Takao Miyashita is a Hokkaido native who started skiing when he was just a 3-year-old, and since then he has made the mountains and snow his life. He has been guiding in Japan since 1989, which gives him a track record of thirty years, and he is one of Hokkaido’s backcountry pioneers and top guides. Ski touring, backcountry skiing, ice climbing and alpinism are some of his areas of expertise, which he puts to good practice on the tours in Hokkaido that he offers via Explore-Share.com, where he is highlighted as one of the adventure booking platform’s pro guides. Despite being in the middle of high season, he was happy to suggest the best 5 places for backcountry skiing near Sapporo.
Sapporo, the centre of Hokkaido, is a large city with a population of 2 million. The Winter Olympics were held there in 1972, and will possibly be held there again in 2030. It is no secret that it is a winter sports haven and there are plenty of places to enjoy powder skiing without excessively long hikes.
However, Takao stresses that one of the big differences from the Niseko area, the white-powder star in Hokkaido, is that near Sapporo, resorts tend to be less crowded. Furthermore, after skiing, you can also enjoy delicious food and shopping in the city. And, it is also attractive that you can stay in Sapporo and select a ski destination according to the conditions of the day.
Below are five amazing backcountry spots in Hokkaido to explore that are no more than an hour drive away from Sapporo.
There are plenty of reasons why Teine makes it on this list, and why it is considered one of the best spots in Japan for skiing. For starters, it is the closest ski resort to the city centre, just 15 km northwest of it. Additionally, it was Asia’s first Winter Olympics host in 1972. It is well equipped and boasts options for both beginners in its Olympia area at the base of the mountain, and advanced skiers at the Highland area at the top. The resort is located on Mt. Teineyama overlooking the Ishikari plain and has a summit elevation of 1,023 metres (3,356 ft). On a clear day, you ski the backcountry, and it is also possible to catch a view of the sea, of Sapporo city and of Daisetsuzan.
Next on the list is Kokusai, which has a high reputation among powder hounds for its abundant snowfall. It is located around 50 km from Sapporo, not far from the hot spring town of Jozankei Onsen and from the seaside town of Otaru.
Kokusai is popular among the locals. The resort itself tends to feel quite crowded, but the beauty of it lies in its lift-accessed backcountry, where you can enjoy riding fresh powder lines to your heart’s content.
Near Kokusai, around 50km away from Sapporo, is Nakayamatoge, a tiny resort that is usually closed in January and February due to too much snow! However, it is an ideal spot for off-season spring skiers that want to explore the Nakayamatoge backcountry – sometimes as late as June, depending on the year. Furthermore, on a clear day, you can enjoy skiing with views of Mount Yotei.
Around 60 km west from Sapporo, just a one-hour drive, is Kiroro Resort which is located on Nagamine Peak and Asar Peak with Mount Yoigoshi-dake nearby. The resort offers many family friendly options and alternative activities for off-ski fun. Once away from the resort area, this powder paradise is rich in snow quantity and quality, with ridges and treed slopes in all directions and a lively backcountry scene. Additionally, it is a great spot for skiing early in the season.
Rusutsu is considered to be one of the best dry powder locations in Japan, and also one of the best spots for tree lines. It has great lift-access, and is not as crowded as other nearby backcountry havens. It is located around 70 km to the southwest of Sapporo, on the other side of Mount Yotei from Niseko, which is just 20 km away. Right next to Rusutsu is Mount Shiribetsu, which is also a great spot for off-the-beaten path ski adventures. All in all, Rusutsu is a top backcountry spot for experienced powder lovers and offers a wide variety of options in terms of terrain and runs.
Hokkaido is a backcountry haven with options for everyone, and you don’t need to go far from the city to find the perfect powder line for you. The resorts near Sapporo are easy to access and a wonderful option to discover the world famous Japanese snow.
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There are lots of options in Hokkaido and Honshu that can be tailored to the kind of skiing you like and when you plan to come. Answer a few questions and we’ll get back to you with some recommendations.