Want to escape the crowds and experience authentic Japanese culture? The Tohoku region is located in the northern part of Honshu Island and is scattered with ski resorts, about 580km north of Tokyo. The area is rich in traditional Japanese culture and famous for its festivals and numerous natural onsen. This region is home to ski resorts including Appi Kogen and Zao Onsen.
‘Check out the Juhyo or ‘snow monsters’ at Zao, fir trees clumped with ice and snow which take on odd shapes from the heavy snowfall and freezing winds’
Zao Onsen is one of Japans oldest resorts located in the Yamagate Prefecture, faous for two things. Firstly as a hot spring resort (unsurprising given the name), as secondly for the Juhyo or ‘Snow monsters’ that appear every winter on the upper slopes. More spectacular than scary, the name of ‘snow monsters’ is given to the ice trees as they take on interesting shapes from the heavy snowfall and freezing winds. In fact, Zao is one of only a few places in Japan where these ice trees can be seen. In terms of terrain, Zao is a large spread out resort with long runs and great terrain for intermediates. There are also relatively few foreigners, adding to its appeal.
ZAO ONSEN RESORT STATS
Season: Dec – Apr
Altitude: 1661m top
Terrain: Beginner 40% / Intermediate 40% / Advanced 20%
Longest run: 10km
Appi Kogen is a large commercial resort and arguably the largest resort in northern Honshu. Appi is an excellent choice if you like plenty of very long, wide, runs down the fall line. The highest point is around 1300m and vertical is around 800m. Great for advanced skiers, the upper sections of Appi are reasonably steep and whilst it does mellow out lower down, you don’t get the flat spots you sometimes get at other Japanese resorts.
APPI KOGEN RESORT STATS
Season: Dec – Apr
Terrain: Beginner 30% / Intermediate 40% / Advanced 30%
Lift system: 18 lifts
Longest run: 5.5km
Average Snowfall: 8m
Terrain Parks: Yes + halfpipe