Kurodake3 out of 5 based on 3 reviews
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    100%
  • Would Revisit
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Japan Powder Road Trip

Kurodake Ropeway
Kurodake Ropeway
Kurodake Ski Area - above the chair lift
Kurodake Ski Area - above the chair lift
Kurodake Hokkaido
Kurodake Hokkaido
Top ropeway station
Top ropeway station
Kurodake: as the face shot hits
Kurodake: as the face shot hits
Powder Skiing Kurodake Japan, Photo: TMS, Journey Into Japan
Powder Skiing Kurodake Japan,    Photo: TMS, Journey Into Japan
The chairlift with Black Mountain peeking through
The chairlift with Black Mountain peeking through
Above chairlift backcountry terrain
Above chairlift backcountry terrain
Mount Kuro Hokkaido
Mount Kuro Hokkaido
Sounkyo Ice Festival
Sounkyo Ice Festival
Sounkyo Ice Festival
Sounkyo Ice Festival
Walking between the ropeway and chair lift
Walking between the ropeway and chair lift
Awesome powder at Kurodake
Awesome powder at Kurodake
Terrain accessed via chair lift
Terrain accessed via chair lift
Ropeway serviced terrain (a nice mellow patch!)
Ropeway serviced terrain (a nice mellow patch!)
The joys of Kurodake Japan
The joys of Kurodake Japan
Sounkyo is an onsen town
Sounkyo is an onsen town
Sounkyo Ice Festival
Sounkyo Ice Festival
It snows a lot at Kurodake!
It snows a lot at Kurodake!
The peak of Kurodake
The peak of Kurodake

Kurodake

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 Furano, 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.

Kurodake Snow

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!

Guiding

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 Accommodation

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.

Sounkyo 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).

Activities

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

Pros

  • 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.
Cons
  • 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

Safari (Road Trip) Tours
Powder Road Trip DETAILS
HOSTED & GUIDED ROAD TRIP
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Skiing
From price based on twin/double-share option.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 2,599
Ability: Intermediate to Expert
Journey into central Hokkaido to visit ski areas such as Furano, Tomamu, & Asahidake. Ideally suited to those who mostly want to ride lift accessed powder at the ski areas and also have the option to do a bit of touring or a full day of touring at Tokachi-dake.
More
Central Hokkaido Powder Belt DETAILS
GUIDED - LIFT ACCESS & BC
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Days Riding
From price based on twin/double-share option. Requires min 5 guests to run fixed date tours
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 2,534
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Central Hokkaido aka the Hokkaido Powder Belt has the most coveted ski areas for the ultimate snow quality. This tour offers the fantastic combination of lift accessed powder chasing with earning a few turns along the way.
More
The Mintara Express DETAILS
GUIDED ROAD TRIP
7 Days | 6 Nights | 5 Ski Days
From price based on twin/double-share option for group of 5.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 2,539
Ability: Advanced to Expert
The perfect add-on to a Niseko ski week. Leave the crowds behind & head to central Hokkaido's epic powder stashes including Asahidake, Kurodake, Tokachidake, Kamui Links, Funano & more..
More
See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit Kurodake here
Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours
BDT Lift Assisted Backcountry Tours DETAILS
LIFT ASSISTED BACKOUNTRY TOURS
Niseko Area | PRIVATE GROUPS ONLY | Min 2 Days
From price based on 2 day tour per person - 5 people in private group (lift tickets not included). You cannot join a group on these tours.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY ex taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 273
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Join Black Diamond Tours on 2 days 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, Tiene & Kokusai.
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Furano Guided Tours DETAILS
GUIDED DAY TRIPS AT/FROM FURANO
PRIVATE GROUPS of up to 6 guests
From price based on guided day tour in Furano (private groups only of 6) in low season. If you are a solo the cost is 6 x that shown.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 83
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
If you are in Furano with a group and want fresh tracks, head out with a Furano ski guide (or snowboard guide) at Furano or at one of the nearby ski areas or go backcountry touring with a guide. PRIVATE GROUPS ONLY of up to 6 guests i.e. you cannot join a group.
More
See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit Kurodake here
Backcountry Skiing Tours
Backcountry Delights DETAILS
GUIDED BACKCOUNTRY TOUR
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Days Skiing
From price based on twin/double-share accommodation.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 2,591
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.
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Daisetsu Backcountry Tour DETAILS
GUIDED BACKCOUNTRY TOURING
8 Nights | 6 Days Touring
From price based on twin/triple-share option. Min 4 guests required to run tour.
Base/invoice currency is in AUD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 2,196
Book and pay by Aug 31 and get AU$100 off advertised price
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Explore Central Hokkaido's largest national park on this fully flexible backcountry touring adventure. Stay in traditional ryokans, soak in natural hot springs and ski the deepest powder on earth! What else could you ever need?
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Rishiri's Island Volcano DETAILS
GUIDED BACKCOUNTRY TOUR
10 Days | 9 Nights | 8 Days Guiding
From price based on twin share accommodation. Requires min 6 guests to run fixed date tours
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 3,365
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Rishiri Island is the ultimate in Hokkaido backcountry skiing and split boarding. Ski the huge flanks of the Mt Rishiri volcano, accessed by snowmobile on the approaches. The tour starts with backcountry touring in Central Hokkaido including snowmobile accessed BC.
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See all Backcountry Skiing tours that visit Kurodake here
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