All About Japan

The 14 Hottest Hokkaido Ski Spots

| Ski & Snowboard , Hokkaido
The 14 Hottest Hokkaido Ski Spots

Hokkaido offers good snow, great resorts, and fantastic scenery—not to mention superb après-ski, with hot springs and local delicacies to enjoy. Here's our run-down of 14 hot spots to hit on Japan's northern island!

Hokkaido: Paradise for Skiers & Snowboarders

Hokkaido: Paradise for Skiers & Snowboarders

Hokkaido is the definitive destination for powder hounds! Below we'll be taking a look at the hottest snow spots in the region, including luxurious resorts, superb powder zones and a handful of well-kept secrets. However, the spot you select will depend on the kind of skier or snowboarder you are!

Resort Types

Gorgeous resorts with memorable après-ski:
• Rusutsu Resort
• Hoshino Resort Tomamu
• Furano Ski Resort

Powder zones:
• Niseko United (Annupuri, Village, Hirafu)
• Kiroro Snow World
• Asahidake Ropeway

Accessible slopes near Sapporo:
• Sapporo Teine
• Sapporo Bankei Ski Area
• Sapporo Kokusai Skiing Resort
• Sapporo Moiwayama Ski Area

Well-kept secrets for a relaxing day:
• Mount Racey Ski Area
• Sahoro Resort Ski Area
• Kamui Ski Links
• Otaru Tenguyama Ski Resort

1. Rusutsu Resort

1. Rusutsu Resort

Rusutsu Resort (ルスツリゾート) boasts a total of 18 lifts and gondolas servicing some 42 kilometers (26 mi) of runs. One of Hokkaido's largest resorts, the East, West and Mount Isola areas offer great powder snow across a variety of courses, all set in a gorgeous, theme park-like atmosphere. On a clear day from the peak of Mount Isola, you can see Lake Toya on the left and the imposing profile of Mount Yotei on the right.

Best Mountain Food: Gooey egg omelette rice (とろとろたまごのオムライス・toro-toro tamago no omuraisu), ¥1,080.

Best Day-End Hot Spring: Rusutsu Resort Hot Spring (ルスツリゾート温泉・Rusutsu Resort Onsen), ¥1,180.

Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. (to 8 p.m. from March, to 5 p.m. from April)

Operation Period: November-April

2. Hoshino Resorts Tomamu

2. Hoshino Resorts Tomamu

Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾートトマム) offers vast slopes, a luxurious environment and legendary "Tomamu Powder." In addition to an array of restaurants in four tower hotels, the resort offers incredible après-ski, including a huge indoor wave pool called Mina-Mina Beach, an astonishing ice village and more.

Best Mountain Food: Original Nepal curry (ネパールカレー) at Mountain Café Rap, ¥1,300.

Best Day-End Hot Spring: Kirin-no-Yu (木林の湯) in Mini-Mina Beach, ¥800.

Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. (night skiing 4-7 p.m.)

Operation Period: November-April

3. Furano Ski Resort

3. Furano Ski Resort

Furano Ski Resort (富良野スキー場・Furano Ski-jo) presents two faces to visitors: the modern Furano Zone, a new resort centered around New Furano Prince Hotel, and the historical Kitanomine Zone, which boasts 50 years of operations.

Skiers and snowboarders alike can delight in the broad slopes and richly varied conditions, not to mention the characteristically fluffy Furano powder, all while the view of the city of Furano extends before your eyes and Mount Tokachi rises up majestically in the distance. There's also a Feng Shui power spot in the Kitanomine Zone, allowing you to draw on positive energy even as you glide down the slopes.

Best Mountain Food: White curry (白いカレー・shiroi kare), ¥1,100.

Best Day-End Hot Spring: Shisai-no-Yu (紫彩の湯), ¥1,540.

Hours: 8:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. (night skiing 4:30-7:30 p.m.)

Operation Period: November-May

4. Niseko United (Annupuri, Village, Grand Hirafu)

4. Niseko United (Annupuri, Village, Grand Hirafu)

If you want massive slopes, you want Niseko. While the Annupuri, Village and Grand Hirafu resorts are collectively called Niseko United (ニセコユナイテッド), you have the option of buying a separate lift ticket for each resort or purchasing an all-mountain pass.

The three resorts are connected at the peak of Mount Niseko Annupuri, enabling you to move between them with an all-mountain pass. With its richly varied terrain, legendary Niseko powder and incredible view from the summit, this is the preeminent resort in Hokkaido.

4a. Niseko Grand Hirafu

4a. Niseko Grand Hirafu

Including its Hanazono zone, Grand Hirafu (グラン・ヒラフ) alone offers a total of 16 gondolas and lifts, with a maximum single run length of 5.6 kilometers (3.5 mi), making it by far the largest of Niseko United's three resorts.

With a recent explosion in attention from overseas skiers on the lookout for high-quality Niseko powder, you may find Japanese people in the minority on the resort's slopes and in its restaurants. The 2017 season saw the King #3 lift upgraded to a high-speed quad, making access to the Hirafu peak all the more convenient.

Hours: 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. (night skiing 4:30-8:30 p.m.)

Operation Period: November-May

4b. Niseko Village

4b. Niseko Village

The Niseko Village (ニセコビレッジ) area is located in the center of Niseko United's three resorts. It offers dynamic runs that can take you straight from peak to base, glade courses, and a variety of terrain to delight everyone from experts to families. The Hilton and Green Leaf hotels are laid out for efficient ski-in, ski-out access to the lifts.

The 2017 season saw the addition of the Village Express, a unique gondola-and-chair mixed lift, as well as the Upper Village Gondola, offering improved connections between hotels, shopping and dining.

Hours: 8:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m. (night skiing 4:30-8:00 p.m.)

Operation Period: December-April

4c. Niseko Annupuri

4c. Niseko Annupuri

Niseko Anupuri (ニセコアンヌプリ) spreads over the southwestern face of Mount Niseko Annupuri. Offering one gondola and four chair lifts, you can challenge your legs to a roughly 3.5-kilometer (2.2-mi) straight run from summit to base.

Plenty of quality snow piles up from the Sea of Japan to the northwest, meaning this resort presents quality conditions even in spring, with most seasons continuing into the Golden Week holiday in May.

Hours: 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. (night skiing 4:30-8:30 p.m.)

Operation Period: December-May

Niseko United (Overall)

Niseko United (Overall)

Best Mountain Food: With more and more guests coming from overseas, prices on the mountain resorts have been going up at an alarming rate. A good option is to try a restaurant outside the main resorts, bring a boxed lunch, or buy rice balls at a convenience store in advance.

Best Day-End Hot Spring: Niseko is a hot spring mecca, with numerous high-quality hot spring facilities in the Annupuri, Village and Hirafu areas.

5. Kiroro Snow World

5. Kiroro Snow World

Kiroro Snow World (キロロスノーワールド ) upgraded its resort appeal in 2016 with the renewal of two area hotels, the Sheraton Hokkaido Kiroro Resort and The Kiroro, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Hokkaido.

Here you can enjoy the finest powder throughout the season. The twin mountains of Asari and Nagamine offer a big-mountain feel with a total of 21 courses, yet the resort is still accessible to beginners and families. Situated in a heavy snowfall zone, you can ski and board right up to the Golden Week holiday in May, making this a great spot for spring skiing.

Best Mountain Food: Tantanmen (担々麺) at Furon (福龍), ¥980.

Best Day-End Hot Spring: Kiroro Onsen Shinrin-no-Yu (キロロ温泉 森林の湯), ¥1,100 (located in The Kiroro, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Hokkaido).

Hours: 8:45 a.m.-7 p.m. (from 8:30 a.m. on weekends and holidays)

Operation Period: November-May

6. Asahidake Ropeway

6. Asahidake Ropeway

The Asahidake Ropeway (旭岳ロープウェイ) services a small but incredible ski resort on Mount Asahi, the highest mountain in Hokkaido. There are only two courses down from Sugatami Station, the summit stop for the ropeway, but the powder here is the stuff you would die for, making this a top spot for backcountry lovers.

Looking out on Mount Tokachi as you float through fresh powder, it's like skiing in the clouds! However, because the resort is part of Daisetsuzan National Park, you won't find the on-course service you might expect at a typical ski resort. Off-piste skiing and snowboarding is strictly forbidden due to the risk of avalanche, and there are other warnings and restrictions visitors should apprise themselves with upon arrival.

Best Mountain Food: Red beef curry (あか牛カレー・aka-gyu kare), ¥1,080 (winter only).

Best Day-End Hot Spring: Visit the resorts in Asahidake Onsen at the base of the mountain.

Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Operation Period: December-May

7. Sapporo Teine

7. Sapporo Teine

Sapporo Teine (サッポロテイネ) offers powder snow and dynamic views despite being an easy 40 minutes from Sapporo city center. Two zones spread out from the summit to the foot of the mountain: the Highland Zone, which hosted several events at the 1972 Winter Olympics, and the more family-friendly Olympia Zone.

The variety of terrain across the resort offers something for everyone, from beginner to advanced. The Olympia Zone (pictured above) offers a kids' park as well.

Best Mountain Food: Zangi mayonnaise rice bowl (ザンギマヨ丼・zangi-mayo don), ¥1,080 (zangi is a kind of fried chicken particular to Hokkaido, flavored with garlic and soy sauce).

Best Day-End Hot Spring: Gokurakuyu Sapporo Teine Branch (極楽湯 さっぽろ手稲店・Gokurakuyu Sapporo Teine-ten), ¥440, or Teine Onsen Honoka (ていね温泉ほのか), ¥800+, in the town area around the base of the mountain.

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (may vary)

Operation Period: November-May

8. Sapporo Bankei Ski Area

8. Sapporo Bankei Ski Area

Ridiculously easy to access, Sapporo Bankei Ski Area (さっぽろばんけいスキー場・Sapporo Bankei Ski-jo) is just 10 minutes by car from Maruyama Koen subway station. With the latest gear and winter attire available for rent, it's easy to pop by for some skiing or snowboarding after work, or when you have a bit of time left over during a sightseeing trip.

Despite its compact area, the resort offers everything from beginner courses to a competitive mogul run. Snowboarders can also salivate over the 180-meter (590-ft) half-pipe, the longest in Japan. Recognized by the International Ski Federation (FIS), Bankei hosted the half-pipe competition for the 2017 Asian Winter Games.

Best Mountain Food: Ban.K Mogul Curry, ¥1,100.

Hours: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. (may vary)

Operation Period: December-April

9. Sapporo Kokusai Skiing Resort

9. Sapporo Kokusai Skiing Resort

Sapporo Kokusai Skiing Resort (札幌国際スキー場・Sapporo Kokusai Ski-jo) can be reached from Sapporo in 60 minutes on the Sasson Expressway. This is a compact resort with just two "cabin" and three chair lifts, but the 1,100-meter (3,609-ft) peak area offers quality snow throughout the season.

With no steep slopes, this is a solid all-around resort for families and beginner to intermediate skiers and snowboarders. It was made even more convenient in the 2017 season thanks to the addition of the midpoint-to-summit Echo Quad Lift. On a clear day, you can savor a breathtaking view of Ishikari Bay in the distance as you cruise down the slopes.

Best Mountain Food: Handmade Margherita pizza at the second-floor Woodpecker pizzeria, ¥1,180.

Best Day-End Hot Spring: The hot spring villages of Jozankei Onsen (定山渓温泉) and Asarigawa Onsen (朝里川温泉) are nearby.

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (9 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekends and holidays)

Operation Period: November-May

10. Sapporo Moiwayama Ski Area

10. Sapporo Moiwayama Ski Area

Located just a 10-minute drive from Sumikawa Station on the Namboku Line, Sapporo Moiwayama Ski Area (札幌藻岩山スキー場・Sapporo Moiwayama Ski-jo) is the ultimate resort for accessibility. Established as a public ski resort back in 1958, you might call this the cradle of Hokkaido skiing.

However, snowboarding is prohibited at Moiwayama. Since the hillside is crowded with families and children during the day, night the best time to go, when the lights of Sapporo make the ski experience like diving into an ocean of illumination below. It's just ¥2,000 to ski from 4 p.m. and ¥1,200 to ski from 6 p.m., so you'll definitely get some bang for your buck!

Best Mountain Food: None, really.

Best Day-End Hot Spring: No hot spring facilities nearby.

Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. (night skiing from 4 p.m.)

Operation Period: December-March

11. Mount Racey Ski Area

11. Mount Racey Ski Area

This is the most accessible Hokkaido ski slope for anyone coming from Tokyo or Osaka. Located just 55 kilometers (34 mi) from New Chitose Airport, it's actually faster to get to Mount Racey Ski Area (マウントレースイスキー場・Mount Racey Ski-jo) than it is to get to Sapporo, accessible in about an hour on the Doto Expressway!

Here you'll find a compact resort with one gondola, four chair lifts and 18 courses spread around the base of Mount Racey (冷水山・Reisui-zan, or "Cold Water Mountain"). Offering something for every level, there are 3.2 kilometers (2 mi) of relaxed glades for beginners, while the gnarly Curving Line course hits a maximum incline of 45 degrees—the steepest in Hokkaido.

A corridor connects Hotel Mount Racey directly to the gondola, offering perfect ski-in, ski-out convenience. While most skiers and snowboarders flock to major resorts like Niseko and Tomamu, Mount Racey stands as a relaxing, fun resort that remains a well-kept secret.

Best Mountain Food: Soba handmade from Hokuryu Town buckwheat flour, ¥800, or Yubari City's specialty ankake yakisoba (あんかけ焼きそば) fried noodles, ¥1,296.

Best Day-End Hot Spring: Racey-no-Yu (レースイの湯), ¥700.

Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. (night skiing 3-7 p.m.)

Operation Period: December-April

12. Sahoro Resort Ski Area

12. Sahoro Resort Ski Area

Sahoro Resort Ski Area (サホロリゾートスキー場) stands as Hokkaido's "eastern ski resort," situated on Mount Sahoro to the northwest of Tokachi Plain. The South, Central and North trails can all be reached easily from the 2,140-meter (7,021 ft) Sahoro Gondola, affording expansive views of the Tokachi Plain during your long, cruising descent. While it may be a little far from Sapporo, the resort is just 77 kilometers (48 mi) from Tokachi-Obihiro Airport, from whence a direct bus can get you to the slopes in just 80 minutes.

A new area opened on the resort's north side in 2017, serviced by the Sahoro Express hooded quad lift. The area includes five completely new courses with ungroomed snow, ranging in difficulty from intermediate to advanced. Sahoro can now boast a total of 24.5 kilometers (15.2 mi) of runs divided between 21 courses, allowing it to claim big-resort status, and making it a must-visit for anyone interested in trying new runs!

Best Mountain Food: Jumbo shrimp tempura rice bowl (大海老天丼・o-ebi tendon) at the resort food stalls, ¥1,000 (Saturday and Sunday only, may change seasonally).

Best Day-End Hot Spring: Shoro Ion Spa Refre (サホロイオンスパリフレ), ¥900.

Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (varies by month)

Operation Period: December-April

13. Kamui Ski Links

13. Kamui Ski Links

If you asked me if there was a ski resort I wanted to keep secret, I'd say Kamui Ski Links (カムイスキーリンクス). Situated in the heavy snowfall region of Asahikawa, it offers incredible snow throughout the season. Accessible in just 90 minutes from Sapporo on the Hokkaido Expressway, lift tickets are cheap compared to other resorts—and more importantly, the resort isn't crowded, with vast courses that allow you to feel like you essentially own the mountain.

Despite having a compact area of just 166 hectares (410 acres), there's plenty of variation in the runs, including the 150-meter-wide (492 ft) Gold course and a vast powder zone around the summit. The recently renovated gondola is also a plus, with racks reconfigured to take snowboards and fat skis. I visited late in the season, and even on my last run before the lifts closed, I was able to ski a freshly groomed slope like it was the first run of the day.

Best Mountain Food: Minced cutlet lunch (メンチカツランチ・menchi katsu ranchi), ¥1,000, or King of Kamui (キング・オブ・カムイ), ¥1,500 (tonkatsu, croquette and fried egg on a massive two-person serving of curry rice).

Best Day-End Hot Spring: Irumu-no-Yu (イルムの湯) at Agri Kobo Mabu (アグリ工房まあぶ)

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (varies by month)

Operation Period: December-April

14. Otaru Tenguyama Ski Resort

14. Otaru Tenguyama Ski Resort

The first thing you see when you step off the ropeway at Otaru Tenguyama Ski Resort (小樽天狗山スキー場・Otaru Tenguyama Ski-jo) is its iconic 40-degree Tengu Wall. Partly for journalism, and partly out of pure foolishness, I gave it a shot. I'll just say the view is heaven, but the run is hell.

This compact, unique resort has one ropeway and two chair lifts, offering 1-kilometer beginner and advanced slopes from peak to base. It's just 30 minutes from Sapporo on the Sasson Expressway. In addition to good snow, it offers a brilliant view of the city of Otaru and Otaru Bay, as well as a glimpse of the Shokanbetsudake Mountains in the distance.

The real treat, however, is night skiing. The view from Mount Tengu has been given a one-star rating by the Michelin Green Guide Japan, making it a great spot for a ski date!

Best Mountain Food: Tengu Rice (天狗ライス) ¥1,000 (sausage and fried shrimp arranged on chicken rice in the shape of a tengu's face).

Best Day-End Hot Spring: Asarigawa Onsen (朝里川温泉) is nearby.

Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (night skiing from December to February, 4-8 p.m.)

Operation Period: December-March

Read more in Japanese at AllAbout.co.jp.