Hokkaido, Japan is a premier destination for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. Located in the northernmost region of Japan, Hokkaido receives a large amount of snowfall every winter, making it a haven for powder lovers. Its breathtaking landscape, dotted with volcanic mountains, is home to numerous world-class ski resorts, each offering a unique skiing or snowboarding experience. Hokkaido’s ski resorts cater to skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels, from beginner to advanced, and many offer English-speaking staff and facilities for international visitors. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, visitors can enjoy the region’s hot springs, delicious cuisine, and rich cultural heritage. Overall, Hokkaido is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world.
How Long is the Ski Season In Hokkaido?
The ski season in Hokkaido typically runs from late November or early December through late April or early May, depending on the ski resort and the snow conditions. The peak season for skiing and snowboarding in Hokkaido is typically from mid-December to early March, when the snowfall is at its highest and the temperatures are coldest. However, many of the ski resorts in Hokkaido have invested in snowmaking equipment to ensure reliable snow conditions throughout the season, even in periods of low natural snowfall. It’s important to note that weather conditions can vary widely from year to year, so it’s always a good idea to check snow reports and weather forecasts before planning a trip to Hokkaido for skiing or snowboarding.
What is the Snow Quality like in Hokkaido?
The snow quality in Hokkaido is widely regarded as some of the best in the world for skiing and snowboarding. The snow in Hokkaido is known for being light, dry, and fluffy, often referred to as “Japow” (Japanese powder) by skiers and snowboarders. This is due in part to the region’s cold temperatures and the fact that the snow crystals are formed in very low humidity conditions. The snow quality in Hokkaido is particularly good for intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders, as it provides excellent carving conditions and makes for easy turns. The dry, powdery snow also means that falls are often softer, reducing the risk of injury. Overall, the high quality of the snow in Hokkaido is one of the main reasons why it is such a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders from around the world.
What are the Best Ski Resorts in Hokkaido?
Here are some of the top ski resorts in Hokkaido, along with a brief description of each:
- Niseko: Located on the western side of Hokkaido, Niseko is one of the most famous ski resorts in Japan and attracts visitors from around the world. The resort is actually made up of four interconnected ski areas, which together offer a vast amount of terrain for all skill levels. Niseko is known for its reliable snowfall, with an average of 15 meters (50 feet) of snow annually, and its excellent off-piste skiing.
- Rusutsu: Located in central Hokkaido, Rusutsu is another popular ski resort known for its reliable snow conditions and varied terrain. The resort has three interconnected peaks, each offering a unique skiing or snowboarding experience. Rusutsu is also known for its tree skiing, with plenty of glades to explore.
- Furano: Located in central Hokkaido, Furano is a family-friendly ski resort with a wide range of terrain for all skill levels. The resort is known for its long, groomed runs and excellent powder skiing. Furano is also famous for its lavender fields, which bloom in the summer months.
- Kiroro: Located on the western side of Hokkaido, Kiroro is a relatively small ski resort that is popular with advanced skiers and snowboarders. The resort is known for its off-piste skiing and tree skiing, as well as its reliable snow conditions.
What are the Best Ski schools at Hokkaido?
There are several ski schools in Hokkaido that cater to skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels, including beginners. Here are a few ski schools in Hokkaido, along with their locations and website URLs:
- Niseko Base Snowsports: Located in Niseko, this ski school offers lessons in skiing and snowboarding for all ages and abilities.
- GoSnow: Located in Niseko, this ski school offers group and private lessons for skiing and snowboarding.
- Rhythm Japan: With locations in Niseko, Rusutsu, and Furano, Rhythm Japan offers a range of ski and snowboard rentals as well as lessons for all levels.
- NAC Snowsports: Located in Niseko, this ski school offers lessons for skiing, snowboarding, and telemarking, as well as backcountry tours and snowshoe tours.
- Hokkaido Ski Club: With locations in Niseko and Rusutsu, this ski school offers private and group lessons for skiing and snowboarding. Website:
Where are the Best Places to Stay When Skiing in Hokkaido?
Here are ten recommended types of accommodations in Hokkaido, along with a brief description and website URL for each:
- Ryokan: Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns that offer a unique cultural experience. They typically feature tatami-matted rooms, communal hot springs, and traditional Japanese meals. Prices range from mid to high-end, depending on the ryokan. Example: The Windsor Hotel TOYA Resort & Spa.
- Onsen Hotels: Onsen hotels are Japanese-style hotels that feature hot springs on the premises. They often offer traditional Japanese-style rooms and meals, as well as modern amenities. Prices vary depending on the hotel. Example: Hotel Hanakagura.
- Western-style Hotels: Western-style hotels are available in most ski resorts in Hokkaido, offering comfortable rooms and amenities. Prices vary depending on the hotel and location. Example: Hilton Niseko Village.
- Hostels: Hostels are a budget-friendly option for travelers who are willing to share a room with other guests. They typically offer dormitory-style rooms and communal areas for cooking and socializing. Prices range from budget to mid-range. Example: The Stay Sapporo.
- Airbnb: Airbnb offers a range of accommodation options in Hokkaido, including apartments, houses, and private rooms. Prices vary depending on the property and location. Example: Stylish Apartment in Niseko.
- Ski-in/Ski-out Lodging: Ski-in/ski-out lodging is available in many of the ski resorts in Hokkaido, allowing skiers and snowboarders to access the slopes directly from their accommodations. Prices vary depending on the location and amenities. Example: The Green Leaf Niseko Village.
- Capsule Hotels: Capsule hotels offer a unique and affordable lodging option for travelers who don’t mind sleeping in a small, capsule-like space. They typically offer communal showers and baths. Prices range from budget to mid-range. Example: Grids Sapporo Hotel&Hostel.
- Minshuku: Minshuku are family-run guesthouses that offer a traditional Japanese experience. They typically offer simple, basic rooms and meals, and are an affordable option for travelers on a budget. Example: Minshuku Suzuya.
- Pension: Pensions are small, family-run lodges that offer a friendly and personalized experience. They typically offer home-cooked meals and cozy accommodations. Prices range from mid to high-end. Example: Pension Berg.
- Farm Stays: Farm stays offer a unique experience for travelers who want to get a taste of rural life in Hokkaido. They typically offer farm tours, home-cooked meals, and comfortable accommodations. Prices range from mid to high-end. Example: Farm Tomita Cottage.
Where are the Best Places to Eat When Skiing in Hokkaido?
Here are ten recommended restaurants in Hokkaido, along with a brief description and website URL for each:
- Molière Restaurant (Sapporo): This French restaurant is located in central Sapporo and is known for its high-quality cuisine, elegant atmosphere, and extensive wine list. It’s suitable for couples and those looking for a fine dining experience.
- Sapporo Beer Museum (Sapporo): The Sapporo Beer Museum is a popular attraction that features exhibits on the history of beer in Japan, as well as a restaurant that serves traditional German-style cuisine and, of course, Sapporo beer. It’s suitable for families and beer lovers.
- Asahikawa Ramen Village (Asahikawa): Asahikawa Ramen Village is a complex of eight different ramen shops that offer a variety of styles and flavors of this beloved Japanese dish. It’s suitable for singles, families, and budget-conscious travelers.
- Kamimura Restaurant (Hirafu): Kamimura is a Michelin-starred restaurant located in the Hirafu ski resort area. It’s known for its creative French cuisine made with local ingredients, as well as its beautiful setting and attentive service. It’s suitable for couples and those looking for a high-end dining experience.
- Isezushi (Otaru): Isezushi is a famous sushi restaurant in Otaru that’s known for its fresh, high-quality seafood and beautiful presentation. It’s suitable for couples and sushi lovers.
- Soba Ichigen (Sapporo): Soba Ichigen is a popular soba noodle restaurant in Sapporo that’s known for its handmade noodles and flavorful broth. It’s suitable for singles, families, and budget-conscious travelers.
- Kani Honke (Sapporo): Kani Honke is a crab restaurant in Sapporo that’s known for its delicious, locally-caught snow crab. It’s suitable for couples, families, and seafood lovers.
- Ningle Terrace (Furano): Ningle Terrace is a unique shopping and dining complex located in the Furano ski resort area. It features small, charming shops and restaurants, including a popular crepe stand. It’s suitable for families and those looking for a unique, picturesque dining experience.
- Robata Sumiya (Sapporo): Robata Sumiya is a Japanese-style grill restaurant in Sapporo that’s known for its grilled meats and seafood, as well as its casual atmosphere. It’s suitable for singles, couples, and families.
- Rokkatei (Obihiro): Rokkatei is a popular sweets shop in Obihiro that’s known for its delicious, locally-made confections, including its famous Marusei Butter Sandwich cookies. It’s suitable for families and those with a sweet tooth.
Popular Bars and Entertainment Venues When Skiing in Hokkaido
Here are ten recommended bars in Hokkaido, along with a brief description and website URL for each:
- Bar Gyu+ (Sapporo): Bar Gyu+ is a popular whiskey bar in Sapporo that’s known for its extensive collection of Japanese and international whiskeys, as well as its knowledgeable staff and cozy atmosphere. It’s suitable for couples and whiskey lovers.
- Bar Refuel (Niseko): Bar Refuel is a lively après-ski bar located in the heart of the Niseko ski resort area. It’s known for its friendly staff, live music, and wide selection of drinks and cocktails. It’s suitable for singles and groups.
- Bar Seven Seas (Otaru): Bar Seven Seas is a trendy cocktail bar in Otaru that’s known for its creative drinks, stylish decor, and live music events. It’s suitable for couples and those looking for a sophisticated night out.
- The Barn (Hirafu): The Barn is a popular bar and restaurant located in the Hirafu ski resort area. It’s known for its cozy atmosphere, friendly staff, and live music events, as well as its menu of comfort food and drinks. It’s suitable for groups and families.
- Baikingu (Sapporo): Baikingu is a unique all-you-can-drink bar in Sapporo that’s known for its affordable prices and wide variety of drinks, including beer, wine, and cocktails. It’s suitable for budget-conscious travelers and groups.
- Bar LUPINUS (Furano): Bar LUPINUS is a cozy bar located in the heart of Furano that’s known for its relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff. It’s suitable for couples and those looking for a quiet night out.
- Toshiro’s Bar (Sapporo): Toshiro’s Bar is a popular jazz bar in Sapporo that’s known for its live music events and extensive selection of drinks and cocktails. It’s suitable for couples and music lovers.
- Bar Captain (Asahikawa): Bar Captain is a small, friendly bar located in Asahikawa that’s known for its warm atmosphere and well-crafted cocktails. It’s suitable for singles and couples.
- Ram Ram (Sapporo): Ram Ram is a popular izakaya-style bar in Sapporo that’s known for its casual atmosphere and wide variety of drinks and food, including ramen, gyoza, and yakitori. It’s suitable for groups and families.
- The Bar (Niseko): The Bar is a stylish cocktail bar located in the heart of Niseko that’s known for its creative drinks and sophisticated atmosphere. It’s suitable for couples and those looking for a refined night out.
Other Things To Do When Skiing in Hokkaido:
Here are some popular tourist attractions and activities, along with their website URLs:
- Sapporo Snow Festival: The Sapporo Snow Festival is a famous winter event held every year in early February in Sapporo. The festival features incredible snow and ice sculptures, food stalls, and live entertainment.
- Asahiyama Zoo: Asahiyama Zoo is a popular zoo located in Asahikawa that’s known for its innovative animal exhibits and winter-friendly activities, such as the Penguin Walk.
- Otaru Canal: The Otaru Canal is a picturesque canal located in the town of Otaru that’s lined with historic buildings and charming shops and cafes.
- Jigokudani (Hell Valley): Jigokudani, also known as Hell Valley, is a stunning geothermal valley located in Noboribetsu that’s home to hot springs, bubbling mud pools, and other natural wonders.
- Otaru Music Box Museum: The Otaru Music Box Museum is a charming museum located in Otaru that’s dedicated to the history and art of music boxes. Visitors can see and purchase a variety of music boxes and related souvenirs.
- Snowshoeing and Cross-country skiing: If you’re looking for a break from downhill skiing or snowboarding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular alternatives that allow you to explore Hokkaido’s snowy landscapes at a more leisurely pace. Various tour companies offer guided tours and rental equipment, such as Hokkaido Nature Tours.
- Ainu culture experience: Hokkaido is home to the Ainu, an indigenous group of people with a rich and unique culture. Visitors can learn about Ainu culture through various experiences, such as traditional dance performances, workshops, and visits to museums and villages, such as the Ainu Museum in Shiraoi.
- Onsen (Hot Springs): Hokkaido is famous for its hot springs, or onsen, which offer a relaxing and rejuvenating experience after a day on the slopes. There are many onsen resorts and facilities throughout Hokkaido, such as Jozankei Onsen.
How to Get to Hokkaido?
Hokkaido is located in northern Japan and is accessible by various modes of transportation. Here are some options for getting to Hokkaido from popular inbound airports, train stations, and bus stations in Japan:
- From Tokyo: The most common way to get to Hokkaido from Tokyo is by air. There are multiple flights per day from Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports to Hokkaido’s New Chitose Airport, which is the main gateway to the region. Flight time is about 1.5 to 2 hours. There are also direct flights from Tokyo to other Hokkaido airports, such as Asahikawa, Kushiro, and Obihiro.
- From Osaka: If you’re coming from Osaka, you can take a domestic flight from Osaka’s Itami or Kansai airports to New Chitose Airport. Alternatively, you can take a bullet train, or shinkansen, from Shin-Osaka Station to Tokyo Station (about 2.5 hours), and then transfer to a domestic flight to Hokkaido.
- From Sapporo: If you’re already in Sapporo and want to travel to other parts of Hokkaido, you can take a train or bus. The Hokkaido Shinkansen connects Sapporo with cities such as Hakodate and Asahikawa, while local trains and buses serve smaller towns and villages. There are also numerous rental car companies in Sapporo if you prefer to drive.
- From Tokyo Station: If you prefer to travel by train, you can take the Hokkaido Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, which is located just south of Hokkaido. From there, you can transfer to a local train or bus to travel further into Hokkaido.
- From Osaka Station: Similar to Tokyo, you can take a bullet train from Osaka Station to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, and then transfer to a local train or bus to travel further into Hokkaido.
- From major bus terminals: Major cities in Japan, such as Tokyo and Osaka, have bus terminals with direct buses to Hokkaido. For example, the Tokyo City Air Terminal (T-CAT) has direct buses to Sapporo, Asahikawa, and other cities in Hokkaido.
Keep in mind that travel times and costs will vary depending on your starting point and mode of transportation. It’s always a good idea to check schedules and fares in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.
Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is a winter wonderland that boasts some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world. With powder snow, breathtaking scenery, and a variety of ski resorts catering to all levels of experience, Hokkaido has become a must-visit destination for winter sports enthusiasts. But the region is not just for skiers and snowboarders; visitors can also enjoy hot springs, winter festivals, and other unique cultural experiences. Hokkaido is also known for its delicious cuisine, including fresh seafood, dairy products, and local specialties such as soup curry and Jingisukan (grilled lamb). With its natural beauty, world-class skiing, and unique cultural experiences, Hokkaido has something for everyone and is an appealing destination for any traveler.