Asari Ski Resort, Asarigawa Onsen
Asari Ski Resort at Asarigawa Onsen is a nice little ski area where you can taste some powder chowder without being disturbed by other powder hounds.
You could hit up Asari as a day trip from Sapporo
or Otaru, or even Niseko
if you had your own wheels. Asari is a low elevation ski resort, so it can be ideal to visit when the wind is too ferocious at nearby Kiroro
, Sapporo Teine
or Sapporo Kokusai
Located near the seaside town of Otaru, the upper reaches of Asari Ski Resort provide spectacular views across the water.
Asari Ski and Snowboard Terrain
Asari is a small ski resort with 4 lifts (3 double and 1 triple) that service nine courses (piste trails) with stats of 30% beginner, 40% intermediate, and 30% advanced. Asari also has a small terrain park with a few jumps. The terrain is all below the tree line and the top elevation is at only 680 metres. Asari has a modest vertical drop of 580 metres.
Asari is particularly popular with beginners who flock around the base area, and the other groomed runs are well suited to intermediates. There is very little on-piste terrain for advanced riders despite the 30% statistic. The Orange course has short pitches of up to 36 degrees gradient, and a few moguls develop on the sides of the groomers, but that’s about it for challenging piste terrain.
All the fun for advanced skiers and snowboarders is in the off-piste and side-country areas where powderhounds can revel in amongst the spindly trees. These zones are practically deserted, so you’ll find fresh powder lines galore!
The off piste areas are mostly fairly mellow, although there are some short steep sections as well as small cliff bands to keep things interesting. And so long as you keep out of the water (!) there are also some fun dam walls to ski around.
Outside the resort boundaries, Asari offers delightful side-country terrain that feeds back into the ski area. Skiers’ left offers some tight trees of reasonable gradient, whilst out to the right of the ski resort there are also lots of sweet lines. Don’t venture too far though, as the terrain becomes flatter the further you traverse to the right.
Asari sits below the road up to Kiroro Ski Resort
, so the other backcountry option is to get a mate to drop you off so you can ski down to the Asari ski resort.
Like the rest of Hokkaido, Asari gets plenty of snowfall. As the skiing is at relatively low altitude, the quality of the powder may not be well maintained relative to other Hokkaido ski resorts
, but at least there is plenty of virgin snow on offer.
Where is Asari Ski Resort?
Asari is located in a hot spring area, Asarigawa Onsen, at the foot of Asaridake (Mount Asari). Asarigawa Onsen is only 9km southeast of the town of Otaru, and 35km northwest of Sapporo
in Hokkaido (the north island of Japan). Asari is close to Kiroro
as the crow flies, although the drive between the two ski resorts takes about 50-60 minutes.
If you’ve got a car, Asari is only a 15 to 20 minute drive from Otaru. Otherwise there are regular buses from the JR Otaru train station that take 30 minutes (bus #13, gate #2, fare approximately 350 yen).
It takes about 40 minutes to drive to Asari from the city of Sapporo. Alternatively there are buses from Sapporo station to the ski resort (everyday from Dec 23 to Jan 16, otherwise only on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays). The fare is 800 yen one-way (2012 rates) and a reservation for the bus is required before 3:30pm the day prior (Tel: +81 134 54 0101).
Asari is 83km northeast of Niseko
, a drive that takes about 1:45 hours. Getting to Asari via train and bus is rather complex, so the best option is to hire a car in Niseko. Alternatively Asari is occasionally included on one of the multi-day tours such as the Power Trip
Asarigawa Onsen Accommodation
The little spa resort village of Asarigawa Onsen has a handful of hotels and ryokans, all with onsens. Some of the hotels provide access for day visitors to their indoor hot springs and rotenburo (outdoor onsen).
Most international visitors to Asari ski resort don’t stay at Asarigawa Onsen, but rather commute from Sapporo hotels
, or from Otaru
Asari Ski Resort Facilities
The main ski resort facilities are located at the base in a large glass fronted two-storey building. Downstairs is a café selling snacks such as those scrummy pork buns, or you can BYO picnic and brown bag it. Upstairs is the main restaurant where you can buy the usual lunch fare.
Other services and facilities include equipment tuning and repairs, a “pro” shop, and ski school for those proficient in the Japanese language. Alternatively the private ski school Winkel has English speaking instructors.
The ski resort offers affordable ski and snowboard rentals, and they also hire out clothing such as jackets, pants and gloves (or groves as the Japanese like to call them!).
Why Ski or Snowboard at Asarigawa Onsen?
It is unlikely that international visitors will go to Asari to ski or snowboard on the courses (piste runs). The drawcard for powderhounds is the off-piste and backcountry skiing. Asari is uncrowded, there are no lift lines, and you’re highly unlikely to find anyone else out in the off-piste zones. You can have all the powder to yourself!
Best of all, the powder doesn’t come at a premium. Lift tickets are super cheap, and for a few more yen you can get a package deal that includes a lift ticket, lunch, and a relaxing soak in one of the onsens.