Shiga Kogen is a vast complex of 22 mostly interlinked ski areas, with 120+ lifts. It's located east of Nagano city(in Nagano Prefecture), about the same distance that Hakuba is located west of Nagano city. There are also a few other resorts scattered nearer to Nagano city. Shiga Kogen is also on the western side of the range of mountains, while Naeba/Kagura & the resorts around Yuzawa(in Niigata Prefecture) are located on the eastern side. To the north is Nozawa Onsen.
Unlike quite a few resorts around Nagano Prefecture, you have to drive up to the resort area on windy roads, similar to the roads up to the Victorian resorts of Falls Creek, Mt Buller and Mt Hotham. As a consequence, the base elevations are high (lowest 1350m), while the highest lifted point is 2307m. This means that while some of the resorts in Nagano & Niigata Prefectures may be getting rain in the lower half, even the base of Shiga Kogen will be getting snow. Because of it's altitude, snow quality is very good.
The interlinking of the resorts is really divided into two areas, one in the southeast, and one in the northeast. The southeast area consists of the following:
Yokoteyama - This is the highest at Shiga. The bottom is rather flat, while the top has a couple of good advanced and intermediate(red) slopes. The snow quality is excellent, and you can see a few "snow ghosts" up the top. Not so many off piste options, as the trees are close together.
Shibutoge - This is located right at the top of Yokoteyama, with just two lifts, a couple of reds and a green run. Not many people up there so a little off piste can be found.
Kumanoyu - This is quite a nice area. The bottom is mostly green, but the top is black and red. There are some excellent tree runs off to the north side. This is a skier only area!!
Kasadake - Just next to Kumanoyu, one lift only.
Maeyama - Right next to the car park at the bottom of Yokoteyama, with only one lift.
Kidoike - A tiny one lift place off the road up to Yokoteyama.
The mix in this area is mostly skiers. You need to catch the shuttle bus or drive there, as it's NOT linked to the rest of the area. The biggest advantage of the area, it that it's so laid back and uncrowded. The (tiny)car park is often full, so you can just park across the road, with the back of the car poking into one of the runs!!!!
The other area in the northeast contains the other resorts, all of which are interlinked. The lifts start at the lowest point in the central area between the southeast & northeast areas, at Maruike. Starting from near Maruike, travelling form one resort to the next:
Sunvalley - Three lifts.
Maruike - Just three lifts, but some reasonable black and reds. Just about the lowest lifted point.
Hasuike - 2 lifts, plus a funny little rope tow across to link up with Giant. A couple of reds, blacks & greens.
Giant - two lifts, but a good black right down the middle.
Nishidateyama - Two lifts. Some reasonable red runs plus black at the top, and 1998 Olympic course. Links to the other resorts, together with:
Hoppo Bunadaira - two lifts with green and red, but mostly a link area.
Higashidateyama – One (very) small gondola, but long!!! So small, that snowboards or longer twin-tip skis need to poke out of the door!!! Quite a long red and black run down. All of the above areas seems to be almost totally devoid of snowboarders. In many cases, the links between each area involve some skating/walking/pushing, but I would say that out of 50 skiers, there was only about one or two snowboarders on the gondola, so probably less than 5% snowboarders. 1998 Olympic course.
Terakoya – Located at the top of Higashidateyama, this is not frequented by boarders. It is high and cold, but it has quite a few off piste options. Three lifts. The linking back down towards the Maruike area is not very clear, but the green trail does offer some tree runs.
Takamagahara Mamouth – Four lifts. Some reasonable red and black on the top half, green at the bottom. There are many more people here, as the main accommodation area is located at the bottom. Consequently, there seem to be quite a few bumps form in the afternoon.
Tanne Mori Okojo – Three lifts, same as above, but shorter.
Ichinose Family – Three lifts, similar again to above. This is often very crowded on a weekend, and all of these had a more "normal" ratio of snowboarders, or closer to 50%.
Ichinose Diamond – Three lifts. Located across the valley, less crowed than the above. The aspect seems to get more clear weather. Reds and greens.
Ichinose Yamanokami – One lift, right next to Ichinose Diamond, but provides access to Yakebitaiyama. Red & green.
Yakebitaiyama – Eight lifts, including two gondolas. Probably the largest single area, and has the Prince Hotel complex at its base. Not as crowded as the areas above, but still a lot of congestion in some areas, towards the west. Crowds thin out over on the eastern part. Mainly reds and black, except for near the bottom. More off piste options in the trees.
Okushigakogen – ski only area. Three lifts, including one gondola. Hardly anybody around. Mostly red and black with a little green. More off piste options in the trees.
If you want to get all the way across from Okushigakogen to Sunvalley, it will take around 100 minutes!!! (longer on a snowboard) Unless you’re staying in one place, such as Yakatebitaiyama or the Ichinose area, Shiga Kogen is not the ideal place for a snowboard. There is quite a lot of skating/pushing/walking between areas, mainly at the top!! That said, it is still a place where snowboarders can have a great time, provided you do not expect to travel across the the entire area in one day. Be aware that Okushigakogen & Kumanoyu are skier only areas! Mid week is uncrowded, with such a vast area, people can spread out!!!
The Shiga Kogen area is located about 40km east of Nagano City, in Nagano Prefecture
With the (claimed) largest ski area in Japan, Shiga Kogen has many runs of varying length and difficulty, so most would find it difficult to get bored, even after a week or 2 of skiing. Also with a consistently good snowfall per year and many different aspects, it is possible to stay out of the wind.
As it caters to the Japanese public who tend to go for a packaged resort deal, the nightlife in general is fairly quiet. Ichinose is the best spot to be in for restaurants, but don't expect a wide amount of bars or clubs.
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From Tokyo, catch the Nagano Asama Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Nagano City, then bus to Shiga Kogen. Buses depart from platforms 3&4 on the east side of the station (Higashi-exit/東出口). Cost is 1,900Y. There is no "Shiga Kogen" town, so you need to specify where your hotel is.
Liquid Snow Tours have specialized in booking Japanese ski holidays for more than four years. With dedicated resort sites full of information and maps, and a comprehensive online booking system, our services can't be beaten. Visit http://ski-shiga-kogen.com for more information, or call +61 (0)3 9017 1142 to talk to our Melbourne office.
JAPANiCAN Major Japanese travel agent with over 25 accommodation options in Shiga both on and off mountain, starting at ¥4,580 per night. http://www.japanican.com/hotels/List.aspx?so=c&ar=200501
With approx 107 hotels spread out across the mountains, most accommodation is either ski in-ski out or close enough to it. Every area has a range of budget to luxury accommodation, so finding something to suit your needs or price shouldn't be hard. Please note though, that not all hotels have staff fluent in english, so consider this when booking. Some of the hotels in the various areas are:
Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel website
Chalet Bersarooms website
Ichinose: Hotel Sunroute Shiga Kogen website - Reasonable accommodation, mostly western rooms
Hotel Khuls website Higher end, ski in/out accommodation at the side of Ichinose family
Villa Ichinose website Budget accommodation
Hoppo/Bundaira/Nishidateyama: Alpen Glow website Budget accommodation, japanese rooms only, at the side of Bundaira ski area
Lift Tickets are interchangeable between all 22 resorts.
Shiga Koden uses an RFID chip for the ski pass, as well as free travel on snow buses. Prices for the 2009/10 season are:
1 Day - 4,800 yen 2 Day - 9,000 yen Super Pass 3 - 13,000 yen Super Pass 5 - 21,000 yen
Child: under 12 years old
1 Day - 2,400 yen 2 Day - 4,500 yen Super Pass 3 - 6,500 yen Super Pass 5 - 10,500 yen
A 10 day pass (able to be used across the season) is available, but it must be paid for in cash.
Equipment can be hired from most hotels, however the Prince Hotel in Yakebitai-yama has a good range of new ski/snowboards. Skis and snowboards can also be hired from a Snowcan operating out of the Olympic Hotel in Ichinose. For large sizes it may be beneficial to hire or buy before heading overseas, as the Japanese are generally smaller proportioned than westerners.
During the day, movement between the various areas can be done by using the cream and red buses. These can be either free for ski pass holders or cheap for non pass holders.
The buses are also able to be taken to see the snow monkeys at the nearby Jugokudani Forest Park in Yudanaka. This will incur a cost whether you are a pass holder or not.
Parking is available at most of the areas. Okushiga Kogen and Yakabitai-yama has 8 parking areas, Ichinose 5, Takamagahara 1, Hoppo Onsen 1, Hasuike 2, Maruike 1, Sunvalley 1, Kidoike 1, Kumanoyu and Maeyama 2 and 1 at Yosake/Yokote-yama.
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Lunchtime dining can be done on mountain or at hotels with a variety of food available. Most serve regular japanese fare such as japanese curry, ramen, miso and gyudon which will keep you going for quite a while. Hot Chips and other foods are available at the cafe at the bottom of Takamagahara, with a short walk across the carpark to the Takamagahara Hotel netting you a nice pizza.
For the brave that venture out at night, trying various hotel's restaurants can provide some variety. If you are staying in Ichinose, one place that definately deserves a visit (or two!) is Ethnic Beer House - Kamoshika located on the ground floor of the Hotel Japan Shiga. This restaurant is a Nepalese curry house, with huge, home-made Naan bread and Tandoori available. The banquet is well worth the price with enough food to keep an elephant satisfied.
Bars & Entertainment
With Shiga Kogen catering to a more japanese market, wild bars and nightclubs are nowhere to be seen. Ichinose is probably the liveliest area, although some hotels have their own little bar area for patrons to mingle at.
A small izakaya (japanese style pub) is present at the Hotel Dairoku in Ichinose, while the Jalon Ski Bar in the Chalet Shiga (Ichinose) is more western with a big screen TV playing winter sports videos. 4 of the local beers are available in a "taster set" (1 pot glass each) for 800Y with small snacks available.
As Shiga Kogen is first and foremost a snow or recreation area, shopping is not really a feature. Most hotels have gift shops where local souvenirs and goods can be bought. Hotel Japan Shiga and the Olympic Hotel in Ichinose both carry small Yamazaki convenience stores where food and health supplies (band-aids, ibuprofen, muscle cream) can be purchased. For more specific medication you will need to bring your own.
There don't appear to be a lot of ropes at any of the areas at Shiga Kogen, except in places that are genuinely hazardous. So there can be opportunity for off piste in the right places. The best off piste options are on the less frequented small areas, with only one or two lifts.
Out of Bounds
Parks & Pipes
Shiga Kogen also boasts one of the longest ski seasons in Japan with the official ski season commencing from mid-to-late November and continuing throughout April and until the first week of May (Golden Week).