シュナイダー広場 L’atlier KURA
While people have been coming to the Zao’s onsen for over a thousand years, the first ski resort opened on the mountain in 1925. One of the first resorts in Japan, Zao became popular for its beautiful powdery slopes of varying difficulty and for the Snow Monsters on the summit. The mountain is also home to some of Japan’s first ski lifts, the first of which was constructed in 1951. In all, Zao ski resort is equipped with over forty distinct trails and forty-one cable cars, ropeways, and ski lifts.
When you are on the mountain, please be aware that there are several kinds of trails with several levels of difficulty: Green trails are the lowest difficulty, easiest to access and to ski down. Red trails are intermediate and are intended for skiers of average ability. Black trails are for experts. Zao also has a competition-certified course, and night skiing is possible within certain areas of the mountain.
Please be aware that while the team at Zao wants every visitor to have the experience of a lifetime, the slopes are subject to certain rules: smoking is prohibited on all parts of the mountain, and regardless of your backcountry skiing experience, Zao is not a backcountry ski area. Do not go off-trail. Areas that look safe for off-piste skiing are likely to contain dangerous ravines. The ropeways and lifts are numbered and marked with multilingual signage. If you have any problems, Zao has a first-aid station and five ski patrol posts.
Zao Onsen is one of the most famous ski resorts in Japan. The altitude difference is 881 m. 14 slopes and 26 courses are satisfying not only for experts but also for intermediate level to beginner. Especially, everyone can enjoy the forest course slide comfortably. It is most recommended course where while enjoy sliding between the ice to ice spreading over the summit, you can watch the famous ice coating on the trees, after riding from Zao-Ropeway Sanroku line to Zao-Ropeway Sancho line.
The Juhyogen Course is a red, or intermediate course. Also known as the Zange Zaka Course, the Juhyogen Course is the longest course on the mountain. Roughly ten kilometers long and starting from Jizo Sancho Station, this course first runs through two kilometers of Snow Monsters and then all the way down to Zao Onsen Village. From the upper-central part of the course you can turn into the Sailer Course, a red course with a steeper grade named for renowned Austrian skier, Anton “Toni” Sailer (1935-2009). Farther down the mountain, the Juhyogen Course will take you through the Utopia Slope and the Hyakumannin Slope to the Yokogura Slope near the bottom of the mountain. At first the gradient can be a little steep but should be no issue for beginners who are willing to snow-plough and take it slow.
The Ohira Course is a green, or beginner course. The Ohira Course will be one of your first options after descending from either the Sailer Course or the Renranku Course. The Ohira Course is five kilometers long—the second-longest on the mountain—and will take you through the Paradise and Shobunuma Slopes to the Uwanodai and Sunrise Slopes. A central hub for the north side of the mountain, (the right side, from the skier’s perspective) the Ohira Course is wide (roughly thirty meters), and has some nice variation in grade, making it one of the more popular courses on the mountain.
The Takatori Course is a green, or beginner course. Starting from the Chuo Slopes near the Zao Sky Cable Chuo Kogen Station, the Takatori Course is roughly three kilometers long. The course curves gracefully down past Diamond Valley, widening out as it reaches the bottom of the mountain. Please be aware the Takatori Course does transition into a red course with a steep 23° pitch when it reaches the Uwanodai Slope area, but the slope is wide enough that beginners should be able to easily control their speed with long hairpin turns.
The Hanenkamm Course is a black, or expert course. Authorized by the FIS, Hanenkamm has A, B, and C courses, all of which end in the Uwanodai Slope area. A variety of competitions are held here throughout the year. The top of the A/B Course is a 38° wall that contains some of the most challenging terrain at Zao. The C course is to the north of the A/B courses (right, when facing down the mountain) and is a good course for both beginners and more advanced skiers. Heading south (left, when facing down the mountain) while going down Hanenkamm will lead you to the green Sunrise Course that you can take down to Zao Onsen.
The Renraku Course is a green, or beginner course. It is a long, gentle course found at the beginning of the Utopia Slope that takes you across the mountain to the Shobunuma Slope. This narrow, kilometer-long course is popular with families because it has very gentle grade and good quality snow. The course connects one side of the mountain to the other, taking you from the Utopia Slope to the bottom of the Shobonuma Slope, where you can ride the lift up to the Paradise and Central Slopes and the Ohira Course, Hanenkamm Course, and Diamond Valley.
The Uwanodai Slope was the very first ski slope at Zao, and its ski lift was the second ever built in Japan. Almost anyone who has ever been skiing at Zao has been down this slope. Its light grade and proximity to the onsen town make it a popular place for lessons and for children. Also open for night skiing, Uwanodai is one of the most popular places on the mountain. You can get a hot meal, a new pair of gloves, or a rest at the Jupeer base center located at the bottom of the slope.
The Ryuzan Slope was the main slope used in the 1979 Interski training convention and is a green, or beginner area. Located next to the Kuraray Zao Schanze ski jump and with more than four different slopes to take down to the bottom, this is a great spot for families and beginners. It is a straightforward slope with little in the way of surprises and only minor grade variation between 20° to 23° throughout.
Located on the south side of the Uwanodai Course (to the left, from the skier’s perspective) the Sunrise Slope is split into two trails. The left trail has a sharp incline and is often used for pole practice, while the right trail is softer and better for beginners. The Sunrise Slope can also be used to access the Nakamori Slope via Kamoshika Obashi Bridge, which also leads to the Chuo Ropeway.
The Chuo Slope is one of the most popular slopes on the mountain. Covered with high-quality snow and looking out over the Snow Monsters, the Chuo Slope is a green, or beginner area. It is usually one of the first slopes to open each year and last to close for the season—during an average year, the snow on Chuo Slope will be skiable until around May. This central set of seven trails is a good starting point for beginners to get used to their gear before gliding down through Diamond Valley and the Frosted Forest. Chuo sits on top of the Hanekamm, Ohira, and Takadori Courses.