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 – 2,307 (980)
  • Average Snow Fall
    10  metres
  • Lifts (48)
    5 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 18 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 is rather nice. 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 a bit of a ski culture still exists.

We’ve provided specific reviews and ratings for the Okushiga Kogen, Yakebitaiyama, Kumanoyu and Yokoteyama ski areas, whilst ratings for the overall Shiga Kogen terrain are generally higher considering that the area as a whole has more to offer.

Shiga Kogen Off-Piste Skiing and Boarding

Off-piste riding at Shiga Kogen is a little taboo at some of the ski areas but not heavily policed, whilst at others such as Okushiga Kogen it’s overtly allowed. Either way, you should be OK if you’re not an exhibitionist, such as skiing under a chair lift.

In some places the off-piste zones are obvious, straight off the runs with fall-line drop, whilst others require some scouting and potentially a traverse and push-out. Some zones are safe whilst others in open solar zones require some avalanche safety judgement. As to be expected, the obvious off-piste in the central zones tracks out quickly, whilst the quieter southern ski areas stayed untracked longer. Having a guide is incredibly helpful. 

The Shiga off-piste terrain mostly requires a decent base as there is significant bamboo (sassa grass), and bamboo skiing takes some special skills! Areas such as Yokoteyama have lots of undergrowth in amongst the tight trees, so don’t tackle this early season and/or if you’re lacking tree skiing expertise.

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Interconnected Ski Areas

Shiga Kogen ski area has a huge advantage over Hakuba and 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 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 at the southern end, you’ll need to catch a free shuttle bus, which takes about an hour from one end of Shiga Kogen to the other. These southern 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). There can be lot of skating, poling, or walking required at Shiga Kogen when transitioning between zones.

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 riders. The lift infrastructure is reasonable 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, 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. Considering its central location, Ichinose tends to be the busiest of the Shiga Kogen ski areas.

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 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, plus the legendary Terakoya trees.

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 slope 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. High elevation and a shady aspect contribute to good snow quality.

Yokoteyama Ski Area

At 2,307 metres elevation, the top of the Yokoteyama Ski Resort is the second highest of all Japanese ski resorts (the highest Japan ski resort is not particularly remarkable). The top lift features lots of snow monsters (Juhyo) which are 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 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 48 lifts. It had 70 lifts several years ago, and many have been retired which has diminished the amount of beginner terrain somewhat.

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. Thankfully the lemon coloured egg gondola at Higashidateyama has had an upgrade, and in addition to looking better, it can be cranked up to go pretty fast.

The new Pulse Gondola at Giant, with its strange 3 cabins in a row, is mostly for access from a bus stop.

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 snow base).

Particularly in early season as the ski resort is opening up, you’ll need to keep an eye on the lift status.

On windy days, some lifts such as the Okushiga Kogen Gondola may go on wind hold.

Lift Tickets

The Shiga Kogen Mountain Resort 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 to 10 non-consecutive day passes. It’s also possible to purchase a slightly cheaper lift pass for an individual ski area, or a combo ticket for just the southern ski areas.

You can use a credit card at most of the main ticket offices to purchase lift tickets. Some of the hotels sell discounted lift passes, but you may need to pay cash for these.

Like most other Japanese ski resorts, there is no financial incentive to pre-purchase lift tickets as part of a package.

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, Kumanoyu, Shibutoge and Yokoteyama have top elevations that range from about 2,000 metres up to 2,307 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 (see Nagano snow stats for elevations of major Nagano ski resorts).

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 1,995  15  70  15 16  5
Ichinose Family
 320  1,940  40  30  30  4  4
Ichinose Yamanokami
 105  1,700  55  45  0  3  1
Ichinose Diamond
 85  1,710  35  50  15  2  2
Tanne no Mori Okojyo
 155  1,815  85  15  0  1  1
Takamagahara Mammoth
230  1,903  30  50  20  2  3
Higashitateyama  430  1,970  45  35  20  2  1
Terakoya  155  2,060  30  45  25  5  2
Nishitateyama  270  1,730  45  35  20  4  3
Hoppo Bunadaira
 240  1,570  45  35  20  1  1
Giant  260  1,590  35  40  25  1  2
Hasuike  85  1,590  75  25  0  3  1
Maruike  100  1,565  50  25  25  4  2
Sun Valley
 170  1,585  38  37  25  3  1
Kidoike**  40  *  100  0  0  0  0
Kumanoyu  260  1,950  40  30  30  12  5
Yokoteyama  602  2,307  73  12  15  7  7
Shibutoge  175  2,307  54  46  0  5  2

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