Tomamu's skiing is superb, but there's just as much to discover off the ski slopes. This is a resort for everyone.
Tomamu has developed a reputation as one of Japan’s best family ski resorts, but anyone who has visited will tell you that this description is somewhat limiting. it is a resort that can be enjoyed by skiers and snowboarders of all abilities, with extensive beginner and intermediate terrain and some excellent tree skiing to keep powder hunters happy. The resort’s location in central Hokkaido, which can get particularly cold, also means that the quality of snow is as good as anywhere in Japan.
Aside from Tomamu’s skiing, much of the resort’s appeal lies in the many services and facilities available to guests. Its wave pool, ice village and multitude of restaurants are major talking points, as are the many activities on offer, which include snowmobiling, snow rafting, ice fishing, family snow picnics and birch spoon making.
Like many ski resorts in Japan, Tomamu is purpose-built, so the closest thing to a “town” is the recently constructed Hotaru Street – a ski-in ski-out strip of restaurants that are open for lunch and dinner. The resort-style atmosphere is not to everyone’s taste, but the convenience of having everything at your fingertips – rental shops, kids’ facilities and restaurants – is a major selling point, and perhaps why families are so enamoured with the resort.
Lifts & Terrain
Medium-sized by Japanese standards, Tomamu’s 145 ha of skiable terrain is serviced by a single gondola and five chairlifts. The lifts give skiers access to 28 trails and several designated powder and tree skiing areas, while the resort’s vertical drop is roughly 700 metres – certainly not large if you’re accustomed to the larger ski resort in Europe or North America, but plenty to keep skiers satisfied.
Tomamu’s lifts are relatively new and fast, and the hooded “express” chairlifts offer welcome relief from the cold and wind.
The ski area itself is split across two mountains called Tomamu Mountain (1,239m) and Tower Mountain (970m). Tower Mountain is largely a beginner area – and an excellent one at that, while Tomamu Mountain has a much greater variety of terrain, and will be the area of choice for skiers who have progressed beyond a snowplough. Intermediates will enjoy skiing groomed runs Dragon Ridge and Exhibition along the perimeter of the resort, while some of the best powder skiing can be found in the trees to either side of the Powder Express chairlift (the name’s a dead giveaway!).
Views from Panorama Ridge (skier’s left of Powder Express) overlooking the resort and the surrounding national park are particularly stunning. Tomamu has also erected a structure called the Cloud Walk at the top of Unkai Gondola, which has been designed so that photographers can capture the “sea of clouds” – a phenomenon that has become “Instagram famous”.
It’s also worth noting that night skiing available for much of the season, opening on December 26 and finishing on March 31. During nighttime hours (16:00–18:00) only Tomamu Mountain is lit up, but the experience of skiing under moonlit (and floodlit) skies makes up for the shortage of terrain. Make sure you wear an extra later!
Click here for the Tomamu lift status and schedule.
Tomamu typically gets between 8–10 metres of snow a season, which is slightly less than its coastal counterparts (Niseko, Hokkaido, Kiroro) but still a lot of snow. Don’t expect too much sunshine if you visit between late December and the end of February!
Where Tomamu really makes a name for itself, however, is in the quality of its snowfall. With less moisture in the air in central Hokkaido, the snow is exceptionally light and dry, which means the powder days, when they arrive, are as good as anywhere on the planet.
Better still, Tomamu’s reputation as a family resort means that it has flown under the radar as a powder destination, so there is usually little competition for fresh tracks, in contrast to places like Niseko and Hakuba.
Accommodation and Resort Services
One of the striking features of Tomamu is the sight of the two sets of towers that dominate the alpine landscape. The darker set of towers to the north east of the resort is RISONARE Tomamu, while the set of towers that sit at the base of Tower Mountain is appropriately named Tomamu The Tower. Both hotels are operated by the resort, Hoshino Resort Tomamu.
Of the two hotels, RISONARE is the more upmarket. Every suite in the hotel is at least 100sqm and comes with an in-room spa bath and views overlooking either the ski resort or the surrounding national park. For families or larger groups, there is ample space and storage.
The Tower hotel is set up to cater for a wider variety of groups, with room types that range from a standard twin, to 58㎡ family rooms for up to five people. There’s even a MAMARAKUDA Baby Room, designed especially for parents with infants aged 0–3. These rooms are “shoe free” spaces, and come with amenities that parents will find particularly useful – like diaper corners, washing machines and drawing books.
Guests of both RISONARE and The Tower can make full use of both hotels’ facilities, including the ski and rental shops, kids rooms and restaurants (breakfast is included in the price of the rooms). Guests also receive complimentary access to some of the resort’s major attractions, including Mina-Mina beach, the Ice Village and the Unkai Terrace.
In addition to the two resort-managed hotels, a Club Med hotel operates at the base of Tomamu Mountain. Club Med opened in Tomamu during the 2017/18 season, so the rooms and facilities are all fairly new.
Anyone who knows the Club Med brand will be familiar with the way they run their business. It’s an all-inclusive hotel, where guests have access to the entire suite of services and facilities, including snowsports lessons (they employ their own snow school), kids’ club and all meals. Club Med encourages interaction with their staff, whom they refer to as GOs, and there are scheduled performances each night, activities throughout the day and lots of music and dancing. It can be a slightly bizarre experience for the uninitiated, but there are plenty of Club Med fanatics who would never go anywhere else.
Tomamu Retail & Rental
There are ski and snowboard rental facilities on the first floors of both The Tower and RISONARE, which stock good quality Salomon and Atomic equipment. Guests can choose to simply rent skis, poles and boots, or to borrow an entire set of snow gear, which also includes pants, jacket, beanie, goggles and gloves. This is a useful option for first-timers.
Prices start at ¥14,000(US$125)/day for the full set or ¥5,100(US$45)/day for ski or snowboard equipment only. Children’s gear is cheaper to rent, at ¥9,100(US$81)/day and ¥3,400(US$30)/day respectively. Multi-day discounts apply for rentals up to seven days.
Tomamu’s sole retailer is called Fullmarks Mountain Club, which is positioned amongst eight restaurants on Hotalu St, the resort’s ski-through dining street. The store stocks high quality northern European apparel (Hestra, POC, Peak Performance etc) with prices to match. It’s a great option if you’re in the market for a new jacket or pair of gloves and you don’t mind paying for quality, but if you’re kitting out the whole family or buying equipment (skis, boards or boots), we’d advise you to do your shopping in Sapporo, where you’ll have more variety.
Tomamu Snowsports Schools & Backcountry Guiding
Tomamu’s Snow Academy employs Japanese and English-speaking instructors for private lessons, adult group lessons (ages 13+) and kids’ group lessons (ages 7–12). For the little ones aged 3–6, lessons are mostly in Japanese, with limited English communication. Like most ski schools around the world, group lessons are broken up according to ability, with beginner, intermediate and advanced classes on offer. They run in 2-hour blocks, three times a day and start from ¥5,000 (US$45).
In addition to regular snowsports lessons, which focus predominantly on technique and development, Tomamu offers a Mountain Host service, which is essentially a private guide to the resort (hosts can also help with restaurant reservations and equipment rental).
Dedicated powder hounds can take advantage of Tomamu’s first tracks program, called Morning Glory, which gives skiers access to the resort a full hour before anyone else (you’ll be escorted by an instructor). Check the forecast, pick your powder day, and book!
For skiers who want to escape the resort boundaries and discover the “Japow” that has made Japan famous as powder destination, there are two options. There is a cat skiing operation, booked through the resort, that is located on the nearby Mt. Karifuri. It’s a full-day package that includes a luxury lunch in the mountains.
Those willing to “earn their turns” can opt for a backcountry tour with local guide Riki Nakajima and his team, during which you’ll hike in one of the many backcountry spots in the region, and likely score some of the best turns of your life (we certainly did). The location will depend on the weather and on rider ability, but can include Sandan-yama, Sanpo-zan, Mae Tokachi-dake or Furano-dake.
Tomamu Attractions & Activities
Tomamu’s major attractions are almost as much of a draw card as its skiing, which will be music to the ears of non-skiers or part timers. Mina-Mina Beach is a large “indoor beach” which is heated to 30°C throughout the winter and has one of Japan’s largest wave pools. Guests can simply swim at the beach, or try slacklining, stand-up paddle boarding or spinning around in a large “cyber wheel” (photo and description here). Was there ever a better place to take kids who are cold or sick of the ski slopes? We don’t think so.
Tomamu’s ice village is another major feature of the resort, not to mention the subject of thousands of Instagram pics and Facebook posts. Lit up at night in a glow of fluorescent light, it is a breathtaking sight and offers plenty to keep visitors entertained. For the active, there’s a large ice rink, for the thirsty, an ice bar, for the kids, an activity room called Icy GAO, and for the spenders, a souvenir shop.
For those seriously committed to the ice theme, there is an ice hotel offering overnight accommodation (complete with insulated sleeping bags), and even an ice chapel, which the resort says is “made of a whole piece of ice, which represents the unbreakable love between two pure souls which shall last forever”. And yes, there are regularly weddings at this chapel.
Aside from these two major attractions, Tomamu has an enormous catalogue of activities available both on and off the ski slopes, which will suit visitors of all descriptions – from thrill-seeker (snowmobiling, perhaps?) to the artist (forest wood craft), to the young or young at heart (snow sled park). Tomamu lists 34 different winter activities on their website, so it’s well worth taking a look first and picking the ones that appeal, as they may need to be pre-booked.
Food & Nightlife
Forget everything you think you know about ski resort food; Tomamu takes its dining very seriously, with more than 28 restaurants spanning a multitude of cuisines and cooking styles. A common theme amongst these restaurants is the use of fresh, local produce, for which Hokkaido has a very good reputation.
Each of the hotels has a selection of restaurants – mostly buffet style – while there is also dining at the resort center and at on-mountain Mt. cafe RAP. Hotaru Street might be considered the main dining “hub” of the resort, with eight restaurants of varying styles that can be reached on foot or by skis. At Garaku, hungry skiers are served piping hot soup curry, a Hokkaido speciality, while at at Bowl&Roll House Eni, seafood aficionados will enjoy seafood bowls with generous servings of shrimp (ebi) and crab (kani).
Other highlights include Forest Restaurant Nininupuri which, as its name suggests, is set amongst a gorgeous backdrop of birch tree forest. Floor to ceiling windows allow guests to feel completely immersed in their surroundings, and the buffet offers an extensive selection of Japanese-style dishes.
On days where the sun is shining, guests may wish to head to Tenbou Cafe next to Unkai Terrace, where they can enjoy a coffee or hot soup over the best views the resort has to offer. Note that you’ll need to take the gondola to reach Unkai Terrace – either using your ski pass or a single-use coupon that is often included in the accommodation package with Risonare or The Tower.
Culture & Ambience
As a purpose-built resort, Tomamu must be accepted for what it is. If you’re looking for a Japanese ski village with quaint side streets, locally-owned izakayas, and onsen, then Tomamu is not your place. On the other hand, Tomamu is a popular tourist destination for Japanese and international visitors alike, and the culture and ambience reflect that. It has a very discernible resort feel, and with the absence of any real town, almost all its guests are those staying in one of the three major hotels.
On a positive note, the resort has a very family-friendly feel, and the staff are exceptionally courteous and professional.
As a resort in the truest sense of the word, Tomamu is not a place for travellers on a shoestring budget, but nor is it unreasonably expensive. In fact, with many of the facilities and services packaged into hotel pricing, and with the ski slopes literally on your doorstep, a stay at Tomamu can offer very good value. Standard Twin rooms in The Tower hotel start from around ¥23,100 (US$206)/night, with discounts available for early bird bookings.
Lift tickets in Japan tend to be amazingly well-priced, and Tomamu is no exception. At ¥5,500 (US$49), the cost pales in comparison to some of the world’s well-known resorts, where single day lift passes often cost in excess of US$100. Vale (USA) is famously expensive, where its walk-up price this year broke US$200 for the first time ever. In comparison to other mid-sized Japanese resorts, Tomamu’s fee is much of a muchness. Hakuba Valley (¥6,000) and Niseko United (¥7,400) – two of Japan’s largest resorts – sit on the expensive end of the spectrum but admittedly offer far more in the way of lift infrastructure.
Other significant expenses might include ski or snowboard rental, and at ¥5,100(US$45)/day with multi-day discounts, this is again very reasonable and consistent with most mid-sized resorts across Japan.
Snowfall (annual ave): 8–10m
Runs (total): 29
Runs (km): 21.5
Lifts: 6 (1 Gondola, 5 Chairlifts)
Top elevation: 1239 m
Base elevation 540 m
Vertical: 699 m
Nearest international airport: New Chitose (Sapporo)
Transport: Coach, train, private transfer
The breakdown | Tomamu
Japan's best family resort ... for everyone
Tomamu’s skiing is superb, but there’s just as much to discover off the ski slopes. This is a resort for everyone.