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4 hour road trip from Tokyo to Shiga Kogen
Our trip this time will be a 2 day, 1 night stay. We grabbed 2 good friends who are crazy about skiing. Still, it’s a little bit of a drive from Tokyo to Shiga Kogen. It’ll be a 4 hour road trip. Of course we planned to stop every once in a while for breaks, so our trip ended up taking about 5 hours from door-to-door. For those of you hoping to get in lots of skiing on your first day, unless you’re in the car and on the road by 6:00am, you probably aren’t going to get your money’s worth.
When it came to our trip, we ran into a couple hiccups before we even set out: one of our buddies overslept and when we got to the rental car place, they didn’t have a car with winter tires ready... All in all, we ended up leaving Tokyo around 8:00am. The best thing to do is to leave some leeway in your schedule for the first day.
Make sure to take lots of little breaks!
Once you’re on the highway, driving becomes a lot less stressful, but still, driving for long stretches can really take it out of you. Make sure to stop every so often at rest stops for a quick break on your way to Shiga Kogen. Get a breath of fresh air, stretch those limbs, drink a cup of coffee, do whatever it takes to keep yourself nimble and alert.
Some of Japan’s highway rest stops look more like shopping malls than places to just stretch your legs, all full of little shops with different layouts. Just about every rest stop has somewhere to get food, so make sure to get some lunch in you when noon settles in.
One of our buddies ordered a huge bowl of fried chicken dandan noodles. It’s important to fill up on nutrients before you get back out on that long highway.
Deeper and deeper into Shiga Kogen!
Since we left Tokyo late, we ended up arriving around noon, but once we got close, the view of the mountains of Shiga Kogen were a sight to behold! We might have lost some time on the slopes getting in late, but as soon as we saw the snow, we got all riled up for the slopes! But we’ve still got a ways to drive, so we’ve got to keep those eyes on the road.
As soon as we start climbing the mountain, the snow starts piling up. There are still portions of the road where snow has accumulated, and the further we go, the deeper it gets. Finally, it starts feeling like we’re getting close to a ski resort. Narrow roads line the way to the resort, so for those of you not used to driving in the snow, be extra careful. What you really need to watch out for are the curves that are easy to slip and slide on, so be careful out there!
Finally slope-side! Getting ready to ride at the hotel
We ended up getting here around 2:00pm, but we finally made it to our hotel. Where we’ll be staying this time is a hotel located in the interior of the Shiga Kogen area nearby Yokoteyama. Right before our eyes lies Ski Resort Yokoteyama-Shibutoge! If we drove a little further, we’d have reached Ichinose Family Ski Resort, so we should be in for a great 2-days worth of skiing!
There’s a pungent smell of sulfur hot springs surrounding the hotel. And it goes to show, there are all sorts of vintage hot springs in the onsen district. All of the hotels in the Shiga Kogen area feature all natural onsen baths. We promptly check in to our rooms and quickly get ready to hit the mountain! In the basement below the hotel is a rental center and changing rooms, so it was a snap to rent our ski wear, boards, and accessories.
Top-class powder slopes at Shiga-Kogen!
Since we didn’t have too much time left that afternoon, we headed directly for the slopes. We chose to ski at Ski Resort Yokoteyama-Shibutoge, a quick walk from our hotel. With such a high elevation, the powder snow - especially toward the top of the mountain - is easily a contender for the best in the Shiga-Kogen region.
At Ski Resort Yokotoyama-Shibutoge, the courses toward the bottom of the mountain are flat and long, targeted more at novice skiers, while the higher up you go, the more steep and varied the courses get, more suited to advanced skiers. Since the day we went was a weekday, there were almost no people on the slopes.
Down by the rest area at the foot of the mountain is Jones, a famous patrol dog who helps keep the slopes safe. While Jones is normally quite docile, when there’s an emergency, he jumps into action to help any skiers that may be in trouble. He was very obedient and quite the cutie.
Since this was our first outing of the season, we headed to the beginner area to brush up on our skills. The beginner course at Yokoteyama-Shibutoge is wide open and offers a great view. Perhaps because of the nice weather, the snow on the course that day had somewhat melted, making it a little hard to get down, but it was more than sufficient for getting warmed up.
The area around the peak is an alabaster powder wonderland
We got on the lift and headed for the peak. The resort doesn’t just enjoy one of the highest elevations in the Shiga-Kogen region, but also has one of the best views from the peak in the area. This means that it gets very cold up top, so be sure to bundle up properly before you hit the slopes.
Since temperatures get so low up here, once you make your way up the mountain, you’ll be able to see the amazing frost-covered trees lining the runs. It’s nice to be able to enjoy yourself even when just waiting to get to the top of the lift.
While the courses around the top ramp up the difficulty, I myself tried my hand at peak skiing despite being somewhere between beginner and intermediate in terms of skill. The courses are narrow and can be hard to get down, so just take your time. There are wider detours however, so beginners need not fear about being able to get down.
Near the peak you’ll find the bakery boasting the highest elevation in all Japan!
At the Yokoteyama Hyutte, skiers will find Japan’s highest bakery. Unfortunately, when we got there, they had already closed. For those who absolutely, positively want to try their baked goods, it’s probably best to try and get up to the peak first thing in the morning. Since the bakery is so popular, the shop will typically close sometime during the morning.
You can also stay at the lodge. Those who get up before dawn will be privy to witness the most gorgeous view that Shiga-Kogen has to offer. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the region’s famous sea of clouds. For those looking for something a little different than your average ski experience, we recommend staying a night at the Yokoteyama Hyutte.
A ski resort perfect for quick trips!
While we only had time to ski for about 2 hours, the resort offers wide open beginner courses and powder covered steeper courses, providing skiers of all skill levels something to enjoy.
Since the beginner and advanced areas are so blatantly separated at Ski Resort Yokoteyama-Shibutoge, we really felt like this resort gives visitors a chance to experience the whole gamut in terms of a great skiing experience. For those looking to experience some of the best snow that Shiga-Kogen has to offer, we definitely recommend checking this place out.
After we finished skiing, we headed back to our hotel and got ready for some nighttime skiing. We’ll go more into that in our next installment of our Shiga-Kogen ski report. Please join us next time!
Pricing information and schedule may not be up to date and are subject to change without notice. Please check before your trip.