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Zao Onsen is a well known hot spring and ski resort in the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture. It is one of only a few places in Japan where juhyo or "ice trees" can be seen. Also known as "snow monsters", the trees take on curious shapes due to the heavy snowfall and freezing winds.

The snow monsters form around the peak of the Zao Ski Resort and are usually most spectacular around mid February. Access to the monsters is provided by a ropeway and a gondola for both skiers and non-skiers. In the evenings, the monsters around the summit are lit up to be enjoyed outside or from a warm seat in the cafe. Night skiing, however, is offered only in the lower elevations of the resort.

Snow Monsters

Zao's ski resort is one of Japan's oldest and offers over thirty lifts, gondolas and ropeways and a variety of different courses suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities, especially beginners and intermediates. The longest course starts in the territory of the snow monsters at the summit of the mountain and is about ten kilometers long.

Zao Onsen Ski Resort
Description Zao Onsen Ski Resort features long runs with good snow, many slopes for all skill levels, and the famous "snow monsters".
Early December to early May
(from December 10, 2016)
39 Lifts
Tickets full day
8:15 to 17:00
5000 yen
Rentals ski
half day
2 hour pass
3 hour pass
4 hour pass
5 hour pass
2700 yen
3300 yen
4000 yen
4500 yen
17:00 to 21:00
2000 yen
Access bus/train
40 minutes by bus or car from Yamagata Station.

Important: Season dates may be adjusted due to lack of snow. Check before going.


Hours & Fees

Snow Monster Illumination


17:00 to 21:00 (last gondola departs the base at 19:50)
The illumination takes place daily during the New Year holidays, everyday during February, and on Saturdays and Sundays in January.


2600 yen
Page last updated: December 5, 2016