One of Japan's liveliest cities also serves as an excellent base from which to explore some of Hokkaido's best ski resorts.

Sapporo is Hokkaido’s capital and largest city, home to nearly 2 million people and a massive range of options for drinking, dining and entertainment. Luckily for skiers, there are several world-class resorts within close reach of the city including the highly underrated Sapporo Teine, which boasts some of Hokkaido’s steepest terrain.

The western side of Sapporo Teine's Highland Zone

Sapporo Teine’s “Highland Zone”, on the upper section of Mt. Teine, boasts some of the steepest terrain in Hokkaido.

Sapporo Teine

Despite its proximity to the city centre (less than 20 km), Sapporo Teine is big enough (340 – 1,023 m), steep enough (38° max. gradient) and snowy enough (10+ m per season) to accommodate even the most seasoned of skiers. In fact, the resort’s “Highland Zone”, on the upper section of Mt. Teine, features some of the steepest terrain in Hokkaido including “North Wall” or “Kitakabe”, a 1,500 m tree run that has served as a playground for some of Japan’s best skiers and thrill seekers.

Sapporo Teine

The resort, which opened in 1965, played a starring role at the 1972 Winter Olympics, and has since hosted plenty of other high profile events including Winter Universiade in 1991 and the Asian Winter Games three times. However, despite its credentials as a former Olympic venue, Teine is much less of a household name than many other Hokkaido-based resorts. This is good news for skiers tiring of Niseko’s evergrowing lift lines or Furano’s increasingly pricey lift tickets.

Sapporo Kokusai

Sapporo Kokusai is another mid-sized resort within an hour’s drive of Sapporo. Buses from Sapporo Station’s North Exit provide an easy 90 minute commute to the resort, and run several times per hour during peak season.

Thanks to its elevation (1,100 m) and unique geography, Kokusai is estimated to receive roughly 20 m of snowfall per season, making it one of Japan’s snowiest ski resorts, along with nearby Kiroro (featured below). It also boasts a near 6-month ski season, with lifts often spinning until early May.

Kokusai’s 2.2 km unpisted “Downhill” course – its only black run – offers the best opportunity to sample deep powder, particularly through the treed areas on either side of the trail. However, skiers of all levels and abilities are well looked after, with green and red trails on offer from summit to base. This allows the whole family to board the resort’s 8-seater Sky Cabin, which spans the entire mountain (630 – 1,100 m).

Kiroro

Less than an hour’s drive from Sapporo and just several kilometres west of Kokusai, Kiroro is another city-serving resort that lays claim to some of the best powder conditions in Hokkaido. Kiroro, however, is significantly bigger than Kokusai, with 30 km of marked trails, 10 lifts and 660 m of vertical, making it the fourth largest ski resort on the island.

Kiroro Ski Resort, Hokkaido, Japan

It wasn’t long ago that Kiroro was almost entirely off the radar of foreign skiers. This has become less and less the case in recent years, particularly since the resort was acquired by the owners of Club Med in 2021. The recent addition of a second Club Med Kiroro Grand is yet another indication of the resort’s surging popularity.

Kiroro’s transition into an upscale destination resort will no doubt have boosted its family appeal, but its reliably impressive snowfall stats (21 m per season) and inbound tree skiing areas are the real drawcards for serious skiers.

Bankei, Sapporo Moiwayama & Fu’s

There are several pocket-sized resorts on the southern fringe of Sapporo, notably Bankei, Sapporo Moiwayama and Fu’s, all of which serve particularly well as training grounds for first-timers. Bankei (the larger of the three) and Moiwayama are both found within 10 km of Sapporo Station and can be accessed via bus (or a bus-subway combination) within 30 minutes. However, Fu’s, while slightly further afield, has the pick of the snow thanks to its marginally higher elevation (563 m) and northeastern aspect. It also boasts the cheapest lift ticket of the three at just ¥3,000 for an adult day pass. It’s a piwi-sized resort with three pair lifts, though, so don’t go in with Niseko-level expectations!

Fu’s is accessible via the Jotetsu Bus bound for “Fujino 4 Jo 11 Chome” from JR Sapporo Station or Makomanai Subway Station. Skiers should get off at “Fujino 4 Jo 11 Chome” and walk 5 minutes to the resort. Otherwise, a taxi from Makomanai Subway Station should be roughly ¥2,000.

Hoshino Resorts Tomamu

Hoshino Resorts Tomamu earns a spot on this list thanks to its accessibility from Sapporo via the JR Limited Express (Tokachi/Ozora) shinkansen, which reaches the resort in just 95 minutes. Despite its Central Hokkaido location, Tomamu is easier to reach from Sapporo than Niseko, Rusutsu or any of the southwestern resorts as these typically require a bus ride if travelling via public transport.

As a ski destination, Tomamu has all-round appeal, with a variety of terrain to suit skiers of all abilities and tastes. The resort’s ski area stretches across two peaks – Tower Mountain (970 m), which caters largely to beginners, and Tomamu Mountain (1,239 m), which boasts some excellent off-piste and sidecountry terrain. The quality of powder on offer is exceptionally high even by Hokkaido standards thanks to Tomamu’s frigid Central Hokkaido climate.

Japan's best family ski resort - Tomamu

Image: snowtomamu.jp

The resort is also known for its extravagant off-slope facilities, which include a 30°C indoor beach and wave pool – Japan’s largest – and an ice village comprising several ice-themed attractions including an ice bar, an ice chapel and a zipline over ice.

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