Snow monsters take form
on a pitch-dark night

Zao Mountains

Zao Mountains

In winter, one of Japan’s most beloved skiing resorts comes alive with hundreds of white figures emerging from the snowscape. Zao’s unique climate creates massive frost-covered trees that look like monsters from afar. Clusters of these “snow monsters” create an unforgettable spectacle that embodies the rugged spirit of Zao.

The ingredients needed to create the perfect snow monster are a hardy tree on a western slope, a decent snowfall, considerable moisture, brisk westerly winds and strong winter air pressure. The shape of the tress themselves—evergreen conifers called Aomori-todomatsu or Marie’s fir—is said to be the single most important factor for the formation of the snow monsters, one of the rarest natural phenomena on the planet.

Daylight frames the dazzling white figures against a clear blue sky. But as the sun sets, vivid colored lights burst to life amid the darkness, providing a spectacular nighttime view of the world-famous snow monsters. The Zao Ropeway’s Jizo Sancho Station provides an excellent place to observe these gentle giants, only 20 minutes from the foot of the mountain.

For those unafraid of the dark, Nightcruiser snowcat tours deliver travelers from the quiet darkness to a multi-colored frozen feast for the imagination.

Photo : Courtesy of Zao Ropeway

Zao Ropeway
229-3 Zao-onsen, Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture 990-2301
+81 23 694 9518
Snow monster season:
Usually end of Decemeber to early March
About 45 minutes by bus from JR Yamagata Station,
about 40 minutes by car from JR Yamagata Station.
Tohoku’s largest snow resort Zao, you can enjoy winter in Tohoku including hot springs, skiing, from watching ice sheets. Ropeway ticket(roundtrip): Adults are 2600 yen each and children are 1300 yen each.