Skiing in Yamagata

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Ginzan Onsen is a popular tourist town in Yamagata
Ginzan Onsen is a popular tourist town in Yamagata
Zao Onsen in Yamagata has a nice village at the base of the ski area
Zao Onsen in Yamagata has a nice village at the base of the ski area
The village of Zao Onsen
The village of Zao Onsen
The largest Yamagata ski resort is Zao Onsen
The largest Yamagata ski resort is Zao Onsen
Zao Onsen is renowned for the snow ghost trees
Zao Onsen is renowned for the snow ghost trees
Hugging a snow ghost!
Hugging a snow ghost!
Yamagata has a developed onsen culture
Yamagata has a developed onsen culture
Powder skiing in Yamagata at Zao
Powder skiing in Yamagata at Zao
Some good ski resort fare for lunch
Some good ski resort fare for lunch
Zao Onsen is the most popular of the Yamagata ski resorts
Zao Onsen is the most popular of the Yamagata ski resorts
Tengendai Kogen - the highest Yamagata ski resort
Tengendai Kogen - the highest Yamagata ski resort
An old ryokan in Shirabu Onsen near Tengendai
An old ryokan in Shirabu Onsen near Tengendai
Heading for a soak at Shirabu Onsen near Tengendai Yamagata
Heading for a soak at Shirabu Onsen near Tengendai Yamagata
Skiing in Yamagata offers plenty of cultural experiences
Skiing in Yamagata offers plenty of cultural experiences
Yamagata has snow monkeys too!
Yamagata has snow monkeys too!
Snow monkeys on the road to Tengendai Ski Resort Yamagata
Snow monkeys on the road to Tengendai Ski Resort Yamagata
Yamagata ski resort
Yamagata ski resort
Gassan Ski Resort Yamagata - spring skiing
Gassan Ski Resort Yamagata - spring skiing
5 Storey Pagoda of Mt Haguro Yamagata
5 Storey Pagoda of Mt Haguro Yamagata
Try to add Ginzan to your Yamagata skiing trip
Try to add Ginzan to your Yamagata skiing trip

Skiing in Yamagata

Skiing in Yamagata

Skiing in Yamagata is characterised by the heavy snowfalls that the prefecture is renowned for, where the locals have to spend hours and hours digging and clearing the massive amounts of snow. You’d think Yamagata skiing and snowboarding was a big thing considering the amount of snow and that the prefecture has the fourth highest number of ski resorts in Japan. There are a couple of high profile Yamagata ski resorts, yet most of the little ski areas don’t even register a blip on the Japanese tourist radar, let alone on an international stage.

Like various other Tohoku areas, the Yamagata Prefecture is renowned for its onsen culture and being able to unwind in the hot springs after a taxing day on the slopes.

Where is Yamagata Prefecture?

The Yamagata Prefecture is located in the southwest part of the Tohoku region of Honshu, and has Akita Prefecture to the north, Fukushima Prefecture to the south, Miyagi to the east, and Niigata Prefecture to the southwest. Sitting on the west coast, the Yamagata Prefecture faces the Sea of Japan.

Yamagata City is located in the central part of the prefecture and is surrounded by the Zao and Asahi mountain ranges.

Access is easy via shinkansen from Tokyo, and the Yamagata Airport has domestic flights from other Japanese cities.

Yamagata Snow

Yamagata is potentially the snowiest prefecture in Japan, largely due to its position next to the Sea of Japan. When cold air from the northwest passes over the sea and then hits the mountains, it dumps massive amounts of snow, in a similar fashion to the other westerly prefectures of Niigata and Akita.

Mount Gassan (1,984m) reputably receives 30 metres of snow and it’s assumed that this is in the upper elevations rather than down at the Gassan Ski Resort altitude, although either way the ski resort has experienced mega snow bases of 8-9 metres so it must get a LOT of snow. The snow quality at Gassan is very coastal considering its proximity to the Sea of Japan, so it’s not like the dry quality of Central Hokkaido Japow. Due to the ferocious storms, the snow is also typically windblown in the non-protected alpine areas.

Further east at ski resorts such as Zao Onsen, the snow volumes dwindle a little and the snow is a bit dryer.

Yamagata Ski Resorts

There are about 25 ski resorts in Yamagata, with the main ones located in the eastern part of the prefecture near Miyagi. You can see the map icon above for the locations of some of the Yamagata ski areas.

Most of the Yamagata ski areas are low elevation and tiny with only 1 or 2 lifts and a few courses. These are only frequented by those in the local town, so they’re not crowded, especially on weekdays. See the table below for stats on some of the ski areas.

The most renowned snowboarding and skiing in Yamagata is at Zao Onsen which is by far the biggest ski resort (25 slopes) in the prefecture. It’s becoming more popular with westerners because it’s a unique Japanese ski resort in that it has a nice onsen village at the base with various ryokan, and some facilities and services for English speaking guests.

Tengendai Kogen has mellow slopes towards the top, whilst a ropeway offers access to expert off-piste terrain that’s ideal when the temps are low and the snow is fresh. It has a cute little onsen village nearby (Shirabu Onsen) if you want to stay in a ryokan and step back way in time.

 Yamagata Skiing & Snowboarding at Select Resorts
Yamagata Ski Resort  Top Elevation (m) Vertical (m)  Lifts   Courses  Max Gradient
(degrees)
 Tengendai Kogen  1,820  900  4  7  32
 Zao Onsen  1,661  881  36  25  38
 Gassan  1,600  900  4  3  35
 Zao Liza World  1,446  386  3  6  26
 Jangle Jungle  1,030  330  3  5  36
 Zao Sarukura*  885  180  2  6  37
 Yonezawa  800  325  5  8  32
 Asahi Shizenkan  760  320  4  5  34
 Yudonosan  700  170  2  8  35
 Yamagata Akakura Onsen  602  302  3  5  32
 Yunodai  506  75  2  1  16
* = skiing only

Gassan is a small ski resort that’s only open in spring and summer because it gets tooooo much snow to work through the logistics of opening in winter. During winter you can charter a snowcat for deep snow runs below the treeline and/or go backcountry touring.

Kurobushi Kogen Snow Park Jangle Jungle or Jangle Jungle for short is a contemporary ski resort that’s popular with families, especially when night skiing is on. Slopes are northwest facing and it has a top elevation of 1,030 metres.

Yamagata Akakura Onsen (not to be confused with Akakura Onsen in Myoko Niigata) is medium sized by Yamagata standards, with 3 lifts and 5 courses. It has only a top elevation of 602 metres, yet the slopes are north facing.

Ginzan Onsen

Ginzan Onsen is in the northeast part of the prefecture near Obanazawa City. It is an onsen town that developed around a silver mine, and it is now popular with those looking for the perfect Japanese Instaglam photo. It is an incredibly pretty town, especially when snow covered. It’s nestled in a narrow valley and has a small river flowing through the middle of town, with historic ryokan on either side. Various wooden and stone bridges complete the charming picture, and at night time, it’s particularly Instagram worthy when the gas street lamps illuminate the river street that’s pedestrian-only.

Five Storey Pagoda

The 5 Storey Pagoda of Mt Haguro is a national treasure and is in the region to the northwest of Mt Gassan. The wooden pagoda is almost 30 metres high and dates back many centuries so it has lots of deep historical and cultural significance and is thought to be the oldest pagoda in Tohoku. Previously the pagoda brought pilgrims and monks. Today the old wooden structure attracts tourists because it looks particularly picturesque when it’s covered in snow (check it’s not under restoration before you visit because scaffolding isn’t that pretty!). It’s a 2km walk along a cedar forest path that includes other attractions such as temples and shrines.

Safari (Road Trip) Tours

Yamagata & Miyagi Adventure
GUIDED RESORT & CAT ASSISTED BC TOUR
Customisable From 5 Nights
Ability: Intermediate to Advanced
This private adventure tour incorporates snowcat assisted backcountry skiing/riding plus a few ski areas in the prefectures of Yamagata & adjacent Miyagi. You will be guided & hosted by local English speaking Japanese guides who will provide an authentic cultural experience.
Price p/p Sample price is based on 6-night package, twin-share (4 in group).
Base/invoice currency is JPY
Displayed price might vary slightly due to exchange rate fluctuations.
USD 2,880
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See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit Yamagata Prefecture here

Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours

Gassan Backcountry Day Tours
GASSAN BACKCOUNTRY GUIDED DAY TOURS
Private groups only | Max 5 in a group
Ability: Intermediate to Advanced
If you are looking for something different & you love backcountry skiing, Ski Gassan Guides offer day guiding to Gassan ski resort in Yamagata. This resort gets so much snow the lifts don't spin until April so it is ideal for backcountry touring plus there is a snowcat for access as well.
Price p/p Sample price is based on backcountry guiding at Gassan resort with a private group of 4 people for the 2025 season.
Base/invoice currency is JPY
Displayed price might vary slightly due to exchange rate fluctuations.
USD 125
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Yamagata Powder Tour
GASSAN SNOWCAT + RESORT TOUR
Customisable From 3 Nights
Ability: Intermediate to Advanced
This customisable private adventure tour incorporates snowcat assisted backcountry at the mighty Gassan plus a day at Zao Onsen & the option to visit a lesser known Yamagata ski area. You will be guided & hosted by local English speaking Japanese guides. Sample price per person based on group of 4 for 3 nights.
Price p/p Sample price is based on 3-night package with sample inclusions (4 in group).
Base/invoice currency is JPY
Displayed price might vary slightly due to exchange rate fluctuations.
USD 1,408
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See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit Yamagata Prefecture here

Single-Base, Single-Ski-Area Tours

Zao Guided Day Tours
ZAO RESORT GUIDED DAY TOURS
Private groups only | Max 6 in a group
Ability: Intermediate to Advanced
Ski Gassan Guides offer a full day of resort guiding at Zao Onsen. Ski with local guides that know the secret stashes! PRIVATE GROUPS ONLY - sample price is per person if 3 in your group
Price p/p Sample price is based on resort guiding at Zao Onsen with a private group of 3 people for 2025 season.
Base/invoice currency is JPY
Displayed price might vary slightly due to exchange rate fluctuations.
USD 96
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See all Single-Base, Single-Ski-Area tours that visit Yamagata Prefecture here