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Shigakogen Ski Area: All you need to know about these expansive ski slopes (Shigakogen Ski Area slopes)

# Ski & snowboard
October 06, 2020
Situated right on the border of Nagano and Gunma Prefectures is the Shigakogen Ski Area. While not a ski resort in and of itself, the Shigakogen Ski Area refers to a general region comprised of around 19 different ski slopes. Covering such a wide area, we’d quickly run out of space if we were to cover everything that makes the ski area so special in this article. In this article, we’ll take a look at the features that make the whole Shigakogen area such a great place to ski - but since this will be a general overview, be aware that we’ll only have space to cover a portion of what makes the area special.

A collection of ski resorts spanning a magnificent mountain range

Map of all slopes featured at Shigakogen Ski Area

The best facet of the Shigakogen Ski Area are its vast slopes. The whole ski area takes up 400 hectares and features the largest number of courses on all of Honshu island. Still, being so large, it’s practically impossible to see everything the ski area has to offer in a single day. It might be best to think of the ski area as a collection of medium to large-scale ski resorts.

Each slope has its own unique characteristics and flavor. The area features plenty of courses suited to beginners & families looking to ski together, as well as those suited to more advanced skiers with steep inclines. With all this variation to choose from, as long as you chose the right set of slopes to spend your time on, you’re sure to have a great time on the mountain! At 2,000 meters above sea level, Shigakogen enjoys excellent snow quality, putting it on par with ski resorts up north in Hokkaido.

Slopes at Shigakogen Ski Area

While each ski resort is independent from the rest, purchasing a snow pass that includes access to all mountains will allow you to enjoy the slopes at all the different resorts! For those who want to try a different course after getting burnt out doing the same one over and over again, or those who like to switch it up if slopes get crowded, we recommend trying a variety of snow resorts.

5 different areas, all with their own unique charms

Nighttime skiing at Shigakogen Ski Area

Each of the sections of Shigakogen Ski Area have their own distinct characteristics, thanks to their differing topographies. Below, we’ll show how you can break down the different areas in terms of what makes them unique. From extravagant, resort-style areas to ones suited for those hoping to enjoy a variety of activities, there are all sorts of different slopes available. Be sure to keep these points in mind when you plan a ski trip to Shigakogen Ski Area!

Sunvalley Area

The Sunvalley Area is made up of the Sunvalley, Maruike, and Hasuike areas. It’s often considered the entrance to Shigakogen Ski Area. Since all three ski resorts are connected, this makes getting around between them a snap. What’s more, there’s lots of hotels and Japanese-style lodges in the surrounding area, and it’s relatively easy to get to the other ski resorts as well. Lots of skiers who come to hit the slopes each year choose Sunvalley Area as their home base.

Giant & Bunadaira Skiing Area

This area primarily features beginner- and advanced-level courses. There’s lots of variation here too - there’s even courses that were used for the Olympic games. These areas also feature excellent access to the surrounding ski resorts, and with plenty of wide open slopes available, this is a popular area among beginners.

Ichinose Area

This is one of the central skiing areas within Shigakogen, and features lots of accommodation facilities close to the slopes. With a plethora of courses running from beginner level to the more advanced, this is a great place for families to check out.

Yakebitaiyama Area

This ski resort, developed by the Prince Hotel, is one of the most refined in all of Shigakogen. While the slopes here may be a little too difficult for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers will find plenty of exciting courses to satisfy themselves with here.

Kumanoyu Area

The Kumanoyu area has the highest elevation of all the resorts in Shigakogen. Comprised of lots of difficult courses suited to intermediate and advanced skiers, the Kumanoyu area is also a skier-only resort that prohibits snowboarders from riding the slopes.

Plenty of sights to see, including onsen snow monkeys!

Monkeys bathing in the onsen at Jigokudani Yaen-Koen

Yudanaka Onsen, located at the foot of the Shigakogen mountains, is an onsen district that has retained an antique atmosphere. Lodging nearby and taking some time to visit a few onsen is just one more way to enjoy the Shigakogen area.

Also nearby, visitors will find the famous Jigokudani Yaen-Koen, the only place in the world where you can see Japanese snow monkeys enjoying an onsen bath. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll catch glimpse of a troop of monkeys bathing together.

Accessibility and price - the only demerits?

The childrens’ area at Shigakogen Ski Area

While Shigakogen features a plethora of different accommodation options, compared with other ski resorts, they’re on the pricier side. For instance, the Yakebitaiyama resort owned by the infamously expensive Prince Hotel chain, along with Okushiga Kogen located slightly far away from Shigakogen are both rather high-class. Also, once it hits peak season, prices can rise even higher. For those looking to get the best deal, we recommend making reservations at a guesthouse or lodge located away from the slopes.

We’d be lying if we said Shigakogen was easily accessible, too. A direct bus from Nagano Station takes about 80 minutes to get there. Busses also don’t leave very frequently, making transport a bit of a pain. Suffice to say, a day trip is basically out of the question. However, if you plan on staying several days in a row, that’s a whole different story - we guarantee that if you set aside enough time to really settle into Shigakogen for a few days, you’re sure to have a blast!

Exemplary Japanese classical ski resorts

The variety of courses on offer at Shigakogen Ski Area

Each collection of ski resorts on the mountains at Shigakoen could have their own articles unto themselves. The area features plenty of options for whatever skiers want to prioritize: from offering courses catering to all levels of skiers, to having the option of choosing from a range of accommodation based on your budget, Shigakoen offers extensive freedom of choice. Having so many different options available is just one more point about Shigakogen Ski Area that makes it such a great place to ski.

Some resorts may not have the best access to the slopes and staying at a resort hotel can get pricey - but despite these faults, the area is still beloved by skiers from around the globe who come out to Shigakogen every year to ride the slopes.

While definitely not suited to day trips, if you’re looking to settle in and really get the most out of your ski trip, this is one of the best places to do so. However, most of the courses on offer here are suited to more advanced skiers, so if you’re a beginner looking to polish your skills, we wouldn’t recommend Shigakogen. Be sure to keep that in mind if you’re thinking of coming. For those of you who want to go on skiing or snowboarding in the future, however, this is definitely one place you owe it to yourself to check out.

Pricing information and schedule may not be up to date and are subject to change without notice. Please check before your trip.

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Longest run4,000 m
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