Zao Onsen (Yamagata City, Yamagata)

Zao Onsen
(山形県 山形市)
Planned season: Early December 2019 until early May 2020
'Zao Now' daily report
Independent and exclusive snow and weather reporting from Zao
Latest report posted at 7:53am on Friday 17th April 2020
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’ (or ‘ice 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 shown below).

The FIS Ladies' Ski Jump World Cup has been held annually at Zao Onsen in mid-January.

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 30cm 120cm 1st 80cm 160cm 1st 120cm 160cm
2nd - - 2nd 40cm 120cm 2nd 90cm 170cm 2nd 120cm 160cm
3rd - - 3rd 40cm 120cm 3rd 90cm 170cm 3rd 120cm 150cm
4th - - 4th 40cm 120cm 4th 90cm 170cm 4th 120cm 150cm
5th - - 5th 40cm 120cm 5th 90cm 160cm 5th 120cm 145cm
6th - - 6th 40cm 120cm 6th 110cm 160cm 6th 120cm 145cm
7th 45cm - 7th 40cm 120cm 7th 110cm 160cm 7th 120cm 145cm
8th 45cm 5cm 8th 40cm 130cm 8th 110cm 160cm 8th 120cm 145cm
9th 45cm 20cm 9th 40cm 140cm 9th 110cm 160cm 9th 120cm 145cm
10th 45cm 30cm 10th 40cm 130cm 10th 120cm 160cm 10th 115cm 150cm
11th 40cm 30cm 11th 40cm 130cm 11th 120cm 160cm 11th 100cm 150cm
12th 40cm 35cm 12th 40cm 130cm 12th 120cm 160cm 12th 90cm 150cm
13th 40cm 40cm 13th 40cm 130cm 13th 120cm 160cm 13th 90cm 150cm
14th 40cm 40cm 14th 40cm 130cm 14th 110cm 160cm 14th 90cm 160cm
15th 40cm 38cm 15th 40cm 130cm 15th 110cm 160cm 15th 85cm 160cm
16th 40cm 38cm 16th 40cm 130cm 16th 110cm 165cm 16th 85cm 160cm
17th 40cm 45cm 17th 40cm 130cm 17th 100cm 165cm 17th 85cm 160cm
18th 40cm 50cm 18th 40cm 135cm 18th 100cm 165cm 18th 95cm 160cm
19th 40cm 50cm 19th 40cm 135cm 19th 110cm 165cm 19th 95cm 160cm
20th 40cm 60cm 20th 50cm 140cm 20th 110cm 165cm 20th 95cm 160cm
21st 40cm 60cm 21st 60cm 140cm 21st 110cm 165cm 21st 95cm 150cm
22nd 40cm 60cm 22nd 60cm 140cm 22nd 110cm 165cm 22nd 95cm 140cm
23rd 40cm 60cm 23rd 80cm 140cm 23rd 110cm 165cm 23rd 90cm 135cm
24th 45cm 60cm 24th 80cm 140cm 24th 120cm 165cm 24th 90cm 135cm
25th 40cm 60cm 25th 80cm 140cm 25th 120cm 165cm 25th 90cm 130cm
26th 40cm 60cm 26th 80cm 140cm 26th 120cm 165cm 26th 90cm 130cm
27th 40cm 60cm 27th 80cm 150cm 27th 120cm 165cm 27th 90cm 130cm
28th 40cm 80cm 28th 80cm 150cm 28th 120cm 165cm 28th 90cm 150cm
29th 40cm 110cm 29th 80cm 160cm 29th 120cm - 29th 90cm 150cm
30th 40cm 120cm 30th 80cm 170cm 30th 30th 90cm 150cm
31st 40cm 120cm 31st 80cm 160cm 31st 31st 90cm 150cm

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 available, is from 5:00pm until 9:00pm.

Nighta in the Uwanodai area is scheduled daily from 28th December 2019 until 1st March 2020 and then 7th, 14th, 20th and 21st March 2020.

Nighta in the Yokokura area is scheduled for New Year (28th December 2019 until 5th January 2020); and also on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 10th January and 7th March 2020.

The Zao Ropeway opens in the evenings on the below dates for 'Light Up' sightseeing purposes - to go and see the Juhyo monsters (* not for skiing or boarding). There is an extra charge for this night time operation - 3,000 yen for adults and 1,500 yen for children (return):

December 2019: 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st
January 2020: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th-12th, 17th-19th, 24th-27th, 29h-31st
February 2020: all days apart from Tuesdays

Zao Onsen Lift Ticket Charges

Adults Child
Elementary School age & under
Older Child
High School age
60 years & over
1 Day 5,000 yen 2,500 yen 4,400 yen 4,400 yen
2 Days 9,600 yen 4,800 yen 8,500 yen 8,500 yen
3 Days 13,800 yen 6,900 yen 12,300 yen 12,300 yen
4 Days 18,000 yen 9,000 yen 16,000 yen 16,000 yen
2 Hours 3,200 yen 1,600 yen
4 Hours 4,000 yen 2,000 yen
Season 10 Hours 13,000 yen
Season 10 Days 39,000 yen
Nighta (5pm-9pm) 2,400 yen 1,200 yen
Season Ticket 60,000 yen 31,000 yen 37,000 yen 60,000 yen
Lift Ticket Information 2019-2020 Season lift tickets

The hourly tickets are valid from the time of purchase and can also be used for nighta.

The Season 10 Hour ticket 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 (before 20th December 2019 and after 23rd March 2020).

Ski-kodomo-no-hi (Children's Day) is 14th, 15th December 2019; 4th, 5th, 18th, 19th January 2020; 1st, 2nd, 15th, 16th, 29th February 2020; 1st March 2020. On those days, a 1 day ticket is 1,000 yen for children.


The Zao Ropeway opens in the evenings on the below dates for 'Light Up' sightseeing purposes - to go and see the Juhyo monsters (* not for skiing or boarding). There is an extra charge for this night time operation - 3,000 yen for adults and 1,500 yen for children (return):

December 2019: 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st
January 2020: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th-12th, 17th-19th, 24th-27th, 29h-31st
February 2020: all days apart from Tuesdays

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

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Zao Onsen
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Zao Onsen
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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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