The huge Mt. Zao in Yamagata is one of the one of the most famous ski resorts in Japan, widely considered to have the best skiing/boarding in the Tohoku region. Zao Onsen is a huge ski resort featuring 4 gondolas, 41 lifts and a super long 10km course stretching from one side of the mountain to the other! There is a large variety of courses perfect for beginners, intermediates and experts. There's ski runs for everyone at Zao! Of course its not all about tearing down the slopes at Zao, theres lots of activities other than skiing/boarding to spend your time on.
The top half of Mt. Zao is home to the famous Snow Monsters, a forest of fir trees that freezes mid-winter due to icy siberian winds and forms towering human like 'monsters'. Known as 'Juhyo' in Japanese, these Snow Monsters are an incredible natural phenomonen and definitely one of Japan's must-see attractions. At night you can take the Gondola up to the top of Zao and check out the Snow Monsters lit up in colourful lights, a pretty amazing spectacle!
As its name suggests, Zao Onsen is also famous for its volcanic hot springs. Mt. Zao itself is a huge volcano (luckily dormant!) and the surrounding areas are abundant with natural volcanic hot springs. The town at the base of the mountain is visited all year round by hot spring enthusiasts throughout Japan.