Japan’s 10 Best Ski Runs #4 Shiga Kogen off-piste

snow action team 20.10.2020

Shiga Kogen off-piste is unlimited. Sure, the majority of visitors come for the variety of ski trails – the vast area nestled in the heart of Joshinetsu Kogen National Park is renowned for expansive ski facilities, with 19 interconnecting resorts and over 80 marked pistes. It’s not exactly the Trois Vallees of Japan, but it’s pretty impressive.

When it comes to off-piste adventures, there are great powder lines to be had within resort boundaries, as well as epic backcountry trips that can be made outside the boundaries by basing oneself in the ski resort reports James Mutter, who spent many years skiing Japan, including a stint working for Prince Resorts, before joining Canada’s Diplomatic Corps.

Perfect day on the Expert Course in-bounds Shiga Kogen off-piste  Yakebitaiyama
Perfect day on the Expert Course in-bounds off-piste Shiga Kogen Yakebitaiyama © Tsutomu Yamada

For excellent steep and deep off-piste terrain found inbounds, check out Shiga Kogen’s Yakebitaiyama. After getting off either of the mountain’s gondolas, head straight for the Olympic Course and to skier’s right, expert skiers will be pleased to find an ungroomed run designed just for them, Expert’s Course. With a steep gradient reaching up to 39 degrees, the morning after a significant snowfall makes this one of the best spots for lift accessed powder in the region. 

For those looking to get out of the resort and into the backcountry, Big Cloud, which operates out of Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel, offers guided trips in and around the area. Big Cloud will sit down with skiers to map out a route that best suites the group’s ability – and with such a large area there are plenty of options.

Shiga shaker © Tsutomu Yamada

Perhaps Japan’s most famous backcountry ski route is the one from Shiga Kogen to Manza Onsen.

This classic featured in ‘Take Me Skiing’, the Japanese movie credited with starting Japan’s ski boom in the late 1980’s.

The ‘Take Me Skiing’ movie put Manza on the map for the ‘IT’ crowd .. © Snow Action / Prince Hotels

The full day trip departs from Shiga Kogen following summer road lines part of the way (the roads are closed in winter by the consistently heavy Shiga snow falls) and then drops you down on the opposite side of the mountains, finishing up at the tranquil hot spring resort of Manza Onsen.

The numerous baths, including milky white mineral pools, offer truly rewarding spoils at the end of an intensive backcountry journey. Not many international skiers get to Manza, Japan’s highest onsen hotel, either  — James Mutter

The tour costs ¥15,000 per person for a minimum of two – they will drive your luggage & any non-skiers around from the Prince at Shiga to Manza or vice-versa.

Book/details contact info@bigcloud.jp

Skiing over to Manza Onsen is the ultimata Shiga Kogen off-piste day trip
James Mutter skiing Manza © Owain Price

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

Where is 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.

More info & Package deals

Check Prince Snow Resorts here

Major Japan snow tour operators like www.deeppowdertours.com offer great earlybird deals and packages

More Prince Resorts ski in/ski out options – for something special combine Shiga Kogen with Manza and do the day tour ski over from the far end of Shiga; the guides will send your bags around while you do the ski trip across between them. Those not up to the ski tour can go round with the guides – which takes a few hours. Book via the links on the Prince Resorts website.