Hokkaido is famous worldwide as a wintersports destination thanks to its profusion of quality powder snow that arrives earlier than most places on mainland Japan. The winter season is also longer, often lasting from December to May.
The most famous of Hokkaido’s ski resorts is Niseko, which is centered around Mt. Niseko-Annupuri with Mt. Yotei as a backdrop. At the base of the mountain are four major resorts: Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Hanazono and Annupuri, which are joined at the top of so it’s possible to ski between them. Shuttle buses connect the resorts, and the Niseko All Mountain Pass gives you access to all four. Famous for its open powder bowls and tree runs, the mountain’s slopes cater to all levels of skiers; lessons and ski rentals are also available. As it’s popular with foreign riders, English is widely spoken here, especially at Hirafu village (at the base of Grand Hirafu) which has a large accommodation and dining option.
In ski season, there are direct buses between Sapporo and Niseko, taking anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours.
Furano ski resort is well developed, yet still retains a cosy feel with a handful of large hotels and a collection of small B&Bs. The area is renowned for its many long groomed runs catering to all ski levels. Advanced skiers have access to terrain parks and excellent off-piste terrain, while families can try other snow activities like snow rafting and snowmobiling. This family-friendly large resort features 9 lifts and 24 courses, and is on the world cup ski racing map. While it has more Japanese visitors, it is able to cater to English-speaking guests.
Furano is 41km from Sapporo, and is accessible by car in about 2 hours.
Sahoro has two very different ski resorts. The English-speaking Club Med Sahoro is popular with families for its kids club and ski-in, ski-out beginner trails, while the Sahoro Resort Hotel is more popular with Japanese skiers. Sahoro has 21 marked runs, mostly catering to beginners, with the lift network is well developed and known for being uncrowded. While there’s not much terrain to entertain advanced riders, Sahoro’s location in the centre of Hokkaido means you can easily visit nearby resorts of Tomamu and Furano.
From Shin-Chitose Airport, there are trains to Shintoku station from where shuttle buses get you to the resort in 15 minutes.
While not as famous as Hokkaido’s other resorts, Kiroro’s crowd-free slopes are a major draw for powder hounds who come here for abundant snow and tree skiing. It’s spread over two mountain peaks with 21 runs (accessible via 9 lifts and a gondola), including the long Grand Line. It has mogul courses and a terrain park, but for the most part, it caters to families and those who enjoy the snow in peace, as there are no blaring loudspeakers. Kiroro has no village or town but all amenities are well catered for by the two hotels here.
Kiroro is 43km from Sapporo, and from Shin-Chitose Airport, it’s a 2-hour bus ride.
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