Zao Onsen (Yamagata City, Yamagata)

Zao Onsen
蔵王温泉 (山形県 山形市)
Planned season: Early December 2017 until early May 2018
'Zao Now' daily report
Independent and exclusive snow and weather reporting from Zao
Latest report posted at 7:45am on Saturday 17th February 2018
Official snow depth 240cm (0cm) [updated on 17th February 2018]

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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 130cm 60cm 1st 200cm 175cm 1st - 220cm
2nd 40cm - 2nd 130cm 60cm 2nd 200cm 190cm 2nd - 220cm
3rd 40cm - 3rd 140cm 65cm 3rd 200cm 210cm 3rd - 220cm
4th 40cm - 4th 140cm 65cm 4th 200cm 210cm 4th - 220cm
5th 40cm - 5th 140cm 75cm 5th 200cm 210cm 5th - 220cm
6th 45cm - 6th 140cm 80cm 6th 200cm 210cm 6th - 220cm
7th 45cm - 7th 140cm 80cm 7th 200cm 210cm 7th - 220cm
8th 45cm - 8th 140cm 80cm 8th 200cm 210cm 8th - 220cm
9th 45cm - 9th 140cm 80cm 9th 200cm 210cm 9th - 220cm
10th 45cm - 10th 140cm 80cm 10th 200cm 210cm 10th - 220cm
11th 45cm - 11th 150cm 90cm 11th 200cm 210cm 11th - 220cm
12th 50cm - 12th 150cm 100cm 12th 220cm 220cm 12th - 220cm
13th 60cm - 13th 150cm 110cm 13th 240cm 220cm 13th - 220cm
14th 60cm - 14th 150cm 110cm 14th 240cm 220cm 14th - 220cm
15th - 40cm 15th 150cm 130cm 15th 240cm 220cm 15th - 240cm
16th - 40cm 16th 150cm 140cm 16th 240cm 220cm 16th - 240cm
17th - 50cm 17th 150cm 140cm 17th 240cm 220cm 17th - 240cm
18th - 50cm 18th 150cm 140cm 18th - 220cm 18th - 240cm
19th - 50cm 19th 150cm 140cm 19th - 220cm 19th - 240cm
20th - 50cm 20th 150cm 140cm 20th - 220cm 20th - 240cm
21st - 50cm 21st 150cm 150cm 21st - 220cm 21st - 240cm
22nd - 50cm 22nd 150cm 150cm 22nd - 220cm 22nd - 240cm
23rd - 50cm 23rd 160cm 160cm 23rd - 220cm 23rd - 240cm
24th - 50cm 24th 170cm 170cm 24th - 220cm 24th - 240cm
25th - 50cm 25th 180cm 170cm 25th - 220cm 25th - 240cm
26th 70cm 50cm 26th 180cm 170cm 26th - 220cm 26th - 240cm
27th 100cm 50cm 27th 180cm 170cm 27th - 220cm 27th - 240cm
28th 120cm 55cm 28th 180cm 170cm 28th - 220cm 28th - 240cm
29th 100cm 60cm 29th 180cm 170cm 29th - - 29th - 240cm
30th 130cm 60cm 30th 200cm 170cm 30th 30th - 240cm
31st 130cm 60cm 31st 200cm 170cm 31st 31st - 240cm

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 5:00pm during the daytime. Nighta, when open, is from 5:00pm until 9:00pm.

Nighta in the Uwanodai area is scheduled daily from 23rd December 2017 until 4th March 2018 and then Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9th March until 18th March.

Nighta in the Yokokura area is scheduled for New Year (23rd December until 8th January 2018); and then on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 12th January and 18th March 2018 and between 2nd-11th March 2018.

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 - 2,600 yen for adults and 1,300 yen for children (return):

December 2017: 23rd, 24th, 29th, 30th, 31st
January 2018: 1st-7th, 13th-14th, 20th-21st, 27th-31st
February 2018: every day
March 2018: 1st-4th

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 16th and 17th December 2017; 6th, 7th, 20th January 2018; 3th, 4th, 17th, 18th February 2018; and 3rd March 2018. 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
Information for ski hills around Japan have been updated for the 2017-2018 season
Current resort snow depth
(change since last update)
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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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