Skiing in Hokkaido Japan

Hokkaido is Japan's north island. The access-point is generally Sapporo Chitose Airport
Sapporo is a vibrant city and worth a few nights stay either side of a Hokkaido ski trip
The Sapporo Snow Festival in early Feb is a special time to visit
Niseko & surrounding areas are the most popular Hokkaido ski & snowboarding destinations
Niseko is the premier Hokkaido ski resort with lots of accommodation options
Niseko has the nickname "snow factory" as it seems to snow consistently; and the result...
Rusutsu is a popular resort near Niseko & day trips are possible to Otaru resorts + cat skiing options
Hakodate in southern Hokkaido is a relatively unknown area with a few smallish ski areas
Nanae is Hakodate's largest ski area which even has a gondola & fast hooded chairs
Otaru area is becoming popular for foreigners & Otaru town offers a lovely Japanese experience
Kiroro is the biggest & most popular Otaru ski area with average annual snow falls around 17m
Other Hokkaido ski resorts around Otaru include Kokusai, Teine, Asari & Tenguyama
Central Hokkaido is renowned for Japan's deepest & driest snow
Furano is the largest & most popular Central Hokkaido ski resort
Snowfalls in Furano are abundant & regular & the terrain has some steeps
Nearby Central Hokkaido ski areas include Asahidake, Kamui Links, Tomamu, Sahoro & Tokachidake backcountry
Asahikawa is a city in Central Hokkaido & a great base for a Japanese experience
Asahikawa has inexpensive accommodation & a huge variety of restaurants & bars
Asahiyama zoo is a great day out if you are in the Asahikawa area
Central Hokkaido ski resorts near Asahikawa include Pippu, Kurodake, Kamui, & Asahidake

Skiing in Hokkaido Japan

Hokkaido Skiing

Hokkaido 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 destination ski resorts in Hokkaido (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 for powder hound destinations.

Hokkaido skiing has a reputation for being deep not steep, and whilst this is true of many 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 Sahoro).

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. Cat skiing operations include Iwanai Cat Skiing (near Niseko), Shimamaki Cat Skiing (with transport from Niseko), Rising Sun Cat Skiing (near Niseko) and Chisenupuri 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 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
GUIDED STORM CHASING SAFARI
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.
Base/invoice currency is in yen not including 8% consumption tax.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 2,883
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Hokkaido Explorer Tour
FULLY GUIDED & HOSTED 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 in the side country at 7 of Hokkaido's best ski areas and lesser known ski areas including Niseko, Rusutsu, Moiwa, Furano, Asahidake, Kamui Links and Tomamu.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share option per person for group tour for 2019-20 season.
Base/invoice currency is in Japanese yen inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 3,860
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Hokkaido Safari
GUIDED POWDER PROGRESSION ROAD TRIP
12 Days | 8 Days Guided Skiing/Riding
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Explore up to 7 Hokkaido ski areas on this amazing powder progression adventure for advanced to expert skiers & boarders. Locations include the Otaru/Sapporo & Furano ski areas. Groups of up to 4 guests are guided by 1 guide. From price is based on twin share in deluxe western-style room.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share room; 4 on tour.
Base/invoice currency is in USD inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 4,765
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Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours

Central Hokkaido Tour
FULLY GUIDED & HOSTED TOUR
10 Nights | 8 Days Skiing/Riding
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Avoid the crowds and revel in the renowned high quality Central Hokkaido powder at Furano, Asahidake, Kamui Links, and hidden gems such as Pippu, Sahoro and Tomamu. Mostly lift accessed powder hunting, plus the option to do a little hiking to get more goods.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share group option for 2019-20 per person.
Base/invoice currency is in Japanese yen inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 2,864
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Niseko Freeride Tour
POWDER ADVENTURE
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 1,977
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Furano/Central Hokkaido Experience
LOCAL GUIDED & HOSTED TOUR
7 Nights | 5 Days Skiing/Riding | Up to 5 Ski Areas
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Advanced
Experience the best powder that Furano & the Central Hokkaido region has to offer. Venture off-piste in Furano, Kamui, Tomamu, Sahoro & Asahidake with local guides. It’s their passion to show you great skiing/boarding, relaxing onsens & the enjoyment of dining at their favourite local restaurants where few tourists go.
Price p/p From price based on twin/triple-share room.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc. taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 1,962
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Single-Base, Single-Ski-Area Tours

Niseko Guided Day Tours
GUIDED DAY TRIPS IN/FROM NISEKO
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 PRIVATE group of 6 in peak season. Full price is 78,000 yen for group.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY in taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 121
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Ski & Snowboard Camp Tours

Ultimate Early Season Camps
EARLY SEASON TOUR
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 1,944
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Backcountry Skiing Tours

BDT Lift Assisted Backcountry Tours
LIFT ASSISTED BACKOUNTRY 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 140
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Backcountry Delights
GUIDED BACKCOUNTRY TOUR
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 2020.
Base/invoice currency is in Japanese yen inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 2,976
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Backcountry Touring Day Trips
GUIDED BACKCOUNTRY DAY TOURS
Niseko & Surrounding Areas | Private Groups Only
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Ideal if you are staying in NISEKO and are looking for a guided BACKCOUNTRY day in or around Niseko. These day tours are specifically for those who are happy to earn their turns and are for private groups of 1 - 5 guests (but 6+ is also doable).
Price p/p From price based on per person rate for a private group of 5 guests.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 134
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Cat Skiing Tours

Iwanai Cat Skiing Day Package
MIXED GROUP DAY CAT SKIING
8 - 10 Runs (Approx 4,600m vertical/day)
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Iwanai Cat Skiing serves up powder runs of 325-650m 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 shoulder season
Base/invoice currency is in Japanese Yen
Displayed price may vary slightly due to exchange rate fluctuations. Price includes 8% sales tax
USD 651
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Shimamaki Snowcat Packages
GUIDED CAT SKIING ADVENTURE (2, 3 or 4 days)
Stay in Traditional Japanese Inn Inc All Meals
Ability: Advanced 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 2020 season (regular season)
Base/invoice currency is Japanese Yen
*Display price may vary slightly due to exchange rate fluctuations
USD 1,632
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Chisenupuri Cat Skiing
UNGUIDED CAT SKIING NEAR NISEKO
Single Day, Pick Up & Return Niseko
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Advanced
Unguided cat skiing near Niseko is at the former ski resort of Chisenupuri. You have the freedom to explore and it is ideal for apprentice powder hounds or advanced riders heading to Niseko. Chisenupuri cat skiing is a lust-do! Finish the cat ski day with a soak in an amazing onsen.
Price p/p Price is per person per day
Base/invoice currency is Japanese Yen
*display price may vary slightly due to exchange rate fluctuations
USD 512
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