Zao Onsen (Yamagata City, Yamagata)

Zao Onsen
蔵王温泉 (山形県 山形市)
Planned season: Early December 2018 until early May 2019
'Zao Now' daily report
Independent and exclusive snow and weather reporting from Zao
Latest report posted at 9:49am on Saturday 15th December 2018
Official snow depth 38cm (-2cm) [updated on 15th December 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’ (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 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 1st - 200cm 1st - 240cm
2nd - 40cm 2nd - 130cm 2nd - 200cm 2nd - 240cm
3rd - 40cm 3rd - 140cm 3rd - 200cm 3rd - 240cm
4th - 40cm 4th - 140cm 4th - 200cm 4th - 240cm
5th - 40cm 5th - 140cm 5th - 200cm 5th - 230cm
6th - 45cm 6th - 140cm 6th - 200cm 6th - 230cm
7th - 45cm 7th - 140cm 7th - 200cm 7th - 230cm
8th 5cm 45cm 8th - 140cm 8th - 200cm 8th - 230cm
9th 20cm 45cm 9th - 140cm 9th - 200cm 9th - 220cm
10th 30cm 45cm 10th - 140cm 10th - 200cm 10th - 220cm
11th 30cm 45cm 11th - 150cm 11th - 200cm 11th - 220cm
12th 35cm 50cm 12th - 150cm 12th - 220cm 12th - 220cm
13th 40cm 60cm 13th - 150cm 13th - 240cm 13th - 220cm
14th 40cm 60cm 14th - 150cm 14th - 240cm 14th - 200cm
15th 38cm - 15th - 150cm 15th - 240cm 15th - 220cm
16th - - 16th - 150cm 16th - 240cm 16th - 200cm
17th - - 17th - 150cm 17th - 240cm 17th - 200cm
18th - - 18th - 150cm 18th - 240cm 18th - 200cm
19th - - 19th - 150cm 19th - 240cm 19th - 200cm
20th - - 20th - 150cm 20th - 240cm 20th - 190cm
21st - - 21st - 150cm 21st - 240cm 21st - 190cm
22nd - - 22nd - 150cm 22nd - 240cm 22nd - 190cm
23rd - - 23rd - 160cm 23rd - 240cm 23rd - 190cm
24th - - 24th - 170cm 24th - 240cm 24th - 190cm
25th - - 25th - 180cm 25th - 240cm 25th - 190cm
26th - 70cm 26th - 180cm 26th - 240cm 26th - 190cm
27th - 100cm 27th - 180cm 27th - 240cm 27th - 190cm
28th - 120cm 28th - 180cm 28th - 240cm 28th - 170cm
29th - 100cm 29th - 180cm 29th - - 29th - 170cm
30th - 130cm 30th - 200cm 30th 30th - 160cm
31st - 130cm 31st - 200cm 31st 31st - 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 22nd December 2018 until 3rd March 2019 and then Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8th March until 10th March and on 16th March 2019.

Nighta in the Yokokura area is scheduled for New Year (22nd December 2018 until 6th January 2019); and then on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 11th January and 10th March 2019.

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 - 2,800 yen for adults and 1,400 yen for children (return):

December 2018: 22nd, 23rd, 29th, 30th, 31st
January 2019: 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 11th-13th, 18th-20th, 25th-27th
February 2019: all days apart from Tuesdays
March 2019: 1st-3rd

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 9,400 yen 4,700 yen 8,300 yen 8,300 yen
3 Days 13,300 yen 6,700 yen 11,800 yen 11,800 yen
4 Days 16,800 yen 8,400 yen 15,000 yen 15,000 yen
2 Hours 3,000 yen 1,500 yen
4 Hours 4,000 yen 2,000 yen
Season 10 Hours 13,000 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 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.

Ski-kodomo-no-hi (Children's Day) is 15th and 16th December 2018; 5th, 6th, 19th, 20th January 2019; 2nd, 3rd, 16th, 17th February 2019; 2nd, 3rd March 2019. 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
As of Sunday 9th December, we still need to update the information for about 50 ski hills around Japan. They are mostly very small ones and the information can be very hard to find. We are working to get them all updated as quickly as possible... hopefully within the next week!
Current resort snow depth
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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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