 2 of 18 ski areas

3 / Kumanoyu & Yokoteyama inc. Shibutoge / 3 of 18 ski areas

All ski areas are covered by the all-mountain pass – offering the largest expanse of terrain of any resort in Japan and Nagano’s longest season. Before looking at the resort as a whole, let’s break things down into three areas to help get your head around what’s on offer:

CENTRAL AREA – A Resort Within a Resort

The Central Area of Shiga Kogen includes 13 of the 18 areas making-up the largest part of the resort including: Sun Valley / Maruike / Hasuike / Giant / Hoppo Bunadaira / Nishidateyama / Higashidateyama / Terakoya / Takamagahara / Ichinose Family / Tanne / Ichinose Diamond / Ichinose Yamanokami – see below for details.

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Located in the middle of Shiga Kogen, you are almost guaranteed to go through at least some of the ski fields of the Central Area, with enough variation and quality of terrain to keep you busy for a day or more. The official stats are: Central Area – a total of 35 ski runs – beginner 50% / intermediate 35% / advanced 15% – serviced by 22 chairlifts and 2 gondolas.

YAKEBITAI & OKUSHIGA KOGEN – Deep Powder & Tree-lined Runs

Connected to the Central Area ski fields via Ichinose Diamond, the joint areas of Yakebitai (also called ‘Yakebitayama’) and Okushiga Kogen lie deeper in the mountains and offer some of the resorts best powder and scenic ski runs.

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Both ski areas have a top altitude of 2000 metres and when considered together offer a total of 25 ski runs in this area of the resort. On clear days, the ski runs of Yakebitai and Okushiga offer outstanding views of the resort and some of the best powder on offer.The official stats are: Yakebitai – 15 ski runs – beginner 45% / intermediate 35% / advanced 20% – serviced by 3 chairlifts and 2 gondolas; and for Okushiga – 10 ski runs – beginner 20% / intermediate 60% / advanced 20% – serviced by 5 chairlifts and 1 gondola – see below for details.

KUMANOYU & YOKOTEYAMA inc. SHIBUTOGE – Japan’s Highest Ski Fields

Lying deep within the mountains, Kumanoyu and Yokoteyama are the only areas of the Shiga Kogen that are not connected to the overall resort – please note, statics for Yokoetayama include the adjoining ski fields of Shibutoge. As such, visitors wanting to ski and snowboard in Kumanoyua and/or Yokoteyama need to stay in the area or use the resorts shuttle bus, taxi or their own vehicle to get there.

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Visitors who do make the effort to get Yokoteyama can enjoy Japan’s highest chairlifted ski run at 2307 metres, along with some of Nagano’s best backcountry from Yokoteyama toward Kusatsu and Mount Shirane. The official stats are: Kumanoyu – 12 ski runs – 30% beginner / intermediate 40% / advanced 30% – serviced by 4 chairlifts; and for Yokoteyama inc. Shibutoge – 15 ski runs – beginner 50% / intermediate 20% / advanced 30% – serviced by 8 chairlifts – see below for details.

OPERATING DATES & TIMES


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Dependent on snow conditions, areas of the resort including Kumanoyu and Yokoteyama, are likely to open as early as mid-November. Expect the full resort to be open by mid-December with the official opening around that time. The snow should then be excellent through to April with all areas of the resort typically open until late-April or in a good season, early-May. Lifts are typically open from 08:00 or 08:30 to 16:30 with night-skiing available the Central Area ski fields of Ichinose Family, Ichinose Diamond, Takamagahara, Maruike and Sun Valley, along with Yakebitai and Kumanoyu. Dates and times for night-skiing vary with most areas restricting their operating days to the Christmas and New Year period and some Saturdays, from 18:30 or 19:00 until 20:30 or 21:00. If its high on your list of priorities, Ichinose Family is your best bet for night-skiing – operating everyday over the Christmas/New Year period and then everyday other than Mondays and Tuesdays until the second half of March. Please note, night-skiing is not covered by the all-mountain/day-pass and requires an additional ticket – typically costing around JPY2000 depending on the ski area.

SKI FIELDS & HIGHLIGHTS


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With over 600 hectares of terrain and just under 90 ski runs – over 60 of which are interconnected – Shiga Kogen offers an unmatched expanse of ski fields. When skiing and snowboarding at Shiga Kogen, you’ll often cross from one ski field into another without realising it. Some ski areas are literally one run while others are large, up to 15 trails in an individual ski field. All ski areas are covered by the all-mountain pass including the only ski fields not connected to the overall resort – Kumanoyu and Yokoteyama/Shibutoge.

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Those areas can however be accessed using the resorts shuttle bus. It is also worth noting that the table above lists the longest individual runs in each area but runs in several areas link-up to make much longer courses. When we consider all 18 areas as one resort, the highlights of the include:

Sun Valley, Maruike & Hasuike

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Approaching Shiga Kogen along the main mountain road (from Nagano City), the small ski field of Sun Valley is the first you will reach. It is a small area but has a good range of accommodation, with many visitors choosing to base themselves here. From Sun Valley you can head into the adjacent area of Maruike and Hasuike. Well-suited to families, Maruike has a childrens snow activity area and some nice, short runs to practice on, with night-skiing available in Hasuike. Overall the combined ski fields of Sun Valley, Maruike and Hasuike are small and despite some intermediate and advanced terrain, this area won’t keep intermediate and advanced skiers/boarders entertained for long. As the first ski fields you’ll reach when coming to Shiga Kogen, it’s a convenient area to start and end at however we recommend going just a couple of minutes further into the resort and starting from:

Giant, Hoppo Bunadaira, Nishidateyama, Higashidateyama & Terakoya

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Starting from the Shiga Kogen Yamanoeki (Mountain Station), the ‘Pulse’ Gondola will take you to the lower section of the Giant ski run. Immediately accessible from the base of Giant, beginners will enjoy Happo Bunadaira. The wide, flat slopes are an ideal practice area for first-timers. From there you can access Nishidateyama has a variety of courses catering to all levels while the ski field of Higashidateyama is directly above. Accessible using the gondola, these courses were used during the 1998 Winter Olympics and World Cup events. Sitting above Higashidateyama, Terakoya is one of the highest peaks in Shiga Kogen and offers skiers and snowboarders exceptional powder and alpine views. Ascending the 2060 meters (6758ft) Terakoya is one of the highest chair-lifted ski fields in Japan.

Takamagahara, Ichinose Family, Ichinose Diamond, Tanne & Ichinose Yamanokami

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From Terokya, you can descent into the resort’s most central ski fields starting Takamagahara Mammonth. At 1900 metres, the top station affords great views of the resort and backs onto the Higashidateyama Olympic Runs. Also adjoining this area, the ski runs drop into the Ichinose Village area – which boasts the greatest concentration of accommodation in Shiga. The Ichinose area is divided into the ski fields of Ichinose Family, Tanne, Ichinose Diamond, and Ichinose Yamanokami. Ski runs are well-groomed and wide, with steep terrain at the top and flat bunny runs at the bottom. The central ski fields of Ichinose connect to Terakoya, Higashidateyama and Nishidateyama – as discussed – and onto Yakebitai and Okushiga via Ichinose Yamanokami.

Yakebitai & Okushiga

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These are some of our favourite areas in Shiga Kogen. As you move away from the resort’s central area, the ski fields of Yakebitai are typically quiet and very beautiful. Serviced by two gondolas, the summit of Yakebitai is one of Japan’s highest at 2000 metres, from where on a clear day you will love the views and descending beautiful tree-lined runs back to the base. Yakebitai also boasts a childrens activity area and decent little terrain park. Adjoining Yakebitai, Okushiga is the furthest point of the connected areas of Shiga Kogen. On days of powder, Okushiga is probably the pick of the areas to be in the resort. Located deep within Shiga Kogen, the runs are likely to be empty and just as beautiful as Yakebitai. Serviced by one gondola and summiting at just over 2000 metres, Okushiga is addictive – so much so that we recommend staying in the area!

Kumanoyu & Yokoteyama (inc. Shibutoge)

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The ski fields of Kumanoyu and Yokoteyama/Shibutoge are the only areas of the resort which are not connected. They are however covered by the all-mountain pass and can be easily accessed using the resort’s shuttle bus. Kumanoyu is the closest area to the central resort and given location deep within the mountains along with high elevation – at just under 200 metres – these ski fields often open as early as November. Visitors to Kumanoyu will find some good little runs with little competition for space, especially on weekdays. Finally, the joint ski fields of Yokoteyama and Shibutoge are usually considered one area and boast the highest chair-lifted ski run in Japan at 2307 metres. Trees at the higher elevations get wrapped snow and ice, making the area especially beautiful on clear days. It is worth noting however that the area can be subject to high winds and icy conditions, so keep an eye on the forest and head to Yokoteyama on days of good weather.

TICKETS & PASSES


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Some areas of Shiga Kogen sell their own passes however unless you are really limited for time or money, we recommend purchasing an all-mountain ticket covering each of the 18 ski fields. Passes can be purchased at any ticket window.

RENTAL & SKI SCHOOL


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Many larger hotels offer in-house ski and snowboard rental with quality varying depending on where you stay. The resort also has several rental shops, mostly located in the central area including:

Shiga Kogen Yamanoeki: as the most convenient launching point for exploring the resort, Shiga Kogen Yamanoeki includes ski and snowboard rental, which can be arranged before walking onto the Pulse Gondola and heading on the the ski runs.

Ichinose Diamond: down from the Ichinose Diamond slope you will find a large building including rental and restaurants.

Ichinose Family: the Shiga Kogen Olympic Hotel is located at the base of ski fields and includes the Snowcan rental inside the hotel.

Takamagahara Mammoth: rental can be found in the Dakekanba restaurant building.

Hasuike: located in the restaurant building called ‘Hasuike Gateway Station’, which is conveniently nearby the public bus stop.

Foreign language ski and snowboard lessons are available in English through the International Ski School operating out of the Okushiga ski fields. Group lessons are conducted in Okushiga and require guests to get themselves there (which is easily done on the resorts free shuttle bus). Private lessons can be conducted anywhere in the resort. Some hotels with foreign/English-speaking staff may be able to offer lessons however this service would need to be confirmed directly with your hotel.

KIDS & FAMILIES


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For families with children, Shiga Kogen has two activity areas where you can enjoy a range of snow gear including tubes, sleds or just playing in the snow without having to worry about skiers and snowboarders coming past. The Shiga Kogen Maruike Snow Activity Park is set in a scenic and easily accessible area of the resort, while the Shiga Kogen Yakebitaiyama Family Snow Park is set further into the resort but equally convenient. Located directly outside of the Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel, the play area is always popular with families. In terms of day-care facilities, Shiga Kogen has limited options and you are likely to struggle to find English or other foreign language services. If you require such services, the best option is to check with large hotels to confirm what they offer.

ACCOMMODATION & VILLAGE INFO


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As Japan’s largest resort, Shiga Kogen offers loads of accommodation options concentrated in a couple of ski fields. As you approach the resort from Nagano, Sun Valley and Maruike are the first ski fields that you come to. Sun Valley has a grouping of larger hotels while Maruike and nearby Hasuike also have some good-sized hotels, although a little more spread-out. Moving further into the resort, the greates conentration of accommodation is found in Ichinose village, where there are plenty of large to mid-sized hotels. The nearby ski fields of Takamagahara also has a number of good options including Hotel Sunny Shiga while Yakebitai is serviced by the Prince Hotel, which operates three separated hotel buildings under the same name. The furthest areas of the resort are Okushiga and the more distant areas of Kumanoyu and Yokoteyama. Both areas have some good options in terms of accommodation with Okushiga being the stand-out, offering one of the few ski in/out, high-end hotels in Shiga – Grand Phenix Okushiga – and some nice, family-run chalets. For accommodation listings, see our ‘Shiga Kogen Area’ hotel page.

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Shiga Kogen can’t match other resorts such as Nozawa Onsen and Hakuba in their range of accommodation and nightlife and for that reason, some visitors choose to stay below the resort in one of three hot spring villages – Kanbayashi Onsen, Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka. Known collectively as ‘Yamanouchi’, the area offers some excellent options including numerous ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses) with in-house ‘onsen’ (hot springs) and while you wouldn’t describe any of the villages as lively, Shibu and Yudanaka offer some good dining and drinking options in the evening. None of these villages are connected to Shiga – located around 25 to 30-minutes drive from the lowest ski fields – but express and local bus services along with taxis make it easy to move to and from Shiga Kogen each day. For accommodation listings, see our ‘Yamanouchi – Home of the Snow Monkeys’ hotel page.

BOOK WITH US! ACCOMMODATION & SKI PACKAGES IN SHIGA KOGEN


Based in Nagano and operating all year round, we are a registered travel agent, tour and charter operator offering a full-suite of winter services including ski/snowboard packages, accommodation, lift passes, private charters and a range of tours including both group and private options covering Shiga Kogen:

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SHIGA KOGEN ACCOMMODATION & SKI PACKAGES

As Japan’s largest and highest ski resort, Shiga Kogen is blessed with Nagano’s longest season and most reliable snow. Accommodation is dotted across the resort’s expansive 600ha of terrain with the nearby hot spring villages of Kanbayashi Onsen, Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen offering a great alternative for visitors wanting to enjoy Japan’s legendary ‘onsen’ culture – PLAN & BOOK IN SHIGA NOW!

JAPAN SKI RESORTS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW


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Did you know that Shiga Kogen is just one of the more than eighty ski resorts in Nagano and more than five hundred in Japan? Needless to say, when you choose Nagano for your winter getaway you are spoiled for choice! Our ‘Japan Ski Resorts’ page has everything you need to know to start planning your ski and snowboard adventure including: LATEST NEWS & DEALS, THE BEST RESORTS IN NAGANO & JAPAN, FAQs and of course OUR SKI PACKAGES, ACCOMMODATION, TRANSPORT & TOURS.

GETTING TO & AROUND SHIGA KOGEN


Located approximately 45KM (1 hour drive) to the east of Nagano City and 280KM (<5 hours drive) to the northwest of Tokyo, most visitors head to Shiga Kogen via Nagano Station. As a stop on the Hokuriku Shinaknsen running from Tokyo to Kanazawa, Nagano Station is a convenient point from where to head to Shiga using the Nagaden Snow Monkey/Shiga Kogen Express  Bus.

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For the express bus timetable to and from the resort, see our ‘Nagaden Shiga Kogen Express Bus Timetable’ page.For details on how to reach Shiga from Nagano and beyond, see our ‘How to Get to Shiga Kogen – Nagano Ski Resorts Info’ page.

Located in the Hasuike area, Shiga Kogen Yamanoeki (Mountain Station) is the resort’s primary transport hub. Express and local bus services stop at the mountain station, with the new ‘Pulse’ Gondola providing immediate access to the Giant ski area. The resort’s shuttle bus also operates from the mountain station, making it a great point from which to start and end your time in Shiga Kogen.

DISCOVER YAMANOUCHI – HOME OF THE SNOW MONKEYS


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As the nearest ski resort to the Jigokudani Monkey Park, no winter visit to Shiga Kogen is complete without experiencing the curious sight of the hot spring-loving monkeys!

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Both the monkey park and Shiga Kogen lie within the broader area of Yamanouchi. Consisting of three distinct areas – Yudanaka & Shibu Onsen, Shiga Kogen and Kita-Shiga Kogen – Yamanouchi is known for its heavy snowfall and fantastic skiing and snowboarding, along with its hot spring towns and all the trimmings of a traditional country area.

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If you’re looking to experience an authentic taste of Japan on your next ski holiday, we recommend taking it slow and discovering all that Yamanouchi has to offer!

BOOK WITH US! NAGANO’S NO.1 TOUR & CHARTER OPERATOR


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Locally-based and operating all year round, Snow Monkey Resorts is Nagano’s No.1 tour and charter operator. We have the local knowledge of where and when to go, to help you discover and enjoy the region’s many ski resorts and other fantastic destinations and activities.

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For guests wanting to access the resorts in the comfort of their own transport, we can arrange a private tour or charter customised to fit your needs, starting and ending at any destination including from/to Nagano Station and any resort in the region. Our drivers and vehicles are fully certified, allowing us to transport you to and from your preferred destinations in combination with any activity that suits your schedule.

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All vehicles are fitted with a protective screen – separating the driver from passenger and luggage area – and our drivers wear protective masks, allowing you to move between your destinations in comfort and safety.

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We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide. We’d love to be part of that experience and help you discover even more!

Why choose us?

Awarded a 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for our 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour – recognised as one of the Top 10 Experiences in Japan – we have the local knowledge and experience to help you get the most out of your time in Nagano.

Got a question about visiting Nagano and Central Japan this winter? Contact us at snowmonkeyresorts@machinovate.com and let’s get planning together!

JAPAN RAIL DEALS: TRAVEL PASSES & DISCOUNTED TICKETS


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Many if not most people heading to the ski resorts of Nagano and Niigata do so via Nagano Station and Echigo-Yuzawa Station. Both are serviced by Shinkansen/Bullet Train lines running from Tokyo, making them quick and easy to get to.

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Any foreign passport-holder – both international visitors and foreign residents of Japan – is eligible for the ‘Japan Rail (JR) East Pass’ for Nagano & Niigata. Covering 5 days of unlimited use within a 14-day period, the pass includes travel on both the Hokuirku Shinkansen and Joetsu Shinkansen lines – a great deal if you’re planning to move between the regions while here.

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In addition, JR East offers a 3-Day ‘Welcome Pass’ for foreign passport-holders. The pass covers multiple shinkansen lines and other major train routes – a fantastic deal and great option for getting to and moving around Central Japan.

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Japan Rail is currently also offering discounted prices on many train services, including shinkansen lines across the country. With discounts of up to 50% available when purchasing online, our ‘Discount Shinkansen Tickets: How to Buy Online’ page includes an English step-by-step guide of how to purchase tickets online.

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