Zao Onsen (Yamagata City, Yamagata)

Zao Onsen
(山形県 山形市)
Planned season: Saturday 12th December 2020 until early May 2021
'Zao Now' daily report
Independent and exclusive snow and weather reporting from Zao
Latest report posted at 9:59am on Sunday 28th February 2021
Official snow depth 170cm (0cm) [updated on 28th February 2021]

Reader opinion Resort Reviews [60] Write review
Reader photos Photos [1341] Upload photo
resort map

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 120cm 30cm 1st 150cm 80cm 1st - 120cm
2nd - - 2nd 120cm 40cm 2nd 150cm 90cm 2nd - 120cm
3rd - - 3rd 120cm 40cm 3rd 160cm 90cm 3rd - 120cm
4th - - 4th 120cm 40cm 4th 160cm 90cm 4th - 120cm
5th - - 5th 120cm 40cm 5th 160cm 90cm 5th - 120cm
6th - - 6th 120cm 40cm 6th 170cm 110cm 6th - 120cm
7th - 45cm 7th 120cm 40cm 7th 170cm 110cm 7th - 120cm
8th - 45cm 8th 140cm 40cm 8th 170cm 110cm 8th - 120cm
9th - 45cm 9th 140cm 40cm 9th 175cm 110cm 9th - 120cm
10th 20cm 45cm 10th 140cm 40cm 10th 180cm 120cm 10th - 115cm
11th 20cm 40cm 11th 140cm 40cm 11th 180cm 120cm 11th - 100cm
12th 20cm 40cm 12th 140cm 40cm 12th 180cm 120cm 12th - 90cm
13th 20cm 40cm 13th 140cm 40cm 13th 180cm 120cm 13th - 90cm
14th 40cm 40cm 14th 140cm 40cm 14th 170cm 110cm 14th - 90cm
15th 50cm 40cm 15th 140cm 40cm 15th 165cm 110cm 15th - 85cm
16th 70cm 40cm 16th 140cm 40cm 16th 165cm 110cm 16th - 85cm
17th 95cm 40cm 17th 140cm 40cm 17th 160cm 100cm 17th - 85cm
18th 95cm 40cm 18th 140cm 40cm 18th 180cm 100cm 18th - 95cm
19th 95cm 40cm 19th 145cm 40cm 19th 180cm 110cm 19th - 95cm
20th 100cm 40cm 20th 145cm 50cm 20th 180cm 110cm 20th - 95cm
21st 100cm 40cm 21st 145cm 60cm 21st 180cm 110cm 21st - 95cm
22nd 100cm 40cm 22nd 145cm 60cm 22nd 180cm 110cm 22nd - 95cm
23rd 100cm 40cm 23rd 145cm 80cm 23rd 180cm 110cm 23rd - 90cm
24th 100cm 45cm 24th 145cm 80cm 24th 180cm 120cm 24th - 90cm
25th 100cm 40cm 25th 140cm 80cm 25th 180cm 120cm 25th - 90cm
26th 100cm 40cm 26th 140cm 80cm 26th 170cm 120cm 26th - 90cm
27th 100cm 40cm 27th 140cm 80cm 27th 170cm 120cm 27th - 90cm
28th 100cm 40cm 28th 130cm 80cm 28th 170cm 120cm 28th - 90cm
29th 100cm 40cm 29th 130cm 80cm 29th - 120cm 29th - 90cm
30th 100cm 40cm 30th 140cm 80cm 30th 30th - 90cm
31st 110cm 40cm 31st 150cm 80cm 31st 31st - 90cm

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 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 26th December 2020 until 6th March 2021 and then 13th, 19th and 20th March 2021.

Nighta in the Yokokura area is scheduled for New Year (26th December 2020 until 3rd January 2021); and also on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 8th January and 6th March 2021.

The Zao Ropeway opens in the evenings on the below dates for 'Light Up' sightseeing purposes - to go and see the Juhyo monsters (note: 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 2020: 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st
January 2021: 1st-3rd, 8th-10th, 15th-17th, 22nd-24th, 27th-31st
February 2021: 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 14,100 yen 7,100 yen 12,600 yen 12,600 yen
4 Days 18,400 yen 9,200 yen 16,400 yen 16,400 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 65,000 yen 31,000 yen 37,000 yen 60,000 yen
Lift Ticket Information 2020-2021 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 18th December 2020 and after 22nd March 2021).

Ski-kodomo-no-hi (Children's Day) is 23rd, 24th, 30th, 31st January 2021; 11th, 23rd, 28th February 2021; 6th, 7th, 20th, 21st March 2021. 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 2020: 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st
January 2021: 1st-3rd, 8th-10th, 15th-17th, 22nd-24th, 27th-31st
February 2021: all days apart from Tuesdays

'Nightcruising' is where you are taken up in a cat and that costs 4,500 yen per adult and 3,800 yen for children. On the following dates:

December 2019: 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st
January 2020: 1st-3rd, 8th-10th, 15th-17th, 22nd-24th, 27th-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

Visit official website
(link opens in a new window)
Zao Onsen
Course Map Small
Zao Onsen
Resort Spotlight
Resort Spotlight
2020-2021 UPDATES
We feel for everyone who wanted to be able to visit Japan this winter but are unable to. Please read this message about this season and coronavirus. Stay safe everyone, wherever you are.

Current resort snow depth
(change since last update)
Reader Photos & Reviews
Photos (1341) Upload
Read Reviews (60) Write
If you have visited Zao Onsen, please share your experience with other SnowJapan readers by writing a Resort Review and/or uploading photos
Reader Resort Rankings
General 80
Snow conditions 80
Courses & terrain 73
Lift system 69
Apres ski 42
Ranking points are submitted when writing Resort Reviews
Write Resort Review
Other nearby ski resorts
Approx. distance from Zao Onsen by road (in winter)
Accommodation Spotlights on SnowJapan
Approx. distance from Zao Onsen by road (in winter)
About the information on this page
For more details and explanations about the information presented on this page, please read this.
It is very important to us that the information presented on SnowJapan is correct and up-to-date. Checks and updates are made throughout the year. If you find information that you feel needs checking and updating, please let us know by contacting us. We appreciate your support.