About less than an hour away from the capital of Yamagata Prefecture by bus, Zao Onsen is a ski resort and hot spring town with a long history. While the most popular season to come visit is undoubtedly in the winter to take full advantage of the quality of snow, there’s still so many things to do and see regardless of the season.
There are multiple ski equipment rental shops available as well as several ski and snowboarding schools in town. Lift tickets are valid on all of the lifts throughout the resort, ranging from a 4-hour ticket for ¥4000 to a 7-day ticket for ¥21,600. There are also season ticket options. Suffice it to say, you have no excuse not to spend your day zipping down the scenic mountain slopes. With 15 slopes and 12 courses, there is enough of a range to satisfy complete beginners as well as seasoned pros.
Take a cable-car to the top of Mount Zao to get an aerial view of the juhyo or ice monsters – rows of snow-covered trees that look like gnarled creatures out of a dreamscape which you’ll have skied or boarded through earlier. Temperatures can go as low as -20C so make sure to bundle up.
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