Zao Onsen resort review (Yamagata City, Yamagata)

Zao Onsen
Yamagata City, Yamagata
Submitted by edave on 17th February 2015
Wow Zao! Love the snow monsters!
Disclaimer: I won a free pass for one day at Zao.

We struggled a lot on the first day. We quickly discovered that Zao is primarily designed for skiers. My wife, a snow boarder, had to be pulled by me over the flat spots and spent a lot of time walking between lifts. We were shocked to learn we had to traverse for about 10 minutes to get to lift 17 or 19 from the top of lift 12. We also struggled to find our way around. The map has a name for each lift, which is cute, but not terribly easy to remember when you're first language isn't Japanese. Then there's a number for each lift, and there's really no consistency in the signs around the courses meaning we got lost countless times. It'd be great if they could just have a simple number with an arrow at each turn so you know you're headed the right direction.

Despite all that, once we got used to the runs and learnt which ones we liked most, our experience got better and better until at the end of the 5 days, the original run with the flat spot mentioned above actually became one of our favourites.

Zao is beautiful. The dry, sticky snow not only makes the amazing snow monsters, but also makes every other tree a lovely, glistening white. On the quieter, mid-week days we were blown away to have whole slopes to ourselves!

Not being an advanced skier, I think that Zao was a great resort for me at my level. Whilst there are a few black runs, they're vastly out-numbered by green and red. They offered just the right level of challenge to level up. A down-side was that the pairs lifts were pretty slow. They looked a bit old and didn't have a safety bar.

The food on the slopes is great and we had fun having lunch somewhere else every day. The town also has enough restaurants to prevent revisiting any over a 6 night stay.
Date visited: From 29 January, 2015 To 04 February, 2015
Snow condition on visit: The conditions were great for our first two days (10cm each night) and whilst there was no significant snow fall after that it was fine for us.
Things I liked: Lack of excessive crowds, even on the weekend. Great price. Great food. Long runs.
Things I didn't like: Flat spots in courses. Slow lifts without a safety bar. Bad signage.
Recommended for: Beginner riders
Intermediate riders
Authentic Japan experience
Not recommended for: Advanced riders
General score: 75
Snow conditions: 70
Courses/Terrain: 60
Lift system: 70
Apres ski: 70

Zao Onsen

Yamagata City, Yamagata
View all Reviews for Zao Onsen (60)
View all Photos from Zao Onsen (1336)

Average Rankings

General score: 80
Snow conditions: 80
Courses/Terrain: 73
Lift system: 69
Apres ski: 42

Basic Resort Statistics

Max. elevation: 1660m
Min. elevation: 780m
Vertical: 880m
Steepest slope: 38°
Longest course: 9000m
Number of lifts: 41

Other resorts nearby

Zao Sarukura 8.80km
Zao Liza World 13.90km
St.MARY 33.10km
Tendo Kogen 42.40km
Shirataka Choei 44.50km
Nishikawa Chomin 50.60km
Asahi Shizenkan 51.40km

Location of Zao Onsen