Shiga Kogen rules for consistent powder and great value

860

Shiga Kogen offers superb consistent powder snow at amazingly cheap rates if you book early –  Deep Powder Tours  have 7 night ski in/ski out packages at the Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel including breakfasts and lift passes for just $AUD 626 per person 2 share!

This super deal includes a 3 day all area Shiga Kogen pass, plus a bonus FREE 3 day Yakebitaiyama lift pass and 3 FREE nights.

Chest deep snow at Shiga Kogen
A week of this for $626? © Prince Resorts

Snow Action hit Shiga again late January, timing our arrival nicely with 50cm or so overnight. Then it just kept on dumping, as it does in J-land.

It had been a few years between visits for us, and with the heavy snow I soon got a bit lost in the tree runs, bombing waist deep lines. It’s not 100% clear what you can ski or can’t, especially in a snow storm. At least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it..

Over the groomers there was knee deep snow in many areas that had fallen after they groomed it. This was so light that you could just smash through, even as it got a bit tracked later in the day. Speed is your friend!

Just make sure you have an all area pass to venture further than Prince’s Yakebitaiyama zone. I popped out in neighbouring Okushiga by mistake from one tree run – Okushiga has a gated tree zone area which borders Yakebitaiyama so it’s even more confusing – and the turnstile beeped at me loading the gondola there. Fortunately I was skinny enough to squeeze through the gap and keep riding. Ooopsie.

Okushiga’s old gondola cabins don’t take fat skis, and they won’t close with skis inside, so you just pop them through the gap and let it close as far it will. To get back to Yakebitaiyama involves another short double chair above the gondola, so I scooted straight through the turnstile there without getting stopped either. The lifties probably get used to it.

Yakebitaiyama has plenty of decent terrain, so you can use the 3 day pass included in the Early Bird deal there to get your ski legs back then kick on with your 3 day all area pass to explore all of Shiga’s extensive terrain.

Shiga Kogen groomed runs
Plenty of choice at Shiga Kogen © Prince Resorts

Shiga Kogen all area skiing

Our roving correspondent Greg Cansdale loves Shiga, and has a few recommendations. Each day in Shiga Kogen you can create your own safari trail in the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park as you ride around the 19 mostly interconnected ski areas that spread over 5 main valleys and more than 600 hectares. The all area pass covers the entire area, providing a massive number of options for exploration.

Have fun getting lost knowing that the resort shuttle service runs constantly, is free with your lift pass, and ensures an easy trip home.
So rather than turn around half way through the day and head back you can continue to ride until your legs are whimpering, then catch the shuttle bus home to a hot inviting onsen.

Intermediate and beginner riders are spoilt, with some of Japan’s best grooming. Shiga hosted the Skiing and Snowboarding GS and the Skiing Slalom events at the 1998 Winter Olympics, not to mention the Downhill, Super G and GS events at the Paralympic Games the same year.

If you find the abundance of riding opportunities exhausting, need a day to recuperate and want an amazing experience, Shiga is only 20 minutes from Yudanaka and the famous Snow Monkeys.

The snow in Shiga is generally drier than at more coastal alpine resorts on Honshu, with an average of over 8m of the light dry powder. With the variety of terrain guaranteed to satisfy, the typical abundance of dry snow, and over 80 kms of piste runs between Mt Yokoteyama and Mt Yakebitaiyama, it’s the largest winter resort in Asia.
There is no real township. However clusters of accommodation and all the necessary amenities can be found at the base areas along the valleys. In typical Japanese style most of the accommodation houses provide delicious in-house dining options, however they are very willing to welcome non-guests into their restaurants.

On mountain amenities are also plentiful, and you soon get to know your favourites, with your daily expedition easily being at risk of becoming more of a food safari than a mountain escapade.

I became addicted to the freshly baked bread at Crumpet Café (Yokoteyama ski area), the apple pie at Restaurant Aspen (Giant ski area), real coffee at Restaurant Green (Sun Valley ski area), the spicy curry at Prince Hotel South (Yakebitaiyama ski area), and the freshly baked pastries at St. Christoph next to the base of the Okushiga Kogen gondola.

Deep snow at the entrance to Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel West
The trench to get in and out Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel West © Carmen Price

Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel choices

Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel is unique, built originally as accommodation for the 1998 Nagano Olympics. The made three separate wings, the West Wing for international athletes, the South Wing for Japanese athletes, and the East Wing for IOC officials and the VIP crowd.

No prizes for guessing which is the plush up-market one.

The $626 budget deal puts you in Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel West, which is quirky and fun to stay at. Doing our J-land research trips we get lucky sometimes with amazing 5 star places, but often enjoy the humbler ones as much or more.

The small rooms here were designed so the athletes could fit all their stuff, so you get cupboards behind and under the beds. Sure, it’s no palace, but when the skiing is so good all you really need is a bed, and if you get sorted and use the cupboard space they are very functional. It soon became home for us.

There’s a big buffet restaurant, plus another lunch restaurant next door, and onsen hot baths. No bars or nightlife though apart from the bar while the buffet is open.

We met lots of fellow Aussies happily enjoying the West Wing, many of whom got on the same early bird deal last year.

Comfort Twin Room at Shiga Kogen East Hotel
Comfort Twin Room at Shiga Kogen East Hotel © Prince Resorts

The Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel East offers the most luxurious accommodation, plus a superb restaurant offering French or shabu shabu cuisine. It doesn’t have an onsen though – apparently the local organisers thought the IOC hoi polloi wouldn’t want to share bathing Japanese style! Their loss.

The Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel South features an Izakaya with great value dining and a bit of aprés atmosphere. You can ski over there and get the Prince Shuttle back around after an early dinner.

Whichever you choose from a ski point of view everything is right outside the door, perfect for families.
A range of family focused activities, and super convenient learn-to-ski and ski school, will keep the kids happy. The fact they ski free (in Yakebitaiyama) to 12 years is a big saving. Enjoy snowmobiling, snow shoeing, and more.
Prince Resorts have made a big effort over the past few years improving the ambience of the hotels and catering to the ever growing number of international guests.

After Isakaya menu Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel South
For cheap and cheery check out the After Izakaya at Prince Hotel South © Carmen Price

Shiga Kogen Restaurants and nightlife

With the resort being so spread out, and with the Shiga Kogen area shuttle bus service finishing around 7pm, there is not a lot of nightlife, so you don’t tend to venture far from home in the evening.

Prince Hotels have their own shuttle to Ichinose, and between the different Prince buildings, that goes till 10pm.

You don’t need to go far to discover a burgeoning number of smaller restaurants and bars with great vibes, succulent cuisine and flavour filled beverages opening along the valley that are favoured by the younger locals and the small number of westerners that visit the area.

My favourites in the Ichinose area are the traditional Izakaya in the Hotel Dairoku for tasty yakatori, the authentic Kamoshika Nepalese restaurant with a real tandoor oven at Hotel Japan Shiga, Restaurant 101 in Villa Ichinose serving the best gyoza, and the Teppa Room in Chalet Shiga, a very cool bar serving local brews.

To go upmarket try the French cuisine at Prince Hotel East.

Fine dining French at Shiga Kogen East Hotel
Fine dining French at Shiga Kogen East Hotel © Carmen Price

Shiga Kogen Mountain stats

Shiga Kogen Yakebitaiyama
• Summit 2009m, base 1659m, max vertical 450m
• 7.3m plus snowfall
• 14 courses longest 2.5km; terrain 35% beginner, 35% intermediate, 30% advanced/expert
• Good park with express lift for fast laps
• 5 lifts including 2 gondolas, 3 express quads
• Lift pass rates day adult ¥5000 senior ¥4200, child to 12 years FREE

Shiga Kogen All Area Stats
• Summit 2307m, max vertical 963m (notcontinuous)
• 8m plus snowfall
• 81 courses longest 6km; terrain 46% beginner, 40% intermediate, 14% advanced/expert
• Best park is at Yakebitaiyama
• 55 lifts including 1 ropeway, 4 gondolas, 14 quads
• Lift pass rates day adult ¥5,000 senior ¥4200, child (6-13) ¥2500

Getting to Shiga Kogen

Take an Asama or Kagayaki & Hakutaka shinkansen to Nagano (90 – 100mins) from Tokyo; then Nagaden Express bus to resort (@ 80 mins) from Nagano Station East Exit.

Shiga Kogen package deals

For packages and amazing value Early Bird deals like the 3 nights FREE special and $AUD 626 per person ski weeks (available most of the season) get onto www.deeppowdertours.com

Shiga Kogen Yakebitaiyama trail map and Prince Hotels locations
Shiga Kogen Yakebitaiyama trail map and Prince Hotels locations