Kurodake Ski Resort
The Kurodake ski area in Hokkaido forms part of the Daisetsuzan National Park. The translation of Daisetsuzan means “mountains of big snow” or “big snowy mountains”. Either way you get the picture that Kurodake is a fabulous spot for powder hounds looking for big mountains with plenty of snow!
Kurodake Hokkaido is not one of the mainstream Hokkaido ski resorts
, probably because the Kurodake ski resort is not really a “resort” at all. Kurodake is a rather gnarly unpredictable beast that’s really only suited to patient, hardcore, expert skiers and snowboarders.
You could stay at the base of Kurodake in Sounkyo Onsen and have a multi-day trip, but you might have to sit around waiting for the weather to clear, Alaskan heli ski style. This is the roof of Hokkaido where it gets socked in, it snows, it blows, it’s exposed, and the Kurodake ropeway is often closed.
Unless you visit Kurodake in spring when the weather is more predictable, Kurodake is probably best visited as a long day trip from Asahikawa
, or as part of a multi-day tour with a flexible itinerary.
Kurodake Ski and Snowboard Terrain
Hokkaido skiing is renowned for the deep not steep, yet Kurodake breaks the mould of Hokkaido ski resorts. Kurodake has the joys of the legendary Central Hokkaido powder, and combines this with steep gnarly terrain, the type that can keep dentists in business. And unlike many other Japan ski resorts, the patrollers won’t chase you for ducking ropes to sample the off-piste. Kurodake is an off-piste and backcountry paradise.
Best of all – there are no crowds. When you drive up to the ropeway and see the absence of cars in the car park, it’s a dead give away that powder hounds are in for a treat.
The Kurodake ski terrain essentially has three zones. The Kurodake Ropeway (670 - 1,300m) rises up from the town of Sounkyo and the terrain under the ropeway (cable car) is cliff riddled, has some very steep tree skiing, and technical chutes. Above the ropeway is a double chair lift (1,300-1,520m) that services one groomed run and mellow off-piste. Above the chairlift is the skin-to terrain that goes up to the summit of Mount Kuro (1,984 metres) and offers mostly moderately pitched sub-alpine terrain. See the Kurodake ski area
page for more information.
The area is home to the tallest mountains in Hokkaido that are blessed with approximately 15 metres of snowfall each season, yet the official Kurodake snowfall statistic is unknown because no one at Kurodake bothers to measure the snow accumulations. The base depth often gets up to 5 metres, so suffice to say, the ski area scores crap loads of snow and Kuro-dake (Black Mountain) is more white than black. One look at all that powder will get a powder hound drooling!
DIY snowboarding and skiing at Kuro-dake can be rather challenging. The Kurodake ski area is littered with cliffs, the ropeway terrain in particular is somewhat avalanche prone, it’s hard to find the awesome lines under the ropeway, and the visibility is often limited. We’d recommend securing the services of a guide. Of course if you’re just going to ride the chair lift terrain (although we can’t imagine anyone making the effort to go to Kurodake just for this?!), are very familiar with Kurodake, and/or have a wealth of backcountry and route finding experience, then DIYing is a possibility. A GPS topo map app and a wing suit might be helpful too!
Guiding at Kurodake is possible on a range of multi-day Hokkaido tours (see below), although most tour operators cannot guarantee that the tour will visit Kurodake due to weather and ropeway closure considerations. Alternatively, private guided day ski tours from Furano
can head to Kurodake when conditions permit.
Where is Kurodake Japan?
Kurodake aka Black Mountain sits above the onsen town of Sounkyo, which is situated in a deep ravine that has cliffs and big rock formations on either side.
Kurodake is located in the Daisetsuzan National Park in north central Hokkaido Japan. Sounkyo is situated on route 39, 22km southeast of the Kamikawa train station, 66km east of the city of Asahikawa
, and 114km northeast of Furano
Sounkyo is an onsen resort town and it has various multi-storey hotels that have onsens. Most of the large Sounkyo hotels
have both western and Japanese style accommodation, and Sounkyo also has some pensions with simple, sleep on the floor accommodation.
is not ski-in ski-out, with many of the hotels within 350-700 metres walk to the Kurodake ropeway.
The other option for accommodation is to stay in one of the many Asahikawa hotels
(about 1.5 hours away).
Other than skiing and snowboarding, the main winter activities in Sounkyo include a soak in one of the many onsens or extreme ice climbing. Also popular is the Sounkyo ice festival, which runs from January through to mid March and features somewhat impressive ice sculptures (depending on how easily impressed you are!).
The Sounkyo nightlife is quiet, and there are only a few restaurants because most visitors dine at their hotel.
Summary of Pros and Cons
- Kurodake is superb for hardcore riders who love long vertical and very challenging terrain. The steeps are very unique for Hokkaido and Japan.
- The ski area scores an abundance of superb Central Hokkaido dry powder. The slopes are mostly north to northeast facing, which helps to maintain the snow quality, as does the high elevation.
- There are no hordes and freshies galore.
- The combination of precipitous terrain, lots of deep days, and lack of crowds, provides the perfect ingredients for the ultimate powder hound destination, especially if you like to skin.
- The views are absolutely spectacular on those rare bluebird days in winter or during spring when there is more fine weather.
- The skiing and boarding at Mount Kuro is not suited to beginners or intermediates, or for advanced riders not willing to earn their turns.
- The Kurodake ropeway is closed in the height of winter for supposed “maintenance”, although the weather is probably too foul at this time of year anyway (and the slopes wind affected).
- Even when the Kurodake ski season is underway, the ropeway may be closed due to blizzard conditions.
- So you have to be patient to ski Kurodake and wait for all these elements to line up for the perfect day.
- The Sounkyo town is not a cute onsen town like Shibu Onsen. The Sounkyo Gorge is spectacular but the multi-storey concrete hotels are not picturesque.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
- There’s not much to do in winter besides skiing and snowboarding.
- Unless you have a car or guide, getting to Sounkyo is much harder than the mainstream Hokkaido ski areas, but this helps keep the crowds away (well the ski crowds anyway as tour buses turn up in their droves for the Sounkyo ice festival!).
Tours That May Include Kurodake