Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido is home to more than 120 ski resorts, so there’s plenty to choose from when deciding on a destination for your next ski trip. With more snow falling here than anywhere else in the country you can expect powder days wherever you go, but to help you choose the resort that’s right for you we’ve shortlisted six of the best!
Due to COVID-19, safety measures were put in place by the Hokkaido prefecture which impacted the 20/21 ski season. The strict border closures resulted in resorts operating predominantly for local residents only. In Hokkaido which is home to Niseko and Rusutsu, restrictions included mask-wearing and physical distancing. The Niseko United resorts limited guest capacity on chairlifts and encouraged lift tickets to be purchased online. Such restrictions are not anticipated to continue into the 21/22 winter season.
Introducing Rusutsu, our favorite Hokkaido ski vacation destination! More of Hokkaido’s famously dry powder falls across the three summits here than at any other ski area in the country. Inbounds skiable terrain totals 534 ac, so there’s plenty for skiers of all abilities to explore. Special tree run areas are set up for first-timers, plus there’s a boardercross course, terrain park, and even a heli-skiing operation nearby! Since 2017 it has successfully retained the accolade of Japan’s Best Ski Resort at the World Ski Awards every year. For convenient ski-in/ski-out lodgings book a room at the Rusutsu Resort Hotel, or for more luxurious accommodation try The Westin Rusutsu Resort with its therapeutic onsen baths.
If you have never skied in Japan before, Niseko is one of the best places to start. Each winter a staggering 416 in of white stuff covers the mountain, upholding its reputation as a paradise for powder hounds. Spread across four unique ski areas, there are 81 marked trails to try out, with mellow greens at Annupuri and top-to-bottom black runs at Niseko Village. For an unforgettable powder ride, check out the famous Strawberry Fields at Hanazono and for the most apres action stay in Hirafu, where you can drink and boogie to your heart’s content. It’s not traditionally Japanese, but it’s definitely one of the liveliest ski resorts in the country.
One of the most well-known ski resorts in the country, the impressive 1,101 ac ski area keeps skiers and boarders coming back year after year. The ski resort is so close to Furano city that you can head out to downtown restaurants and bars after a day on the slopes. Across two zones (Furano and Kitanomine), there are nursery slopes for beginners, gentle groomers to keep intermediates happy, and some surprisingly steep trails that are challenging enough for professional ski racers. And let’s not forget the superb-quality snow either, with 228 in of feather-light powder blanketing the resort each season thanks to its inland location.
With glitzy skyscrapers rising up from the natural beauty of Hidaka National Park, Tomamu truly is a one-of-a-kind ski resort. There’s an even balance of terrain here but Tomamu does a particularly great job of catering for intrepid skiers. There are marked expert zones where the snow is left untouched and you are even free to ski through the trees between pistes. Off the slopes, Tomamu enthralls small and big kids alike with its wonderful range of activities. You can dine in a restaurant made of frozen blocks in the spectacular Ice Village, and warm up afterwards at Mina-Mina Beach, an indoor tropical getaway complete with one of Japan’s biggest wave pools!
One of Japan’s newest ski resorts, what strikes you first about Kiroro is its efficiency. High-speed lifts minimize queues, wide pistes provide plenty of space for everyone, and clever trail connections mean no bottlenecks or pushing through flats. Beginners and intermediates will get the most out of the piste skiing here, with 23 perfectly maintained trails winding down the mountain, with the longest stretching for more than 3 mi. The slopes here feel empty most of the time so you can really ratchet up some speed while exploring the 297 ac of skiable terrain. If you value high-quality skiing over wild après-ski and off-slope entertainment, Kiroro ticks all the boxes.
First on our list is Sapporo Teine, a city-side ski resort with uninterrupted views over Hokkaido’s capital and the Sea of Japan. This compact ski area measures just 188 ac, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in steepness- the Seikadai black trail reaches a pitch of 38 degrees in places! Beginners are looked after too, with a superb green trail winding for 3 mi from the summit to base and an introductory boardercross course for all ages. And while there are no hotels to stay in at the bottom of the slopes, every possible type of accommodation option is available just a short drive away in Sapporo.