Home to well known hot springs and ski resorts up in the mountains of the Yamagata Prefecture, Zao Onsen is also home to “ice trees” or “snow monsters”.
Located in the Tōhoku region of northern Japan, about 250,000 people call the Yamagata Prefecture their home. With these people, every winter, snow monsters would pop by and live harmoniously with the residents.
The Zao Onsen ski resort transforms into a winter wonderland every winter, being blanketed by fine white snow. The ski resort sits about 800 feet above sea level, being fully covered by fluffy snow all winter long.
With all that snow, the trees that line the ski trails get covered as well, transforming them into snow and ice covered mythical looking creatures. The snow monsters, also known as juhyo, are caused by the region’s harsh weather, with frequent winter storms passing by the Zao Mountain Range and freezing cold fronts that originate from Siberia.
You don’t have to be an expert snowboarder or skier to see these mythical trees, the best times to catch them would be between January and March. Guests can hop onto two connecting cable cars, the first one would be starting off from the base of the resort.
During the night time, the snow monsters would be lit up and will be seen from the summit café, or you can step off the observation deck and walk among the snow giants, if you dare.
The Zao Onsen ski resort is one of the oldest ski resorts in Japan and offers over thirty ropeways, lifts and gondolas and variety of courses that suits every skier and/or snowboarder of any ability, from beginners to experts.
The longest course starts by the territory of the snow monsters, right at the summit of the mountain and is about ten kilometres long. The ski season would usually start in late November or early December and would run all through early May.