Shiga Kogen Ski Area

Shiga Kogen Ski Area

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
  • Open Shiga Kogen Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
    1,325 – 2,305 (980)
  • Average Snow Fall
    10  metres
  • Lifts (67)
    4 gondolas
  • Ski Season
    late Nov - early May
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 80km
    Longest run – 6 km
    Beginner - 30%
    Intermediate - 40%
    Advanced - 30%

Shiga Kogen Ski and Snowboard Terrain

The Shiga Kogen ski area terrain is very big, probably the largest in Japan. At 607 hectares it’s officially the second largest Japan ski resort to Niseko, although unlike Niseko who includes the off-piste, the Shiga Kogen ski area probably only counts the piste runs in the statistic. The more European way to measure resort size is the length of the piste runs, and at 80km of piste, Shiga Kogen is completely dwarfed by many of the European ski resorts. No matter which way you measure it, Shiga Kogen seems colossal by Japanese standards, and you’d need at least three to four days to explore the 19 different areas.

The ski and snowboard terrain at Shiga Kogen feels a little European. Sure Shiga has lots of trees and the runs aren’t as long as in Europe (Shiga Kogen has a vertical drop of 980 metres but the vertical is interrupted), yet to ski or board down long groomers and travel from village to village for your next snack or beverage feels distinctively European. Even many of the buildings look European.

With so many groomed runs, Shiga Kogen is absolutely perfect for intermediates and low-end advanced riders. Whilst there are some steep runs, there’s nothing on-piste that will get experts quivering in their boots, and like most other Japanese ski resorts there’s also plenty on offer for beginners.

Snowboarders used to be banned at three of the ski areas: Okushiga Kogen at one end of Shiga Kogen; and Kumanoyu and Yokoteyama at the other end. Thankfully one-plankers are now allowed everywhere, but amusingly at Kumanoyu and Yokoteyama, only one snowboarder is allowed on a chair lift at a time. A snowboarder can’t sit with a skier either. Not sure of their rationale – maybe they think a snowboarder might scheme and plot if they sit with someone else?!

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Shiga Kogen Off-Piste Skiing and Boarding

Off-piste riding at Shiga Kogen is generally taboo at most of the ski areas, but so few people do it that it seems that no one thinks to police it. Off piste riding is allowed at Okushiga Kogen, and at Shibutoge it seems you can largely have a free rein too. At other ski areas, there are ropes galore and at Yakebitaiyama (a Prince Resort) it’s officially banned, so perhaps wear an all white outfit (with a white fur collar for good measure) if you want to head off-piste. And skiing under a lift anywhere at Shiga Kogen is considered very naughty. Regardless of whether you’re allowed to ski off-piste or not, some of the Shiga Kogen off-piste terrain is limited. In places, either the terrain is too mellow or the trees are too tight, or a significant base is required due to the amount of bamboo (sassa grass) and shrubbery. Of course you can go bamboo skiing if you wish – it provides for lots of giggles!

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Interconnected Ski Areas

Shiga Kogen ski area has a huge advantage over others (e.g. Hakuba, Myoko Kogen) in that many of the resorts are inter-connected via the lifts and slopes. Fifteen of the ski resorts at the north-eastern end of Shiga Kogen (the left hand side of the trail map) are inter-connected. This includes the large Yakebitaiyama ski area, Okushiga Kogen and the Ichinose areas, and many visitors to Shiga Kogen may not venture past these fifteen resorts.

To get to the ski resorts on the right hand side of the map, you’ll need to catch a free shuttle bus, which takes about an hour from one end of Shiga Kogen to the other. These resorts are only partially inter-connected. Yokoteyama is connected to Shibutoge, but there’s only a one-way connection with Kumanoyu.

It’s easy to navigate between the areas because there is lots of English signage, but the transitions are a bit clunky in places. Sometimes there are flat spots as well as up uphill sections to get to another area (e.g. between Yakebi and Okushiga, between Ichinose and Terakoya, and the bridges over the road). In general there is a lot of skating, poling, or walking required at Shiga Kogen.

Shiga Kogen Ski Areas – Northern End

Here are some of the ski areas at the main (northern) end of Shiga Kogen. For a listing of all the ski areas and their statistics such as vertical, number of lifts and number of courses, see the Shiga Kogen ski area comparison at the bottom of this page.

Okushigakogen Ski Area
Okushiga-kogen is at the most northern end of Shiga Kogen. Oku-shiga-kogen used to be for skiers only but snowboarders are allowed now too. This area has a spread of runs, but is particularly great for intermediate and advanced riders considering the fabulously long steep groomers. The lift infrastructure is pretty good so you’ll get plenty of vertical in, and the crowds are negligible. Okushigakogen has some excellent options for tree skiing and thanks to high elevation, the snow quality is generally excellent.

Yakebitaiyama Ski Area
Next door is Yakebitaiyama (aka Yakebi) with the three Prince Hotel buildings sitting at the base. This is the biggest and most well developed ski area with good lift infrastructure that includes two fast gondolas and three high speed quads (one with a bubble). It has lots of wide runs for all ability levels. The green runs are not super mellow, and Yakebi is famed for a couple of steep-ish pitches including the Olympic course. It also has some of the best tree skiing of the Shiga Kogen ski areas (but you’ll have to do this very discretely), and like its next door neighbour, the snow quality is really good.

Ichinose Family and Ichinose Diamond Ski Fields
These two areas are close to one of the main hubs of accommodation and nightlife (what little there is!), and provide a range of piste ranging from mellow kids’ runs with a magic carpet to steep groomed pitches and bumps runs, and some obvious tree skiing.

Takamagahara Mammoth Ski Area
This area is popular with intermediates although there’s a little green and black terrain as well. One of the main villages sits at the base so this area can experience a lot of traffic (especially with school kids!).

Higashitateyama Ski Area
Catch the egg gondola up and then enjoy a leg burning run down the long 1998 Nagano Olympic run. There is also some fantastic off-piste skiing in this region when the snow is fresh.

Terakoya Ski Area
Terakoya is tucked up behind the Takamagahara Mammoth ski area, and as the second highest ski area at Shiga Kogen, the powder is pretty dry. There is no village here, just a couple of restaurants and hundreds of Japanese ski racers. Off two slow lifts there is a little bit of short but sweet off-piste.

Nishitateyama, Giant, Hasuike & Maruike
The terrain is largely suited to beginner and intermediate riders on long groomers. At relatively low elevations the snow quality can be particularly crappy, and the base is topped up with some snow-making. These areas tend to close much earlier in the season.

Maruike is popular with families and it has a kids’ park.

Shiga Kogen Ski Areas – Southern End

The areas at the southeast end of Shiga Kogen are not connected with the main ski areas in the north. A bus ride from Hasuike or other villages further up the road is required.

Kumanoyu Ski Area
This Shiga Kogen ski area has a short vertical and is popular for race training. Kumanoyu has some reasonably obvious off-piste runs, and you’re unlikely to encounter too many other powder hounds competing for your freshies.

Yokoteyama Ski Area
At 2,305 metres elevation, the top of this ski area is the second highest of all Japanese ski resorts (the highest ski resort is not particularly remarkable). The top lift features lots of snow monsters (Juhyo), ice rain covered pine trees that have been blasted by the freezing wet winds. It’s frequently cold and windy up there, and the lifts are very slow so you can fully appreciate the nasty weather! The positive of the elevation of course is the great snow quality.

The flattish base area has five mellow green courses. Further up there is a red run and a black run, and they generally don’t fully groom the latter so you might find some powder on the sides. There is some technical tree skiing in this area when there is lots of cover, but take care of the snow monster tree wells that can be particularly gnarly.

Shibutoge Ski Area
Just over the rise from Yokoteyama is the small and largely deserted Shibutoge ski field. The terrain is gentle and you can ski anywhere, so this is the perfect place for powder hounds on their “L” plates to play in the powder. Considering the lack of pitch, the powder needs to be quite dry (which it often is) and a pair of fat skis may be required to gain adequate momentum.

Shiga Kogen Lifts

Shiga Kogen has an extensive lift network with a total of 68 lifts. There is some fabulous lift infrastructure such as detachable quads and gondolas (e.g. Yakebi), whilst at the other end of the spectrum there are lots of painfully slow lifts. However looks can also be deceiving because even though the lemon coloured egg gondola looks like a relic from the 60s, they can crank it up to go pretty fast.

The lift layout is terrible in many places whereby you have to side-step or walk up to get onto the lift (unless there’s a really deep base)– ridiculous!

Eight of the ski areas have night skiing.

Lift Tickets

The electronic lift tickets are valid for all the Shiga Kogen ski areas as well as the shuttle bus. Configurations include single day passes as well as 2-7 day passes. You can use a credit card at most of the main ticket offices to purchase lift tickets (but not at some of the southern Shiga ski areas). Like other Japanese ski resorts, there is no financial incentive to pre-purchase lift tickets as part of a package.

It’s also possible to purchase a combo ticket for just the southern ski areas, which is cheaper than the overall Shiga Kogen lift pass.

Shiga Kogen Snow Conditions

All the different ski areas have different aspects and are at varying elevations so the Shiga Kogen snow quality varies significantly. Snow quality is often excellent at the high ski resorts. Higashitateyama, Terakoya, Yakebitaiyama, Okushigakogen, Shibutoge and Yokoteyama have top elevations that range from about 2,000 metres up to 2,305 metres, which gives them a significant advantage over other Nagano ski resorts such as Nozawa Onsen, Myoko Kogen and Hakuba.

Snow quality at the lower Shiga Kogen resorts can be dubious, particularly the man-made stuff. However keep in mind that the bottom elevation of Shiga Kogen is still significantly higher than the base areas of Nozawa Onsen, Myoko Kogen and Hakuba.

Best Time to Visit Shiga Kogen

Shiga Kogen has a long season that generally runs from late November to early May, although from April onwards the lower resorts such as Maruike, Sunvalley and Hasuike cease operations. If you’re after superb snow conditions and off-piste skiing and boarding, the best time to visit is the end of January to the end of February.

If possible, avoid the days around New Years as this is peak time when many Japanese go on holidays. The slopes are likely to be crowded and accommodation tariffs at a premium.

Comparison of Shiga Kogen Ski Area Statistics
 530 2,009
 20  60  20 10 6
Yakebitaiyama  450  2,000  39  33  28  20  9
Ichinose Family
 320  *  33  45  22  4  4
Ichinose Yamanokami
 105  *  55  45  0  3  2
Ichinose Diamond
 110  1,710  35  50  15  7  2
Tanne no Mori Okojyo
 155  *  85  15  0  1  2
Takamagahara Mammoth
   1,903  30  50  20  1  5
Higashitateyama  230  2,030  45  35  20  2  1
Terakoya  430  2,125  30  45  25  5  3
Nishitateyama  400  2,030  45  35  20  4  3
Hoppo Bunadaira
 240  1,748  45  35  20  *  2
Giant  260  1,748  35  40  25  1  2
Hasuike  85  1,602  75  25  0  4  2
Maruike  100  1,500  50  25  25  4  3
Sun Valley
 170  1,550  38  37  25  3  3
Kidoike  40  *  100  0  0  2  1
Kumanoyu  260  1,950  40  30  30  12  6
Yokoteyama  600  2,305  73  12  15  7  7
Shibutoge  175  2,035  54  46  0  5  2

* information not available
NB stats are not available officially from Shiga Kogen, so reliability of stats is not guaranteed