In the heart of the Joshinetsu National Park in Nagano Prefecture, Japan is Shiga Kogen Ski Resort. Shiga Kogen first hit the radar for international skiers and snowboarders in 1998 during the Nagano Winter Olympics and has been increasing in popularity for Australians in the last few years.
With an average of 10 metres of snow each year, Shiga Kogen’s altitude at 2,000 metres above sea level makes it a powder lovers dream!
Shiga Kogen offers a great selection of ski in ski out accommodation, hotel style properties and smaller, more traditional properties are commonly found across the small villages in the area. Okushiga Kogen ski area and Yakebitaiyama Ski Area are the two largest and offer the most accommodation to choose from.
While the ski slopes are well interlinked and provide ski in access to many of the ski areas and villages, it is a little tougher to negotiate between areas at night. Shuttle options do operate until early evening, but most visitors tend to pick a hotel and then enjoy meals and relaxation time close to the property, so it is important to check what facilities are close by.
Famous for its varied ski terrain, amazing panoramic views, and powder quality snow; Shiga Kogen is also quieter than other well-known Japan ski resorts and offers a more authentic Japanese ski holiday experience.
One of Japan’s best ski resorts for powder, Shiga Kogen is also the largest ski resort with 19 different ski areas and over 600 hectares of on-piste skiable terrain. The lack of crowds also mean it isn’t hard to find fresh powder as you explore the vast surrounding slopes.
Beginners will find English speaking lessons at Okushiga Kogen ski area and Yakebitaiyama Ski Area offers some excellent beginners runs. Intermediate and advanced riders love the tree runs, and interlinked access to many of the ski areas making exploring easy. Shiga Kogen really does offer something for all levels of ability.
Shiga Kogen is pretty spread out, once you are in each village it is easy to walk around, but you cannot walk between the villages. There are shuttle buses to get between villages which are free until 5.30pm as a part of your lift ticket or a paid evening shuttle which ends at 8.30pm. Due to the limited times, some visitors do choose to hire a car and therefore drive around if they want to venture out for dinner or to another village. There are also local buses if required to travel further afield.
Visitors can fly directly into Tokyo from most Australian hub cities. From the airport there a few options to get to Shiga Kogen ski resort, one is via airport shuttle, another option is to use local trains & buses or there is the Nagano snow shuttle to get to Shiga Kogen.
Most people head to Shiga Kogen purely to ski or snowboard, but there are a few activities that you should add to your holiday! The most popular addition to any Nagano winter holiday is a visit to the Jigokudani Monkey Park, less than an hour from the ski resort. These famous monkeys are quite a site to see them basking in the hot spring water and chasing one another through the snow. Make sure to dress warmly as a visit to their favourites springs requires a walk through the national park along a forest track.
Families love the snow parks at Shiga Kogen where where you can try sledding, snow-tubes and snow-striders. The Maruike Snow Activity Park is at the base of the Maruike ski fields & the Yakebitaiyama Family Snow Park is located directly in front of the Prince Hotel’s West Wing.
No Japan ski holiday is complete without experiencing an onsen (a natural hot spring bath), these traditional bathhouses are found at a selection of Shiga Kogen Hotel’s or try the Kanbayashi Onsen, Shibu Onsen or Yudanaka Onsen which can all be accessed via local bus. Traditionally men and women bathe separately without clothing and must wash before and after entering the hot spring. Make sure to check the rules at the onsen before you go, as most do not allow tattoos (or want tattoos to be covered) and it is considered quite offensive not to observe these traditions.
Like most Japanese ski resorts, the apres scene and nightlife at Shiga Kogen is minimal. If nightlife is not a huge drawcard, you will love the quieter atmosphere in Shiga Kogen. There are a few smaller Izakaya style bars spread across the mountain, depending where you choose to stay. Try Snow Bird Sports bar or Time Izakaya in Ichinose and Traveler's Bar in Yamanouchi-machi.
Larger hotels will have some sort of bar or restaurant that services drinks, but most close relatively early. If you are you with good company, grab a few drinks from a store or vending machine and make your own fun.
As Shiga Kogen ski resort is quite spread out, many hotels offer the option to upgrade to have half-board (breakfast and dinner) included during their stay. If you have chosen a hotel in a ski in, ski out location, we highly recommend at the least adding breakfast, we can almost guarantee you will stay at the hotel each morning before hitting the slopes at first lift.
During the day, there are plenty of ski in, ski out dining options to enjoy depending which ski area you chose to explore for the day. The Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel has a few to choose from that are great value, filling meals.
Okushiga Kogen Hotel has a great French inspired restaurant, while Hotel Grand Phenix Okushiga boast Shiga Kogen’s best Italian dining. For more traditional dining there are a great selection of Izakaya around Shiga Kogen to explore. At the Prince Hotel’s Main Dining Room in the East Wing there is an excellent al-la-carte Western menu or Japanese Shabu-Shabu, while the South Wing’s Dining room does and excellent buffet style dinner with both Western and Japanese options.
For visitors wanting to have more dining options, Ichinose has the biggest selection of dining available in a close area.