Shiga Kogen is a great choice for consistent powder snow, less competition for it, and great value – especially with some of the Prince Hotel’s Early Bird deals available now from Deep Powder Tours. They include pay 4 nights, stay 7 – yes, that’s 3 free nights or 42% off. That translates to a week ski in/ski out accommodation with breakfasts and a 6 day lift pass for just $AUD 638 per person 2 share!
Snow Action’s roving reporter Greg Cansdale checks out why it’s so good.
It’s so easy to go on Safari in Japan’s largest winter resort. 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. A single lift pass for a very reasonable ¥5,000 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.
There is no real township as such in Shiga, 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.
With the resort being so spread out, and with the 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. However 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.
Did I forget to mention that Shiga Kogen is unparalleled in Japan with several peaks over 2000m, giving you close to 1000m of vertical. As an adrenalin junkie I had my appetite sated by great powder, plenty of challenging runs and some exciting backcountry skiing.
Intermediate and beginner riders are spoilt in this resort with some of the best grooming in all of Japan. Shiga is a favourite for Japanese winter enthusiasts, having 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 in 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 the more coastal alpine resorts on Honshu, with an average of over 8m of the light dry powder floating down each season. 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 is the largest winter resort in Asia, and a must visit destination. Everyday is a new adventure.
WIN a trip to Shiga Kogen & Naeba
Deep Powder Tours also have a great WIN a trip competition happening – you get 9 nights at Shiga Kogen, Naeba & Tokyo Prince Hotels with breakfasts, plus airfares from Australia to Tokyo and 5 days ski passes included as below:
Return economy flights from Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth) to Tokyo including all government and airport taxes.
4 nights for 2 people at Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel (East Building) in a twin hotel room including breakfast courtesy of Prince Hotels
3 day all mountain lift pass per person at Shiga Kogen
3 nights for 2 people at Naeba Prince Hotel (Tower 4) in a twin hotel room including breakfast courtesy of Prince Hotels
2 day all mountain lift pass per person at Naeba
2 nights for 2 people at Shinagawa Prince Hotel, Tokyo in a twin hotel room including breakfast courtesy of Prince Hotels
Japan Rail 5 day Flexi rail pass for transfers
Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel
To stay Shiga’s best address, with a choice of three buildiings (East, South and West) making up the combined Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel at Yakebitaiyama ski area. All 3 buildings offer convenient ski in/ski out access for first tracks. They cater to a broad range of budgets, with the East Building offering the most luxurious accommodation. The West Building was built as athlete’s accommodation for the Nagano games, a cheaper alternative with direct lift access to Olympic courses.
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 keeps mum and dad happy too. Enjoy snowmobiling, snow shoeing, and more.
Prince have made a big effort over the past few years to improve the ambience of the hotels and cater to the growing number of international guests. The ‘After’ Izakaya opened last season is a good example. A 5 minute shuttle bus ride takes you to more in the Ichinose area.
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 Resort/Prince Hotels www.princehotels.com/en/ski/shigakogen
For packages and amazing value Early Bird deals like the 3 nights FREE special and $AUD 638 per person ski weeks (available most of the season) get onto www.deeppowdertours.com