Skiing in Hokkaido Japan

Hokkaido is Japan's North Island
There are dozens of Hokkaido ski resorts dotted across the island
Ski Hokkaido for amazing powder
Rusutsu is renowned for its awesome tree skiing
Asahidake is a backcountry off-piste mecca
Sapporo, Hokkaido's capital has over 2000 restaurants & bars
Furano is a central Hokkaido ski resort with over 1,000m vertical
Kiroro: Hokkaido skiing for families with some secret stashes for powderhounds
Asahikawa is rich in Japanese culture & an ideal base for a roadtrip
Hokkaido skiing at its finest
Ski Hokkaido for deep deep powder
Ski Hokkaido for the amazing powder - Tomamu is also great for families
Sounkyo ice festival (at the base of Kurodake)
Kurodake is a backcountry Hokkaido ski area for experts
Furano is a great ski resort and provides easy access to other ski areas
Hokkaido cat skiing with HBC
Hokkaido cat skiing is fantastic to score fresh powder
Hokkaido heli skiing with HBC
The heli skiing is near Niseko and Rusutsu
Hokkaido snowboarding - gorgeous pow

Skiing in Hokkaido Japan

Hokkaido SkiingHokkaido skiing is incredibly rewarding for powder hounds. Hokkaido, the north island of Japan, is ideally located in the path of consistent weather systems that bring the cold air across the Sea of Japan from Siberia. This results in many of the Hokkaido ski resorts being absolutely dumped with powder that is renowned for being incredibly dry. Some of the ski areas receive an amazing average of 14-20 metres of snowfall annually!

Hokkaido Ski Resorts Niseko is the powder capital of the world and as such is the most popular international ski destination in Japan. It doesn’t seem to stop snowing in Niseko, which is the major drawcard. Other famous destinations resorts (i.e. good for a multi-day stay) include RusutsuFurano, Tomamu, Sahoro and Kiroro

Hokkaido skiing also consists of many ski areas that are somewhat off the beaten track for international tourists. These may be small or quasi-destination ski areas where you’d only want to stay for 2-3 days (e.g. Asahidake, Kurodake) or ski areas that are only for day trips or better suited to day trips (e.g. Kamui, Teine, Pippu).

Ski Hokkaido or Ski Honshu? How Do They Compare? The Hokkaido snow is generally superior to the powder in Honshu, the main island of Japan. Even though many of the ski resorts west of Sapporo (such as Niseko, Sapporo Kokusai and Kiroro) are in close proximity to the ocean, the cold temperatures tend to keep the powder dry. The volume of snow that dumps on these coastal mountains is also generally higher than that in Honshu (with some exceptions such as the snow factory at Tenjindaira and at Hakkoda in the far north of Honshu). Further inland in central Hokkaido there’s slightly less snowfall, but the quality of the powder is even better. Not surprisingly our Japan ski resorts ratings indicate that Hokkaido comes up trumps when it comes to destinations for powder hounds.

Hokkaido skiing has a reputation for being deep not steep, and whilst this is true of some of the Hokkaido ski resorts, places such as Sapporo Teine and Kurodake blow this myth out of the water. As a generalisation, Hokkaido ski resorts are less steep than many of the high profile Honshu ski resorts, but when you compare skiing in Japan to some of the gnarly North American ski resorts such as Silverton, Whistler, Jackson Hole and Kicking Horse, all the Japan ski resorts seem really mellow!

The Hokkaido ski season generally starts earlier than Honshu because the north island of Japan tends to do much better for early season snow than Honshu, particularly at resorts such as Kiroro and Niseko. You can see the Japan ski resort stats for an indication of the Hokkaido skiing season opening and closing times at the big resorts.

Hokkaido is not densely populated and has more of a rural feel to it than Honshu. Generally everything is cheaper in Hokkaido than Honshu (Niseko, Rusutsu and Kiroro are exceptions), and the more you get off the beaten track, the cheaper it is. The cuisine is also somewhat different to other regions of Japan, with much more emphasis on ramen and seafood specialties such as crab.

Hokkaido provides a great taste of Japan, but if you want to combine a ski holiday with some historical sightseeing, temple hopping, traditional Japanese architecture spotting, and generally just absorbing the Japanese culture, then Honshu is better than Hokkaido.

Where are the Hokkaido Ski Resorts? Many of the ski resorts are close together so you can easily sample multiple resorts, particularly if you go on a Hokkaido ski or snowboard tour. The following are some of the ski resorts in Hokkaido, grouped according to location and also type of resort where:
  • 1 = destination resort (could stay there for a week)
  • 2 = quasi-destination resort (could stay there a few days)
  • 3 = ideal for day trip (could stay there but more suited as a day trip)
  • 4 = only for day trips from resort/city nearby
West of Sapporo
  • Niseko (1) – 100km southwest of Sapporo and the New Chitose Airport (2.5 hours drive)
  • Moiwa (1) – next to Niseko
  • Rusutsu (1) – 75km southwest of Sapporo (90 minutes) and 89km west of the New Chitose Airport
  • Kiroro (1/2) – 43km west of Sapporo
Near Sapporo
  • Sapporo Teine (4) – 20km northwest of Sapporo (45 minutes)
  • Sapporo Kokusai (4) – 46km west of Sapporo (1 hour)
  • Kiroro (1/2) – 43km west of Sapporo East of Sapporo
  • Asarigawa Onsen (3) - 35km northwest of Sapporo (40 mins drive)
  • Furano (1) – 113km northeast of Sapporo (2:15 hours)
  • Tomamu (1) – 150km east of Sapporo (1:20 hours by train from Sapporo; 1 hour by train from the New Chitose Airport)
  • Sahoro (1) – 179km east of Sapporo (3 hours)
  • Mount Racey (Yubari) (2) – 77km east of Sapporo (1.5 hours)
Near Asahikawa (Central Hokkaido)
  • Furano (1) – 59km south of Asahikawa (1 hour by train)
  • Kamui Ski Links (4) – 20km southwest of Asahikawa (20 minutes)
  • Asahidake (2/3) – 47km east of Asahikawa (1 hour)
  • Kurodake (2/3) – 66km east of Asahikawa (1:20 hours)
  • Tomamu (1) – 125km south of Asahikawa (2 hours)

North of Asahikawa

  • Pippu (3) - 26km NE of Asahikawa
  • Piyashiri (3) - 89km north of Asahikawa

Near Hakodate (Southern Hokkaido)

Ski Hokkaido with the Family Some of the Hokkaido ski resorts are no-frills and ideal for backcountry enthusiasts, thereby making a family ski holiday extremely difficult. Examples include Kamui Ski Links, Asahidake, and Kurodake.

Other Hokkaido ski resorts have well developed facilities and some have lots of activities to keep the little folks entertained (e.g. Tomamu). Ski areas that offer group ski and snowboard lessons for kids include Niseko, Furano, Tomamu (resort and via Club Med Tomamu), and Sahoro (via Club Med).

Also Japanese ski resorts typically have only hotel or pension accommodation, so if you want the family to stay in self-contained accommodation (e.g. an apartment or house) you’ll need to go to a ski resort that’s somewhat westernised such as Niseko or Furano.

Check out the ski Japan family page for more information.

Cat Skiing Hokkaido

Hokkaido cat skiing is growing in popularity, because it's a great way to access backcountry fresh powder without having to hike for it. New cat skiing operations include Iwanai Cat Skiing (near Niseko), Shimamaki Cat Skiing (with transport from Niseko), Rising Sun Cat Skiing (near Niseko) and The House of Powder cat skiing at the former Chisenupuri ski resort (adjacent to Moiwa Niseko). And for those new to cat skiing or riding powder, Niseko Weiss Powder Cats is a great choice. Check out the Japan cat skiing page for more information.

Heli Skiing Hokkaido

Or for the ultimate in scoring fresh powder, there’s also Hokkaido heli skiing near Niseko and Rusutsu with Shiribetsu Heli Skiing.

Other Hokkaido Backcountry Skiing

Hokkaido is a treasure trove of powder stashes for backcountry skiing and split boarding aficionados. There are lots of options for backcountry ski tours out of Furano, Kiroro and Niseko, and popular BC spots include Tokachidake, Kurodake, Asahidake and Rishiri Island. Our Hokkaido backcountry tour listings outline a range of day trips and multi-day tours where you have to earn all of your turns, or at least some of them!

Getting to Hokkaido Japan For information on getting to Hokkaido, see our travel to Hokkaido page, which includes tips on flights to Sapporo and Asahikawa. And see the travelling around Hokkaido page for info on ski buses and other transport options.
Hokkaido Ski and Snowboard Tours

Safari (Road Trip) Tours

Hokkaido Storm Chaser
7 Days | 6 Nights | 6 Ski Areas
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Chase the storms and access the deepest and best quality snow conditions on the day in the Otaru area and Central Hokkaido's world famous deep dry powder.
Price p/p
Base/invoice currency is in yen not including 8% consumption tax.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 2,639
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Hokkaido Explorer Tour
12 Nights - 10 Ski Areas - 10 Days Skiing/Riding
Ability: Expert
Based in Niseko Hirafu then Furano then Otaru, chase the best conditions and snowfall at 7 of Hokkaido's best ski areas and lesser known ski areas including Niseko, Rusutsu, Moiwa, Furano, Asahidake, Kamui Links, Mt Racey and Tomamu.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share option per person for group tour for 2018-19 season.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 3,543
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Hokkaido Unplugged
10 Days | 9 Nights | 7 Ski Areas
Ability: Advanced to Expert
So you have had a taste of Japan powder and you are now ready to get away from the crowds and find the best of Hokkaido. This tour visits some epic sidecountry and backcountry areas in Hokkaido.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share option for 2017-18 season.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 3,267
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See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit HOKKAIDO here

Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours

Niseko Freeride Tour
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Days Riding
Ability: Intermediate to Advanced
This snowboarding tour takes in what many would argue are the best ski areas in Japan with a choice of up to 11 ski areas in the Niseko region. Home base is a nice hotel in Niseko so you have access to Niseko's vibrant nightlife. Have a guide to take you to the best powder stashes at each location.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share option.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 1,598
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Niseko Guided Day Tours
For PRIVATE GROUPS ONLY of up to 6 guests
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
If you are in Niseko with a group, you can't go past a guided ski or snowboard day tour in Niseko or at one of the nearby ski areas (off-piste, sidecountry or backcountry). PRIVATE GROUPS ONLY of up to 6 guests (i.e. you cannot join a group).
Price p/p From price based on a PER PERSON rate for Niseko guided day tour for 2018-19 season (private groups only of 6 guests) in shoulder season.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
From 60,000 yen for a group. *Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 106
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BDT Lift Assisted Backcountry Tours
Niseko Area | PRIVATE GROUPS ONLY | Min 2 Days
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Join Black Diamond Tours for 1 day of guided powder hunting in Niseko or one of the nearby resort or backcountry areas with your own PRIVATE GROUP. Areas include Niseko backbowls, Rusutsu, Kiroro, Teine & Kokusai. Primarily lift accessed so minimal hiking.
Price p/p From price based on 1 day tour per person - 5 people in private group (lift tickets not included).
Base/invoice currency is in JPY ex taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 137
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See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit HOKKAIDO here

Ski & Snowboard Camp Tours

Ultimate Early Season Camps
8 nights | 7 days | Cat Skiing, Avi Training
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Beat the high season rates and crowds and get Japow earlier than the punters. Based in Niseko, you'll visit 4 ski resorts for lift accessed sidecountry, enjoy a day of cat skiing at Chisenupuri, receive 2 days of avalanche awareness training & get an intro to backcountry touring.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share, 9-day package for 2018-19 season.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 1,902
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See all Ski & Snowboard Camp tours that visit HOKKAIDO here

Backcountry Skiing Tours

Guided Tours
Private & Mixed Group
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Niseko Black Snowsports offer lift-access backcountry & sidecountry guiding services for advanced to expert mixed & private groups around Niseko/Moiwa, Rusutsu & Kiroro. Book for your own private group tour or join a group.
Price p/p price is per person per day (min 3 guests required for tour to operate)
base/invoice currency is in Japanese Yen
Prices include tax.
USD 182
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Backcountry Delights
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Days Skiing
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Journey into Central Hokkaido on this incredible backcountry tour. Some days will include a little lift access otherwise you earn your turns at Tomamu backcountry, Yubari Range, Furano, Kitami Pass and Kurodake.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share accommodation for group tour.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 3,003
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Niseko Xtreme Guided Day Tours
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Niseko Xtreme offers a variety of PRIVATE GROUP (max 6 per group) tours in and around the Niseko area. The tours range from in-bounds resort powder hunting to full blown backcountry touring. Destinations include Niseko, Rusutsu, Kiroro, Teine, Kokusai, Mt Yotei & more.
Price p/p From price based on private group of 6 people on a full-day "Hidden Secrets" In-Bound Resort Tour of Niseko or Rusutsu.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 77
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Heli Skiing Tours

Shiribetsu-Dake Day Heliskiing
Includes Niseko pickup & lunch
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
At last, a Niseko heli skiing operation! Make this one of the best days of your life skiing Hokkaido's deep dry powder on a dormant volcano (next door to Rusutsu and not far from Niseko).
Price p/p From price based on 6-run heli ski day 2018-19 early bird rates.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 1,456
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See all Heli Skiing tours that visit HOKKAIDO here

Cat Skiing Tours

Shimamaki Snowcat Packages
Stay in a Traditional Japanese Inn Inc All Meals
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
This is the best Japan cat skiing! Departing from Niseko, the trip offers incredible snowcat accessed powder skiing & boarding, staying in a traditional coastal Japanese inn. Ride deep untracked powder all day, feast on Japanese cuisine and soak in the hotel's onsen in the evening.
Price p/p Display price is based on 2 days + 2 nights per person for 2019 season (regular season)
Base/invoice currency is Japanese Yen
*Display price may vary slightly due to exchange rate fluctuations
USD 1,451
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Iwanai Cat Skiing Day Package
8 - 10 Runs (Approx 4,600m vertical/day)
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Iwanai Cat Skiing serves up powder runs of 325-650 metres of vertical bliss, with 8 to 10 runs for the day. Located near Niseko, the Iwanai Resort snowcat skiing terrain scores masses of snowfall. Ideal for strong intermediate & advanced riders.
Price p/p Price is per person per day for high season
Base/invoice currency is in Japanese Yen
Displayed price may vary slightly due to exchange rate fluctuations. Price includes 8% sales tax
USD 639
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Niseko Cat Skiing Day Tours
Single Day Guided, Inc. Lunch
Ability: Advanced to Expert
A day of awesome guided cat skiing near Niseko in backcountry terrain with some steep lines, technical trees, and pillows and mushrooms. The snowcat skiing is ideal for those craving bottomless untracked powder runs.
Price p/p From price is per person (min 4 persons required to operate)
Base/invoice currency is Japanese yen in taxes
*display price may vary slightly with fluctuations in currency
USD 510
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See all Cat Skiing tours that visit HOKKAIDO here