Zao Onsen (Yamagata City, Yamagata)

Zao Onsen
蔵王温泉 (山形県 山形市)
Planned season: Early December 2016 until early May 2017
'Zao Now' daily report
Independent and exclusive snow and weather reporting from Zao
Latest report posted at 10:04am on Sunday 7th May 2017
Official snow depth Daily updates during snow season

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Zao Onsen is a large-scale ski and snowboard resort located about 16km to the south east of central Yamagata city in Yamagata Prefecture. In terms of area for an individual ski resort, it is the largest in Japan. Zao Onsen is actually both the name of the traditional onsen hot spring village nestled high up above the city and also the ski and snowboard resort. Many of the base ski lifts and courses are within walking distance from the main village with a lot of ski-in ski-out accommodation available. Zao Onsen has a long history, first opening in 1925 with the first ski lift being installed in 1951.

Zao Onsen is one of the most well-known ski and onsen resorts in Japan and famous for the juhyo ‘snow monster’ formations that can be found on the trees on the mountain during the peak winter season. Juhyo can only be found on a limited number of mountains in Japan. This beautiful natural phenomenon makes for spectacular scenery and is one of the reasons why many people visit Zao Onsen each season. The Juhyo near the top of the Zao Ropeway are lit up in the evening during the peak season, with that Ropeway operating for sightseeing purposes (dates below).

Yamagata Prefecture is located in the south-west part of Tohoku with the west coast facing the Sea of Japan. The boundaries of Yamagata Prefecture are all mountainous with Niigata Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture to the south, Akita Prefecture to the north and Miyagi Prefecture to the east. The ski and snowboard ski hills in Yamagata range from very small one-lift local hills to the biggest individual ski resort in Japan (Zao Onsen) and are spread across the Prefecture.

The Mountain

ropeways Ropeways gondolas Gondolas quad lifts Quad lifts triple lifts Triple lifts pair lifts Pair lifts single lifts Single lifts other lifts Other
3 1 5 3 28 1 0

Zao Onsen Course Map

Click on the below image for a larger map
Course Map Small

Zao Onsen Snow Depth Statistics

Official snow depth numbers from the current season and previous season
December January February March
1st - - 1st 60cm 70cm 1st 175cm 160cm 1st 220cm 150cm
2nd - - 2nd 60cm 70cm 2nd 190cm 160cm 2nd 220cm 150cm
3rd - - 3rd 65cm 70cm 3rd 210cm 160cm 3rd 220cm 150cm
4th - - 4th 65cm 70cm 4th 210cm 160cm 4th 220cm 150cm
5th - - 5th 75cm 70cm 5th 210cm 160cm 5th 220cm 150cm
6th - - 6th 80cm 70cm 6th 210cm 160cm 6th 220cm 150cm
7th - - 7th 80cm 70cm 7th 210cm 160cm 7th 220cm 150cm
8th - - 8th 80cm 70cm 8th 210cm 160cm 8th 220cm 130cm
9th - - 9th 80cm 70cm 9th 210cm 160cm 9th 220cm 130cm
10th - - 10th 80cm 70cm 10th 210cm 160cm 10th 220cm 130cm
11th - - 11th 90cm 80cm 11th 210cm 160cm 11th 220cm 130cm
12th - - 12th 100cm 80cm 12th 220cm 160cm 12th 220cm 130cm
13th - - 13th 110cm 80cm 13th 220cm 160cm 13th 220cm 130cm
14th - - 14th 110cm 85cm 14th 220cm 140cm 14th 220cm 130cm
15th 40cm 30cm 15th 130cm 85cm 15th 220cm 140cm 15th 240cm 130cm
16th 40cm 20cm 16th 140cm 85cm 16th 220cm 140cm 16th 240cm 130cm
17th 50cm 25cm 17th 140cm 85cm 17th 220cm 140cm 17th 240cm 130cm
18th 50cm 40cm 18th 140cm 90cm 18th 220cm 150cm 18th 240cm 130cm
19th 50cm 50cm 19th 140cm 130cm 19th 220cm 150cm 19th 240cm 115cm
20th 50cm 50cm 20th 140cm 130cm 20th 220cm 150cm 20th 240cm 115cm
21st 50cm 50cm 21st 150cm 130cm 21st 220cm 150cm 21st 240cm 100cm
22nd 50cm 50cm 22nd 150cm 130cm 22nd 220cm 150cm 22nd 240cm 100cm
23rd 50cm 50cm 23rd 160cm 140cm 23rd 220cm 150cm 23rd 240cm 100cm
24th 50cm 50cm 24th 170cm 140cm 24th 220cm 150cm 24th 240cm 100cm
25th 50cm 50cm 25th 170cm 140cm 25th 220cm 150cm 25th 240cm 100cm
26th 50cm 50cm 26th 170cm 150cm 26th 220cm 150cm 26th 240cm 100cm
27th 50cm 50cm 27th 170cm 150cm 27th 220cm 150cm 27th 240cm 100cm
28th 55cm 60cm 28th 170cm 150cm 28th 220cm 150cm 28th 240cm 100cm
29th 60cm 60cm 29th 170cm 150cm 29th - 150cm 29th 240cm 80cm
30th 60cm 70cm 30th 170cm 160cm 30th 30th 240cm 80cm
31st 60cm 70cm 31st 170cm 160cm 31st 31st 240cm 80cm

Previous Statistics

Zao Onsen Facilities

Ski School: Available Snowboard School: Available
Ski and snowboard lessons are available at Zao Onsen. 
Equipment Rental
Ski Rental: Available Snowboard Rental: Available
Ski and snowboard equipment rental is available.
Ski and snowboard wear rental is also available. 
Children Facilities
Children's facilities
There are a number of places in base areas for sledging and general playing in the snow. 
Park Information
Park information
There are snowboard park areas on the Nakamori and Chuo areas of Zao Onsen. 

Zao Onsen Season & Opening Times

Typical season is from Early December until Early May
October November December January February March April May June July
Weekends and holidays Normally open from 8:30am until 5:00pm
Weekdays Normally open from 8:30am until 5:00pm
'Nighta' (night skiing)
Weekends and holidays Yes
Weekdays Yes
Opening information
Opening information
The lifts at Zao Onsen are normally open from 8:30am (ropeways from 8:15am) until 5pm during the daytime. Nighta, when open, is from 5pm until 9pm.

Nighta in the Uwanodai area is scheduled daily from 21st December 2016 until 5th March 2017 and then Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10th March until 20th March.

Nighta in the Yokokura area is scheduled for New Year (23rd December until 9th January 2017) and then on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 13th January and 12th March 2017.

The Zao Ropeway opens in the evenings on the below dates for sightseeing purposes (not for skiing or boarding). There is an extra charge for this night time operation - 2600 yen for adults and 1300 yen for children (return):

December 2016: 23rd, 24th, 29th, 30th, 31st
January 2017: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, 14th, 15th, 21st, 22nd, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st
February 2017: every day
March 2017: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th

Zao Onsen Lift Ticket Charges

Adults Child
Elementary School age & under
Older Child
High School age
55 years & over
1 Day 5,000 yen 2,500 yen 4,400 yen 4,400 yen
2 Days 9,200 yen 4,600 yen 8,100 yen 8,100 yen
3 Days 12,900 yen 6,500 yen 11,400 yen 11,400 yen
4 Days 15,900 yen 8,000 yen 14,200 yen 14,200 yen
7 Days 21,600 yen 10,000 yen
2 Hours 2,700 yen 1,400 yen
3 Hours 3,300 yen 1,700 yen
4 Hours 4,000 yen 2,000 yen
5 Hours 4,500 yen 2,200 yen
Season 10 Hours 11,500 yen
Season 20 Hours 21,500 yen
Nighta (5pm-9pm) 2,000 yen 1,000 yen
Season Ticket 64,000 yen 30,000 yen 36,000 yen 59,000 yen
Lift Ticket Information The hourly tickets are valid from the time of purchase and can also be used for nighta.
The Season 10 and 20 Hour tickets can be used in units of 1 hour over the season and can be used for nighta.
A 500 yen returnable deposit is required for lift tickets.
Early and late season ticket discounts are available.

Ski-kodomo-no-hi (Children's Day) is 17th and 18th December 2016; 7th, 8th, 21st, 22nd January 2017; 4th, 5th, 18th, 19th February 2017; and 4th, 5th March 2017. On those days, a 1 day ticket is 1,000 yen for children.

Getting to Zao Onsen

By public transport
16.4km from Yamagata Station on the Yamagata Shinkansen line
13.6km from Zao Station on the Ou Honsen Line
16.4km from Yamagata Station on the Ou Honsen Line
Transport Information
The main Yamagata Station, a stop on the Yamagata Shinkansen line, is about 18km from the resort and a 40-45 minute or so bus journey. Bus shuttle services are available from Yamagata Station and Sendai Station.

>> More information on getting to Zao Onsen by public transport

There is a bus service to Zao Onsen from Yamagata Station.
By Car
11.4km from the Yamagata Kaminoyama IC on the Tohoku Chuo Expressway
17.1km from the Yamagata Zao IC on the Yamagata Expressway
Nearest national route: Route 13 (11km away)
Nearest prefecture road: Prefecture Road 21
Zao Onsen resort is located to the south east of Yamagata City. Those travelling by car from the Sendai or Tokyo regions will likely arrive via the Tohoku Expressway and then onto the Yamagata Expressway, coming off at the Yamagata Zao IC which is just over 11km from the resort. There are a few roads going up from Yamagata to the ski resort - if you use the most direct from Yamagata Zao IC, a part of the road (Nishi Zao Kogen line) is a toll road. From Route 13 to the west the two roads going up the mountain are Prefecture Roads 21 and 14.

>> More information on getting to Zao Onsen by car
There are numerous car parks around the base of Zao Onsen. Some are free and some require a charge.

More Information

Visit official website
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Zao Onsen
Course Map Small
Zao Onsen
Resort Spotlight
Resort Spotlight
Season dates and information
At the time of writing (mid May), almost all ski resorts in Japan have closed for the 2016-2017 season.

The information shown on this page is for the 2016-2017 season. Planned season dates and information for the 2017-2018 season will be updated over the coming months. Data for every ski resort should be updated in time for the start of the 2017-2018 winter season.
Current resort snow depth
Daily updates during snow season
Reader Photos & Reviews
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Reader Resort Rankings
General 80
Snow conditions 80
Courses & terrain 73
Lift system 69
Apres ski 42
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Approx. distance from Zao Onsen by road (in winter)
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