Visitor reviews for Yamagata Zao Onsen Ski Resort
January 14, 2017
Diane and Morris from Australia
We have skied at Zao for the last 4 years. We love it here because it has let us experience traditional Japanese culture. Although there is not much English spoken here, we have managed. Although, the first year was a bit of a shock we have found the locals very friendly and helpful. In fact, some people even recognise us year after year. We hope to visit again. The resorts we have stayed in have easy access to the chairlifts and the locker rooms are good. Love the onsens. The runs suit us as we prefer green runs. There are more difficult runs. We also found an English speaking instructor and English maps.
Yamagata Zao Onsen Ratings
Overall: 3.2. Based on 3 votes and 2 reviews. Vote
(1) At least one overnight stop, (2) requires a whole day, (3) requires more than half a day – you may have time for a few turns (4) arrive by lunchtime and ski all afternoon, (5) there is a main airport within an hour of Yamagata Zao Onsen.
Public Transport: 3.7
(1) There are no buses or taxis to Yamagata Zao Onsen, (3) there are slow or infrequent buses / trains available, (5) getting to the resort is easy with frequent bus / train connections.
(1) An ugly resort in a bland setting, (3) average mountain views and resort, (5) a spectacular setting and a beautiful / historic resort town.
(1) No places to stay in/near Yamagata Zao Onsen, (3) a few places to stay in the resort, (5) a wide variety of accommodation suitable to suit all budgets.
Cheap Rooms: 2.3
(1) No budget accommodation available, (3) just one or two hostels so book ahead, (5) several cheap hostels and pensions available.
Luxury Hotels: 2.7
(1) No luxury accommodation available, (3) just one or two luxury hotels so book ahead, (5) several up-market hotels in Yamagata Zao Onsen.
Ski in/Ski out: 4.3
(1) The ski area is located far from any accommodation, (3) a free ski bus takes you to the ski area in a short trip, (5) Ski-in ski-out accommodation is available.
(1) There are no child care facilities at Yamagata Zao Onsen, (5) the resort has excellent child-care facilities including at least one reasonably priced creche.
(1) Occasionally gets enough snow for skiing, (2) is often closed due to a lack of snow, (3) occasionally suffers from a lack of snow, (4) rarely suffers from a lack of snow, (5) Yamagata Zao Onsen is snowsure even in the poorest seasons.
(1) Yamagata Zao Onsen relies entirely on natural snow, (3) there are just a few snow cannons, (5) there are snowmaking facilities on all pistes.
Snow Grooming: 3.3
(1) There are no snow groomers at Yamagata Zao Onsen, (3) occasionally some pistes are left ungroomed and in a poor state, (5) all the runs at Yamagata Zao Onsen are groomed daily.
(1) there is nowhere to ski when it is windy or visibility is bad and lifts often shut, (3) there are some trees for poor visibility but main lifts sometimes close, (5) Yamagata Zao Onsen is mostly in forest where you can ski in flat-light and windy days, lifts rarely close.
Nearby options: 1.7
(1) If snow conditions are poor at Yamagata Zao Onsen, it will be poor everywhere nearby, (3) there are good alternatives within an hours drive, (5) other locations on the same lift pass provide a rich variety of snowsure ski conditions.
Regional rating: 4.7
(1) Yamagata Zao Onsen usually has poor snow conditions compared to other resorts in region, (3) has average conditions for the region, (5) usually has the best snow conditions in the region.
Lift Staff: 3.7
(1) The staff at Yamagata Zao Onsen are rude or unhelpful, (5) lift staff at Yamagata Zao Onsen are pleasant, cheerful and eager to help.
(1) the resort is always busy and there are usually long lift queues, (3) it is quiet apart from occasional weekends and school holidays, (5) it is uncrowded and lift queues are very rare.
Ski Schools: 2.7
(1) No ski schools available, (2) one or two ski schools but local language only, (3) a few ski schools but book early for multi-lingual instructors, (4) plenty of ski schools and multi-lingual instructors available, (5) excellent ski schools with friendly multi-lingual ski instructors.
Hire and Repairs: 3.7
(1) Nothing can be sourced, not even ski-wax or ptex. (3) there are some ski shops but rentals need to be booked in advance, (5) good quality ski equipment can be purchased or hired and overnight repairs are possible.
Variety of pistes: 4.0
(1) The ski runs are featureless and unvaried, (3) the ski runs are varied but not extensive enough for a week, (5) Yamagata Zao Onsen has diverse and interesting pistes including forests and high alpine terrain.
(1) Beginners can only watch others ski and snowboard, (3) a few gentle slopes but beginners will get bored in less than a week, (3) Vast areas of gentle terrain.
(1) No intermediate terrain at Yamagata Zao Onsen, (3) intermediate skiers will get bored after a few days, (5) vast areas of cruising runs.
(1) Nothing for advanced skiers and snowboarders, (3) enough steep terrain for a few days with some good offpiste, (5) Enough steep terrain and offpiste areas to entertain advanced skiers for at least a week.
Snow Park: 2.0
(1) Not even a kicker at Yamagata Zao Onsen, (3) average sized park quite well looked after, (5) huge park area and expertly crafted pipes, jumps and boardercross trails.
(1) No off-piste worth mentioning, (2) off piste is out-of-bounds, (3) some varied offpiste that stays fresh for one or two days, (5) a vast array of off-piste routes that can stay untracked for several days.
(1) There is nowhere to go for cross-country skiing around Yamagata Zao Onsen, (3) there are some cross country trails available, (5) the area features many spectacular and well maintained cross-country trails.
(1) No designated luge or toboggan runs, (3) there are toboggan runs that open quite often, (5) Yamagata Zao Onsen has long and well maintained luge / toboggan facilities suitable for all ages.
Mountain Dining: 4.0
(1) Nowhere to buy food by the pistes, (3) some places to eat up on the mountain but they are often busy and expensive, (5) there is a variety of excellent mountain eateries right next to the slopes to suit all budgets.
(1) Bring your own food, there isn't even a shop. (5) A wide variety of places to eat and drink in the resort, from fast food to fancy restaurants.
(1) Nothing to do, not even a bar, (3) there are a few bars in the resort but nothing special, (5) clubs and bars stay open until very late and have a friendly atmosphere.
Other Sports: 1.7
(1) No sports facilities at all apart from ski lifts, (3) resort has just a small public swimming pool, (5) resort has all kinds of sports facilities, including a full-size swimming pool.
(1) Besides the snow and walking there is nothing to do here, (3) the non-skier will find things to do for few days but may become bored after a week, (5) the resort area is a fascinating place to visit, regardless of winter sports.
Winter Walks: 3.0
(1) Very limited walking and no snowshoe trails, (3) a couple of designated scenic walking/snowshoe trails, (5) extensive and diverse winter walking trails for all abilities.
Ski Pass Value: 3.3
(1) A 1 week ski pass is overpriced compared to the number of lifts available, (3) the ski pass is averagely priced and covers a reasonable number of lifts, (5) ski passes are excellent value for money and cover a lot of lifts spanning a big area.
Value (National): 2.7
(1) Overall, Yamagata Zao Onsen is one of the most expensive ski resorts in the country and not worth the money, (3) overall represents average value for money, (5) overall offers the best value resort in the country.
Value (Global): 3.0
(1) Overall, Yamagata Zao Onsen is one of the most expensive ski resorts in the world, (3) overall it offers pretty average value for money compared to resorts from other countries, (5) internationally the resort offers excellent value for money.
March 29, 2008
Tony Brown from Australia
I have skied at Zao 5~6 times since 1984. It is a resort with a great traditional village atmosphere, hot springs and skiing for everyone. The snow monsters look fantastic, however opportunities for skiing amongst them are for advanced skiers only. Most people just stick to the groomed runs. The thing I like most is the ski-in ski-out accommodation options and proximity of the whole village to the lifts. The only draw back is the toll road costs from Yamagata, but if staying at Zao you only pay once. The other negative is that there is a bit of a traverse between some lifts but this is only a minor gripe and won't trouble good skiers. The big bonus is the snow quality, varied terrain and different aspects offering sheltered runs depending on wind direction. The government run Minshiku Ryuzanso is only 50m from the Chuo (middle) gondola and at 8,000 yen per night including 2 meals can't be beat. It also has its own onsen. The manager Furukawa san is still there (2008) and very helpful for foreigners. Highly recommended.