Japan isn't the first destination that comes to mind when you think of skiing, but you'd be missing out if you didn't try the slopes at Mount Zao at least once. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, the big powder attraction here is the "snow monsters." A combination of wind, snow, and ice work to cover the trees that line the mountain, and after a short while, they start looking like giant snowmen. The scenery attracts photographers worldwide in the winter. You can also ski in between the trees, making it an excellent natural obstacle course.
Thaw out in the hot springs at the bottom of the mountain. The waters are believed to heal all kinds of diseases and disorders, but the only one we can vouch for is the cure for the cold weather. In the summer, the mountain is an excellent spot for hikers. (Or, take one of the cable cars to the top for easier viwes).
Where is it? Honshu, Japan. Fly to Tokyo and connect to Yamagata Airport (check prices).
Where to stay? Get the traditional experience by staying at a "onsen ryokans" (hot spring inns), like the Miyamaso Takamiya.
What else should I know? Be prepared for the strong and distinct smell of sulpher, which comes from the hot springs.
Who's it for? Skiiers, photographers, bathers.
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