Winter Services in Zao Onsen
Zao - Ski Passes
Guests have a lot of options when it comes to lift passes at Zao, with a range of hour lengths within one day, daily, flexible 10-day pass, and season passes. Tickets are priced different for adults and for children, and most are useable with night passes on the slopes, too. If you’re looking at taking a large group, there are special ticket prices available for groups of students or organizations, too, with discounted prices overall.
Ski & Board Rentals
As you’d expect, most of the ski and snowboard rental services are concentrated around the base of the ski lifts, many operating as ski schools as well, with the largest being the Zao Base Centre Jupia at the Zao Sky Cable base. There are also many hotels and ryokans that will offer their own ski and snowboard rental services, too. Most of the equipment throughout the area is of medium-level quality, but if you’re after fantastic equipment you’re best off going to the larger stores, as a lot of the rental items are quite old. If you can, we recommend bringing your own gear as much as possible, as larger sizes and high quality gear can be hard to find throughout the Zao Onsen resort. Another issue you may encounter is a language barrier, with many of the smaller rental shops not having many English-speaking staff, which can cause issues if you need to discuss your needs. If you’re not confident with your Japanese, you’re better off going to a larger store where English-speaking staff are more likely.
Ski & Board Lessons
There are multiple ski and snowboarding schools located throughout Zao Onsen, with many of them having English-speaking instructors available. You’ll have the option to choose from private or group lessons and well as one-on-one lessons with an instructor, all of which will vary in price from 4,000 yen per day to 22,000 yen per day. Reservations are required for most of the schools, especially if you need an English-speaking instructor to assist you.
Zao Utopia Ski School is highly recommended, with English speaking staff and highly trained professional instructors available. Their morning lessons run from 10am until midday, while the afternoon lessons run from 1:30 - 3:30pm.
While there aren’t many tours that run in the area, guests in Zao can go on a traditional Japanese wakanjiki snowshoe tour from the months of mid-January through to late March. This tour runs through the Juhyogen, or ice monsters, or through the Chuo Kohen Muhogen snowfield, both tough but rewarding tours with plenty to experience. The tours cost around 4,000 yen per person and require a two-day advance booking, but provide a great break from daily skiing.