Often ranked as a world’s top ski destination, why on earth would we recommend to skip skiing Niseko ski resorts in Japan all together?
You come to snowboard and ski Hokkaido for powder and culture. While Niseko ski resorts and backcountry have the powder, the latter is truly lacking due to major Western development over the past decade. Not to mention the powder gets tracked out quicker than any other Hokkaido ski resort destination.
Seriously, if you are going to travel all this way when you have quality snow at home, (or certainly closer than crossing the Pacific Ocean) you want to make the most of the Japanese experience.
Skip the Niseko lift lines, chaos, rowdy Australian party scene and expensive everything and head to these lower profile Hokkaido ski destinations with classic Japan powder skiing, snowboarding and good backcountry access.
7 Alternative Snowboard and Ski Resorts in Hokkaido to Niseko
There is a lot more to skiing and snowboarding in Hokkaido than meets the eye on this 32,222 square mile Japanese island (Slightly smaller than the USA state of Maine).
Even the once off the radar Kiroro ski resort near Otaru is becoming too crowded, and to set the record straight, while the snow in Kiroro is consistent and deep, aside from a few micro zones, Kiroro is flat.
Skip Niseko and Kiroro on your ski trip to Hokkaido and check out these alternative Hokkaido ski resorts loaded with cold, blower Japow.
Best Hokkaido Ski Resorts Near Otaru
Otaru is a beautiful coastal city, boasting quick and easy access to some of the best Hokkaido snowboarding and skiing outside of Niseko.
Skiing out of Otaru allows you to base out of a true Japanese port town with quality hotels and delicious Hokkaido fare (including fresh locally sourced seafood). Explore the city streets and canal zone after skiing for a true Hokkaido cultural experience.
46 miles (75km) from Niseko
54 miles (87km) from Chitose International Airport
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Sapporo Teine Ski Resort - West Hokkaido
Located between Otaru and the larger city of Sapporo, the views from Sapporo Teine ski area are outstanding, overlooking Sapporo City and the Sea of Japan. Advanced skiers and riders should focus on the off-piste terrain and fun tree runs that are mainly north facing and quite often very deep! Some of the steepest skiing in Hokkaido is right here.
Kokusai Ski Resort - West Hokkaido
Recognized for some of the driest snow in the area as well as one of the deepest snow packs, this small ski resort only has 7 marked runs and 2 gondolas and a quad chair, yet the off-piste and backcountry terrain is where you’ll be focused. All accessed from a short ski tour and traverse off the top gondola. For those that know where they are going, expect to be rewarded with deep powder and stellar Hokkaido tree skiing.
Now let’s shift our attention from West Hokkaido to the powder destinations in the center of the island.
This is where PowderQuest’s guided ski tours in Hokkaido all began and remains one of our favorite off-piste powder destinations in Japan.
Central Hokkaido Ski Resorts Near Furano
Furano is an agricultural town in central Hokkaido (25,000 population) with an excellent mid-size ski resort and plenty of bars and restaurants allowing you to experience Japanese hospitality and culture. Furano is a great hub to access several outstanding off the radar Hokkaido ski destinations. All within driving distance for day trip skiing. Both ski resort and backcountry.
Furano offers a decent range of budget to 4 star hotels, including a few ski-in ski-out lodging options.
126 miles (203km) from Niseko
78 miles (125km) from Chitose International Airport
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Furano Ski Resort - Central Hokkaido
At the Furano ski area you’ll enjoy some of the best tree skiing in Hokkaido, with easy to access steeper faces and powder filled off-piste gullies. The cold temperatures keep snow dry and when it’s on, it’s hard to beat.
If you have ever skied Niseko, you will notice the distinct lack of crowds at Furano Ski Resort despite the growth in recent popularity. After all, this is probably the best ski resort in Central Hokkaido. Express ski lifts take you to the top in a little over ten minutes accessing over 3180 vertical feet of powder runs along with very good off-piste ski terrain.
For backcountry tours and splitboarding trips, skins are essential and open up endless options not only outside of Furano’s surrounding ski resorts but around the Daisetsuzan National Park nestled in the stunning Tokachi Volcanic Mountain Range.
Tomamu Ski Resort - Central Hokkaido
Tomamu Ski Resort hosts arguably the best in-bounds powder skiing in central Hokkaido with 11 ski lifts to access the varied terrain. Originally the Hokkaido ski resort mainly catered to the rich Japanese and Chinese tourists due to its’ billion dollar infrastructure however recently some great advanced/expert off piste terrain and backcountry touring options have opened up.
While there is no super steep ski terrain here, the deep snow, awesome tree skiing and backcountry ski touring out of the back make up for it. One hour drive south from the town of Furano.
Sahoro Ski Resort - East Central Hokkaido
Located south-east of Furano, Sahoro Ski Resort offers fun in-bounds skiing and snowboarding along with some outstanding tree runs at this off the beaten track Club Med ski resort.
If you are with a guided trip visiting Sahoro for the day, there are good options for long off-piste tree ski descents in an area very few people know about. Some really nice backcountry ski touring can be found as well.
Do note that of the 7 Hokkaido destinations in this post, Sahoro probably receives the least amount of snow due to the geographical location. That being said, we have had some stellar days here. Just be sure to check the snow and wind forecasts before making the 44 mile (70km) drive from Furano.
We have 2 more Central Hokkaido ski resorts to cover-Asahidake Ropeway and Kamui Resort. Both can be accessed via day trips from Furano.
However if you plan on focusing your Hokkaido trip on these two ski areas and combining backcountry ski touring – splitboarding at Kurodake and Tokachidake in the bigger mountains of the Daisetsuzan National Park, you may want to consider staying closer in the city of Asahikawa.
Hokkaido Ski Destinations Near Asahikawa
Hokkaido’s second largest city, Asahikawa is a good base for skiers and riders. With quality hotels, great eateries cooking up delicious ramen, and it’s own regional airport, skiing out of Asahikawa should not be over looked.
Your ski trip based out of Asahikawa can provide even more of a cultural experience compared to basing out of Furano. Just note that if skiing Tomamu or Sahoro is in your plans, a day trip from Asahikawa may be too long for most.
149 miles (240km) from Niseko
93 miles (150km) from Chitose International Airport
10.5 miles (17km) from Asahikawa Regional Airport
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Kamui Links Ski Resort - Asahikawa
Kamui Ski Links is a small Hokkaido ski resort with generally plenty of fresh tracks, located 30 minutes from Asahikawa or just over an hour north of Furano. 7 lifts, (one gondola and 6 double chair lifts) accessing powder filled trees and gullies. It is one of the main Asahikawa ski resorts, but Kamui remains generally crowd free except on weekends and holidays.
Asahikawa’s Kamui Ski Links has one of Hokkaido’s most open ski area policies (as far as Japanese skiing goes) allowing us to explore even deeper. Especially if you have a splitboard or touring skis. Cold temperatures and dry snow make this resort destination a must visit.
Kamui can be a great way to spend a few warm up days back on skis or your snowboard before venturing into bigger zones like Asahidake Ropeway.
Asahidake Volcano: Off Piste Paradise for Skiing and Snowboarding Hokkaido
Hokkaido’s tallest peak, the Asahidake Volcano is known as the “playground of the gods” with over 45 feet (14m) of snow per season on average.
Located 28 miles (45km) from Asahikawa and 44 miles (70km) from Furano, You need to base your trip around a weather window on this active volcano to explore this deep backcountry powder mecca in the Daisetsuzan National Park. While certainly no secret spot and quite busy on a powder day, Asahidake offers a great mix of alpine and classic Japan tree riding.
To get to the best terrain you should consider a Hokkaido ski guide for off piste and backcountry touring, or really do your research. It’s considered the best place to ski in Hokkaido (at least for the deep powder), but you really need to know how to plan your day. If not, you may go home cold and very disappointed.
Making it All Happen
Traveling with certified ski guides eliminates the stress of planning where to ski and how to make it happen. Visit all 7 ski destinations with our Japanese and English speaking ski guides on a unique, 8-day cultural & backcountry focused adventure.
How to Get to Hokkaido and The Ski Resorts
The best way to get to the various resorts on Hokkaido is to reserve a domestic flight to Sapporo-Chitose airport (CTS airport code). It is possible that your international flight will offer a connection with ANA or perhaps get you a separate ticket. Some of the low cost Japanese airlines have some good fares periodically – check out Peach, Vanilla & Jetstar but beware of the bag allowance guidelines.
An even better idea is to skip Tokyo and fly direct into CTS-this is possible through Hawaiian(from Honolulu) or China Airlines (from Hong Kong).
Once in Chitose, you can take a train right from the airport to Otaru (via Sapporo).
Getting to any of the Hokkaido resorts from CTS is fairly straightforward. Try Resort Liner, for the full coach service to your powder stash of choice. Allow anywhere between 1.5-3 hours depending on where you want to go and how much snow is coming down!
Finally as mentioned in the Asahikawa section, there is a regional airport just out of the city. Airport code AKJ. Flights to AKJ can be an alternative to get to Furano, Asahidake and of course the quickest route if staying in Asahikawa.
Hokkaido Snow Report
Is it snowing in Hokkaido? Chances are yes, but to stay on top of winter weather and snowfall in Hokkaido here are a few useful resources to bookmark during Hokkaido’s ski season: November – May, with spring skiing usually found from late March forward.