Okushiga Kogen Ski Resort
The Okushiga Kogen Ski Resort is the best Shiga Kogen ski area! For many years snowboarding was banned at Okushiga Kogen. Under new ownership, Okushiga Kogen now not only permits snowboarding, but the ski area has become the most progressive of the Shiga Kogen ski areas
(although that’s not too hard considering that much of Shiga Kogen is painfully stuck in the dark ages!). Whilst off-piste skiing is frowned upon elsewhere at Shiga Kogen, the Okushiga Kogen ski area not only allows it but they also encourage it and have undertaken a glading program for designated tree zones which will expand into the future.
Okushiga Kogen Ski Resort also offers plenty of other pluses for international travellers including a western style hotel with multi-lingual staff, an international ski school with group ski and snowboard lessons in English, and backcountry tours.
Okushiga Kogen Ski and Snowboard Terrain
In its own right, the Okushiga Kogen ski area is reasonably large compared to some of the little Shiga Kogen ski areas. Okushiga Kogen has 6 lifts, 530 metres of vertical, and only 10 courses (ie piste), but the size of the off-piste terrain and also the sidecountry is substantial. And as one of the Shiga Kogen ski areas
, Okushiga Kogen is interconnected with 14 other ski zones, and another 4 Shiga Kogen areas are accessible by bus, so there’s definitely no shortage of ski and snowboard terrain. Better still, all the Shiga ski areas are on a shared lift ticket.
The 6 lifts at Okushiga Kogen Ski Resort consist of 2 high speed double chairs (one of which rises from the hotels base), a gondola (that rises from the day base area – it’s rather squeezy!), and 3 other pair lifts. Thankfully the beginners’ chair has a safety bar (you can’t take this for granted in Japan!). One of the slow pair lifts services the terrain park, which has a good range of jumps and hits.
The trail stats are 20% beginner, 60% intermediate, and 20% advanced. Beginners have a fabulously wide run above the ski-in ski-out hotels, whilst the other green runs require a short pitch down an intermediate run to get there. Intermediates have some decent slopes including the steep-ish “course no. 2 Expert” which is groomed. There are only 2 short trails that are aptly rated for advanced riders, so experienced riders will get bored very quickly with the on-piste action.
For powder hounds, the strength of Okushiga Kogen lies in the off-piste and sidecountry areas that run off a few of the Okushiga Kogen lifts and from the inter-connection with Yakebitiyama. The resort has thinned the trees in places (and will do more glading work in the future), whilst in other spots the tree skiing can be rather narrow. For steep pitches, there are lines that funnel down towards the terrain park and one area is littered with cliffs. Off-piste riding at Okushiga Kogen is really only ideal for those with good route finding experience, or those on a guided tour.
Okushiga Kogen Snow
Shiga Kogen overall is renowned for its excellent snow quality due to the high elevation, and as one of the higher Shiga ski areas at 2,009 metres of top elevation, Okushiga Kogen is no exception. Some of the slopes have an easterly aspect, whilst the runs down to the hotels are north-east facing and some of the sidecountry is north facing, so the aspect contributes to great snow quality. Okushiga Kogen also scores well in the quantity stakes with an average of 12 metres of pow per season.
The Okushiga Kogen season generally runs from early December to early May.
Where is Okushiga Kogen Ski Resort?
Okushiga Kogen is 57km northeast of Nagano City
and the most northern of the Shiga Kogen
ski areas. Okushigakogen is connected via the slopes with Yakebitiyama ski area, which is reasonably large and also has modern facilities. The Sun Valley ski area (the closest Shiga ski area to Nagano) is 14km to the southwest by road, or you can just ski or snowboard there.
OkushigaKogen is 26km northeast of the town of Yudanaka
and 24km from the adjacent town of Shibu Onsen
See the Shiga Kogen travel
page for information on options for getting to Shiga Kogen. To get between the different Shiga Kogen ski areas during the day, it’s possible to use the lifts and slopes or the free shuttle bus service.
Okushiga Kogen Hotels
The ski area is fortunate to have two deluxe hotels that have the convenience of a ski-in ski-out location.
The chic Okushiga Kogen Hotel
caters incredibly well to international guests with multi-lingual staff. Hotel rooms offer western beds and range from single rooms to suites for up to 4 guests. All rooms are non-smoking. The Okushiga Kogen Hotel
has a delightful après ski bar that serves drinks, lunch and appetizers, and you can lounge around the central open fire. The hotel has fine dining restaurants with French or Japanese cuisine, and packages can also include meals at the nearby izakaya. The hotel also has an onsen, and ski and snowboard rentals. See more information on Okushiga Kogen Hotel packages
The nearby Hotel Grand Phenix
offers ski in access and it is less than a minute walk to the lift (so it’s pretty much ski-in ski-out). This grand hotel is modern yet it features traditional and striking European décor. Most of the hotel rooms are western style (for 1 to 4 guests) and there are also twin Japanese tatami rooms available. In addition to a Chinese/Japanese restaurant, the hotel has an Italian restaurant that serves the most exquisite multi-course gourmet meals (open for lunch and dinner). A beautiful lounge bar overlooking snowy trees is a nice spot for après ski drinks or a night cap. Other hotel facilities include a large indoor swimming pool, onsen, saunas, ski rentals (not snowboards), and a Phenix ski shop.
Ski Resort Facilities
Most of the facilities and services at Okushiga Kogen are housed within the two hotels, and also the Center House which has a sports bar, kids indoor play room, and the Shiga International Ski School
There are also two large daytime cafeterias near the gondola base of Okushiga Kogen.
The Shiga International Ski School offers a range of backcountry ski and snowboard trips. These include guiding in the sidecountry of Okushiga Kogen, and skinning trips to Ryuoo Ski Park (which is just over the crest from Okushiga Kogen) and Nozawa Onsen.
Other Okushiga Kogen activities include horse drawn sleigh rides and snowshoeing. See the Shiga Kogen activities
page for more ideas on things to do in the area.
Summary of Pros and Cons of Okushiga Kogen
- Like many of the Shiga ski areas, Okushiga Kogen is blessed with lots of snowfall and high elevation, and also a favourable aspect, so the snow quality is typically better than most other Nagano ski resorts.
- The ski area has the convenience of two lovely ski-in ski-out hotels.
- The steep groomer is a lot of fun!
- Off-piste riding is permitted and includes some gladed areas. The off-piste has small sections of gnarly steeps, which is somewhat of a rarity for Japan.
- Other than holiday weekends, the ski area is completely uncrowded.
- This is one of only a handful of ski resorts in Japan that offer group ski and snowboard lessons in English, and it’s the only area at Shiga Kogen.
- The Okushiga Kogen Hotel caters well for English speaking guests.
- The nightlife is rather subdued, although it’s a fraction more lively than the rest of Shiga Kogen. The area is somewhat isolated, and it’s hard to get to other places in the evenings unless you have your own wheels.
- The top flat/uphill connection between Yakebitiyama and Okushiga Kogen becomes rather tiresome, so you may not want to do it too often each day.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
- The off-piste terrain requires a bit of nous to navigate (or a guide) so the average punter isn’t going to head in there (without having to walk out of a gully) and steal your freshies.