TOP RECOMMENDATIONS Gassan
A spring and summer season skiing sanctuary
When most other ski resorts around Japan start to close in April, Gassan opens its doors. Its location is the key to its extra-long season — the resort is at an altitude of 1,600 meters in an area of Yamagata Prefecture with very heavy snowfall. Snow travelers to Gassan can ski until July depending on the season's snow conditions and take in panoramic views of the Asahi and Zao mountain ranges along with the striking contrast of the fresh green beech leaves with pristine white snow. Be aware that the pistes in Gassan are not suitable for beginners and are only recommended for experienced skiers and snowboarders.
How to get there
Take the Yamagata Shinkansen from Tokyo Station and get off at Sakuranbo-Higashine Station; the journey takes around 3 hours. From the station, take the Gassan Liner, a shared taxi, directly to Gassan-Shizu Onsen. The ski area is an 18-minute bus ride away.
Take the Gassan Liner shared taxi from Yamagata Airport directly to Gassan-Shizu Onsen. From there, the ski area is an 18-minute bus ride away.
A training ground for seasoned skiers
Head up the slopes via the kilometer-long pair lift or the T-bar lift and look down upon the natural curves of the mountain. Unlike the groomed slopes of other ski resorts, the entire Gassan resort is a backcountry field. Advanced-level skiers are drawn to the snowy hills as they feature plenty of moguls. The terrain is a great training ground for those looking to hone their skills, so if you are in the area during the weekend, you will see quite a few lessons taking place.
Gassan’s winter powder power
Gassan is a mecca for backcountry skiing, and between January and March (before the ski area opens), you can join backcountry tours and snowcat tours. It’s a great place to experience some excellent powder snow. Carve tracks on the wide-open slopes and enjoy tree runs between groves of beech trees. Stay safe by joining a tour and being adequately prepared.
A sacred mountain since ancient times
Mt. Gassan, along with Mt. Haguro, and Mt. Yudono are known as the Three Mountains of Dewa. They have been the subject of sacred mountain worship since ancient times, and you’ll find a shrine on the summit of Mt. Gassan that memorializes this history. Mt. Gassan is a popular hiking spot in the summer, and you have the option of taking a lift to the top. Head to the summit (1,984m), and enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the Sea of Japan and surrounding landscape. There are five lodgings located right by the ski area, and 10 more in the Gassan-Shizu Onsen area, a 15-minute drive away. The hot springs in Gassan-Shizu Onsen are high in sodium, and are known to quickly warm up the body and improve the appearance of your skin.