[Feature] Snow Monsters at Night! Zao Night Cruiser snowcat tour
In my 40s, I work from home and enjoy bathing and going back to sleep after waking up. I live in Yamagata City since 2020 with my husband, my son and my daughter, both in elementary school. My hobbies are boardgames, reading and crafts. Walking down back alleys with my camera in hand is a blissful time. I will be happy to share with you the fun, delicious and wonderful things of Yamagata.
In the vicinity of the Snow Monsters area of Zao Onsen Ski Resort, the Snow Monsters (trees covered with soft-rime ice) are lit up from the end of December to the end of February every year so that you can enjoy a fantastic view different from the world of silver in the daytime.
You can experience such a unique scenery in a special way at the Zao Ropeway’s annual “Snow Monster Fantasy Corridor Tour” by taking the Night Cruiser snowcat.
This time, I decided to join the tour with my family.
We will introduce you to its charms, including places where you can make a detour on the way before the tour.
* This season’s tour (December 2020-February 2021) has ended
◆ Snow Monsters
This is the first winter in Yamagata for my family who just moved to Yamagata.
For me, born in Kyushu, the symbol of Yamagata’s winter is… “Snow Monsters”!
Snow Monsters are formed by a special natural phenomenon that is found only in some mountain areas of the Ou Mountains in the Tohoku region.
They are called “snow monster” because the soft-rime-ice-covered coniferous trees turn into mysterious figures as they grow bigger during winter.
When I saw the picture of the Snow Monsters in my textbook when I was in elementary school, I was impressed.
Now that I live in Yamagata, I have no choice but to go see them!
◆ Contents of the Snow Monsters Fantasy Corridor Tour
The “Snow Monsters Fantasy Corridor Tour” held every year from the end of December to the end of February of the following year at Zao Onsen Ski Resort is popular because you can enjoy the fantastic scenery of the Snow Monsters area that is lit up at night.
Take the Zao Ropeway from “Zao Sanroku Station” to the “Juhyo Kogen Station”, then move from “Juhyo Kogen Station” to the Snow Monsters area where the trees are lit up in a heated snowcat, The same route will take you back to “Zao Sanroku Station.”
Overview of the “Snow Monsters Fantasy Corridor Tour” on the Night Cruiser
From the end of December to the end of February every year
[Departure time from Zao Sanroku Station]
17:00, 18:00, 19:00, 20:00
* Meet 20 minutes before departure
Up to 36 people per tour
Jizo Kogen Station ⇒ Turn back at the top of the No. 4 pillar on the mountaintop line ⇒ Jizo Kogen Station * Do not go to Jizo Sancho Station to start the tour.
[Fee] Adult: 4,500 yen / Children: 3,800 yen
* Round trip on the Sanroku Line (Zao Sanroku Station to Juhyo Kogen Station) + Round trip in snowcat
* Season tickets and other discounts are not available
* Advance reservation is required
* Depending on the weather the tours may be canceled
Zao Ropeway Sanroku Station ☎: 023-694-9518
◆ Take measures against the cold and leave
We participated in the course departing at 17:00 at the end of January.
I decided to leave early by car with plenty of time and head for the Zao ropeway at the meeting place while taking a short detour.
Although it is a relatively early time, Zao Onsen ski resort has a very cold temperature of -8 ℃ to -15 ℃.
Therefore, I decided to go out with good measures against the cold.
・ Hats that hide your ears ・ Down jackets ・ Gloves ・ Snow boots
[Useful to have]
· Warm patches
* It is also useful for cold weather, but if you warm it with a warmer when the battery of your smartphone or camera is about to run out, it will last longer for charging.
The weather on this day was sunny. It’s a pleasant blue sky.
The road from Yamagata City to Zao Onsen was well cleared of snow, and even I, who was not good at driving on snowy roads, was comfortable.
* If you come by public transportation,there is also a fixed-route bus from Yamagata Station to Zao Onsen Bus Terminal, so please take advantage of it.
◆ A little detour before going to Zao!
This time, on the way to the Zao Ropeway, we stopped by “Yamagata Prefecture Tourist Product Center Gutto Yamagata”, which is halfway between Yamagata City and Zao Onsen, and “Otochaya”, which is located in Zao Onsen Street.
・ Yamagata Prefecture Tourist Product Center Gutto Yamagata
First of all, snack time at Gutto Yamagata just before entering the mountain road to climb Zao Onsen.
If you come here, you can get almost all the delicious foods from all over Yamagata prefecture, which is a convenient spot.
I usually buy vegetables from the next farm and go around the souvenir corner…
Go straight to the food court today!
At Gutto Yamagata’s food court, there are three restaurants that serve desserts, in addition to Uguisutei, Yamagata Kitchen, and Yonezawa Kohakudo which mainly serve meals.
From the left, “Sakura Terrace,” “Amabile,” and “Tea warehouse.”
“Yamagata gelato” and “Macha green tea gelato”, which are processed fruits and agricultural products from Yamagata prefecture, are popular.
Offers coffee and sweets, as well as weekly spaghetti and traditional Neapolitan
The seasonal flavors of the fruit kingdom “Yamagata Taste” are sold as juice, parfait, and soft-serve ice cream.
I decided to use ice cream for today’s dessert because I can eat various kinds of ice cream at each of the three stores.
(1) My son, who likes Macha green tea, chose [Dark tea] at Chakura.
“The taste is rich and delicious,” he said.
(2) I also chose [Dewa Kaori flour soba] from Yonezawa at Chakura
This slightly mixed grain is like soba naruto on ice cream! It was a new type of ice cream with a gentle sweetness and a soba flavor in the aftertaste!
③ It was my daughter who chose [Dippin’Dots] at Amabile.
Ramune-flavored ice cream with a pleasant crunchy texture.
④ My husband chose [Cherry Soft] at Sakura Terrace.
It seems that the sweet and sour taste is stable and spreads in your mouth.
・ Cafe Otochaya
After enjoying dessert and driving about 25 minutes from Gutto Yamagata, we finally arrived at Zao Onsen town.
There are many beautiful scenery in Yamagata, but the Zao mountain range surrounded by white snow is really beautiful!
I arrived about an hour earlier than the tour start time, so I decided to spend time at the café near the Zao Ropeway Zao Sanroku Station.
I visited Otochaya, a fashionable shop that serves lunch and coffee during the day and becomes a pub & izakaya at night.
It is an environment-friendly and body-friendly cafe that warms the inside of the store with a wood stove and a pellet stove without using an air conditioner.
Take a break with warm drinks.
There are also small seats, so even families with small children can relax.
Art works and works of local Yamagata artists are also exhibited in the store, warming your body and mind ♡
The interior of the store, where the soft afternoon sunshine shines in, was cozy and laid-back, and the time to departure came in no time.
◆ Snow Monsters Fantasy Corridor tour
1. Take the ropeway from Zao Sanroku Station to Juyo Kogen Station
At the reception desk of the ropeway platform at Zao Sanroku Station, you will receive a ticket for the “Snow Monsters Fantasy Corridor Tour” and move to the platform with other people participating in the tour.
In front of the stairs leading to the ropeway platform, there is a shop called 36SHOP, so if you have time, it is recommended to take a look.
Products related to Yamagata Prefecture, such as foods made with “Funagata Mushroom” made in Funagata Town, Mogami District, Yamagata Prefecture, are lined up.
Ishijizo, made of stone from Yamagata prefecture, is cute.
When I got on the ropeway, I saw a beautiful sunset.
While climbing to Juhyo Kogen Station on the ropeway, you will be fascinated by the beauty of the rime ice that spreads below.
As the ropeway climbs, the appearance of the trees will change little by little.
We enjoyed an aerial tour of about 7 minutes and arrived at Juyo Kogen Station.
The illuminations are beautiful…
But it’s cold! It’s cold enough to freeze my eyelashes, which I’ve never experienced before.
2. Night Cruiser
When I got out of Juhyo Kogen Station, a huge heavy machine was waiting for me.
Is this the cruiser? !!
It is a huge snowcat!
It looks heavy and cool!
3. Take the cruiser to the Snow Monsters area
The white world that spreads in front of the cruiser.
What kind of scenery is waiting for you in the future? The excitement doesn’t stop.
Board the cruiser and travel to a higher place where you can see the rime.
The inside of the snowcat is a little small, but it is separated by a vinyl curtain and infection control is perfect.
I climb the snowy road steadily, sometimes overcoming the hump of the snow.
I enjoyed the view of the car window while listening to the explanation about the rime on the car.
4. Finally to the Snow Monsters area
Finally, we arrived at the Snow Monsters area!
When you get off the cruiser, you will see the illuminated Snow Monsters area in front of you.
The color of the light up reflected in the white snow is also wonderful.
The rime on the trees with the sunset still a little left in the background.
It seems that it is a sight that can only be seen on a sunny evening tour.
Children are excited about the scenery that they have never seen before!
A mysterious and fantastic space, an unrealistic feeling as if you came to another country.
Ah, I felt that Yamagata is a really beautiful place.
When we participated in the tour, it was a time when there was little snow, so the rime itself seemed to be finished, but it seems that you can enjoy this kind of scenery at the peak of the actual rime.
Photo courtesy of Zao Ropeway
Photo courtesy of Zao Ropeway
Just snow monsters everywhere!
At the end of the Snow Monsters area viewing time, board the Cruiser again and return to Ropeway Kogen Station.
I was able to enjoy the illuminations along the way to the station.
The staff who guided the tour were all kind and I enjoyed it comfortably.
I would like to come back to the mysterious and beautiful world of snow monsters.