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Resort

Shiga Kogen

Tokyo Haneda
bullet train, shared taxi or private transfer
985 metres

The largest ski area in all of Asia, also with the highest lift access in Japan. And remember; higher equals dryer snow.

Because the Shiga Highlands (that's what 'Kogen' means) are so extensive - it is actually made up of 19 linked resorts! - and because very few Japanese like to ski off-piste, fresh lines can always be found, sometimes even days after a snowfall. And, better still, lift queues are completely unheard of largely because very few Australians have discovered this region, due to the lack of accommodation options up in the National Park. So, in summary; loads of terrain, empty, powder everywhere.

There are some large hotels in the Shiga Kogen National Park, though we often instead base our guests in the the pretty village (town?) of Yudanaka Onsen, less than 30 minutes away. There are many hot springs here and the most famous is Shibu Onsen at Jigokudani, which is also home of Japan's famous "snow monkeys" - a community of Japanese macaques who have learned to stave off the bitter cold of winter by bathing in the area's natural hot spring waters.

Shiga Kogen

Resort Card

Beginners:
Intermediate:
Advanced:
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Our Opinion

"Shiga Kogen is a strange ski resort. This once mega resort during its 90’s heyday was the centre of the booming Japanese ski industry, possibly the most famous in all Japan. But when the Japanese stopped coming after the economic bubble burst, it then was utterly overlooked and it feels a little neglected, like a deserted winter theme-park in an episode of Scooby-do. But the powder still falls in exuberant abundance, the lifts creak open each and every morning and everyone else’s loss is your gain! Shiga Kogen feels like our not-so-little secret, and we'd prefer to try keep it that way. Fresh-tracks-tastic!"

Nick Coates Founder
Shiga Kogen
36.7195°N 138.4897°E

Skiing & Snowboarding in Shiga Kogen

Shiga Kogen is a large ski resort with a total of 68 lifts and gondolas. The fact that is broken down in to 19 different ski resorts is merely academic as far as you're concerned, as one pass links it all and the ski areas are all functionally connected either on the piste or by a convenient shuttle bus service. You can ski one area for the morning then after lunch relocate to another part of the mountain for more powder action.

So, with over 600 hectares of terrain and 80 (plus) kilometres of trails, it's a snowy utopia made up of diverse terrain, powder traps galore and un-tapped tree runs galore.

And, and we can't stress this enough, it's largely empty. Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen may be close, and even at peak times when (dare I say it) you may have to queue for lifts in these resorts, it's always straight on and off in Shiga Kogen.  

Off Piste & Expert

If you want to head in to the backcountry, the nearby Hakuba valley is a better option. Shiga Kogen is a little more tame by comparison. And, somewhat confusingly, some of the resorts which make up the Shiga Kogen entirety have strict rules about ducking the ropes, whereas others are cool. Therefore , local knowledge has a huge impact on how much fun you can have and, ordinarily, we like to send good skiers out with our local guides to secure the goods.

Suffice to say, don't come to Shiga for super-steeps or challenging terrain. However, if your objective is simply untracked powder without ever the need to ski the same run twice, then this will be your happy place. 

Intermediates

Our opinion is that Shiga Kogen is the best ski resort in Japan for strong or improving intermediates, keen to hone their technique in powder snow. And, if your ambitions instead simply rest on-piste then, similarly, it can't be beaten - long groomers, perfect corduroy to the bottom, cut through the trees. Shinga Kogen is an incredible amount of fun. And when you do choose to push yourself off the side of the piste, very few nasty surprises lurk.

Novice

Theoretically Shiga Kogen is fine ski resort for nervous newbies - there are some really gentle pistes with nothing to terrify you. But with no English-language ski schools to speak of and miles and miles of runs you'd end up leaving untouched, there are probably better options nearby - Nozawa Onsen is just up the road!

staying in Shiga Kogen or Yudanaka Onsen

Shiga Kogen is a huge highland area - actually a National Park - with no defined centre or cute little villages. Instead it is largely made up of unpleasant, unnecessarily large, faintly dilapidated hotels (with one most notable exception, the wonderful Grand Phenix Hotel).

 

Therefore, we prefer to base out guests down the valley in the really pretty village of Yudanaka Onsen - it may involve a 20 / 30 minute transfer each morning to the slopes, but the authentically Japanese off-mountain experience more than justifies this. 

Hotels & Ryokans

An authentic Japanese-style ryokan providing authentic and characterful accommodation.

First Class
Yudanaka Onsen

The nicest hotel in the region delivers refined opulence, but with European style.

Deluxe
Okushiga Kogen

Ski guiding & excursions

It would be perfectly possible to simply transfer you to one of the large hotels in the Shiga highlands and then just leave you to it - that's it, you ski by day but then find yourself somewhat marooned in the evening. Now, if that's a hotel as nice as the Grand Phenix then that's absolutely fine. But most aren't. So...instead we base most guests down in Yudanaka Onsen and, working with the best local company, we use ski guides each day to get you to the slopes. And you won't be restricted to only Shiga Kogen - Madarao, Tangram, Togakushi, Ryuo, Kijimadaira and even Nozawa Onsen are all within easy reach.

 

If staying down in Yudakana Onsen then you are immersed in the Japan experience, which extends beyond your ryokan. Just walking the streets of Yudanaka and next door Shibu Onsen is immersive and a pleasant way to spend your evenings. The world-famous onsen-bathing snow monkeys are only a walk away, ideal for a morning or afternoon off the slopes. In the evenings this is also the place for culture and the ryokan puts on performances of the traditional taiko drum, shamisen guitar, and we can even arrange for you to be entertained by a traditional Geisha.

 

On the mountain

Hire an experienced, qualified, locally-knowledgeable private ski or snowboard guide.

Join some like-minded souls and head out with a guide to seek powder, wherever it may be!

Off the mountain

Very close to Yudanaka Onsen are the onsen-bathing monkeys of the region.

holidays featuring Shiga Kogan

These suggested itineraries will give you a starting point for what your ski holiday to the Shiga Kogen could potentially entail. Sometimes we combine ski resorts and we often cherish the opportunity to explore and experience Japan beyond the ski slopes.

 

We hope these itineraries will inspire, excite and inform you as we begin the planning process. But note: they’re not set departures or tours, as every holiday we plan is completely tailor-made for you - consider these itineraries as inspiration only.

 

The Powder Hunter - Itinerary
Itinerary

The Powder Hunter

Untracked powder snow. That's it...nothing more required. The best in Japan please...

14 days
Asahikawa - Furano - Shiga Kogen
Find out more
The Shiga Safari - Itinerary
Itinerary

The Shiga Safari

A solid week with your guide in Shiga and nearby ski resorts, followed by some R'n'R in the capital.

10 days
Shiga Kogen - Tokyo
Find out more

Ski Concierge

This is where the fact that Shiga Kogen is actually made up of 19 separate ski resorts comes in to play - services are a little disjointed and facilities spread out across the many base areas. At least it's all unified under one ski pass. And, on this same point, because there is precious little central planning the lift layout leaves a lot to be desired.

Lift Pass

The lift tickets are valid for all the Shiga Kogen ski areas as well as the shuttle bus. And, surprisingly, they are all electronic (unusual for Japan!) and the keycard is remarkably convenient.

Equipment Hire

In Shiga Kogen - up in the ski resort itself - there are large stand-alone hotels. And it is these that hire out ski rental equipment. Standards aren't great at most, they are used to catering for large Japanese school groups and the equipment reflects this core market.

However, there are one or two notable exceptions and, thank your lucky stars, we know where they are.

Lessons

There is a ski school in one of the resorts that advertises that they have English-language instructors. Truth be told, we've never used them and have no idea how good they are. 

Getting to and from Shiga Kogen

From the Tokyo Airports we can arrange shared taxi transfers to your accommodation - be it up in the Shiga highlands or down in Yudanaka Onsen. Alternatively, we can organise tickets on the shinkansen (bullet-train) to Nagano City, where you then swap trains on to a local branch line to Yudanaka Station. A bit of trek, but hugely enjoyable.

What our customers say

4.5 star rating

Our customers rate us 'Excellent'

Would recommend Different Snow to everyone

Different Snow organised a tailor made holiday for my wife and I, visiting the snow monkeys, a ride on the bullet train, a short stay in Tokyo and 10 days skiing in Hakuba / Arai, both amazing resorts and plenty of snow. Excellent hotels, all transfers etc and even arranged last minute changes to our itinerary at our request that were dealt with happily and efficiently, nothing was too much trouble for them.

Trevor  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

A brilliant holiday

We had a family holiday (three generations) to Niseko, with some time in Tokyo. A brilliant holiday. Different Snow were so knowledgeable about Japan and skiing, so helpful and friendly, and full of good suggestions - even down to restaurants and non-skiing activities. We are looking forward to our next trip with them!

Roger  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

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