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 ("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. On selected 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.

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. The ski season usually starts in early December and ends around early May, depending on snow conditions.

Zao Onsen Ski Resort
Zao Onsen Ski Resort features long runs with good snow, many slopes for all skill levels, and the famous snow monsters. Lift ticket prices are lower in the shoulder seasons.
Early December to early May
(December 9, 2023 to May 5, 2024)
36 lifts
Full day 6500 yen
Half day 5400 yen
Nighter 2600 yen
Car 40 minutes by bus or car from Yamagata Station.
* Season dates may be adjusted due to lack of snow. Check before going.

Getting there and around

Hours and Fees

Snow Monster Illumination