Travelling Around Hokkaido

Travelling Around Hokkaido

Travelling around Hokkaido Japan to get to the major ski resorts is reasonably easy considering the Hokkaido ski bus network, private transfers and trains around Hokkaido, and that the roads aren’t too busy so driving is not difficult. Or a really stress-free way to travel around the Hokkaido ski resorts is to go on a Hokkaido ski or snowboard tour and let someone else do all the driving.

For information on how to get to each Hokkaido ski resort from New Chitose Airport or Sapporo (or Asahikawa), see the respective “How To Get There” page for the ski resort. Examples include How To Get to Niseko and Travel to Furano.

Buses to Hokkaido Ski Resorts

There is a good network of scheduled Hokkaido ski bus transfers from the New Chitose Airport and Sapporo City to many of the ski resorts. In most instances, you need to book your Hokkaido ski bus (including the return transfer) at least 9 days in advance. NB Bus bookings open in October each year.

Niseko Bus: Furano Bus:
Rusutsu Buses: Kiroro Bus:
Tomamu Buses:
Sapporo Kokusai Bus:
Sapporo Teine Bus:

Private Transfers

Private transfers are an alternative way of getting around Hokkaido whereby you can travel at a time that suits you and get dropped at the door of your hotel.

Niseko Private Transport: Furano Private Transfers:
Asahidake Private Transfers

Travelling Around Hokkaido - Using Trains

Bullet trains are only starting to make their way into Hokkaido, yet train travel is still a reasonably easy and fast way to get around Hokkaido and to travel from the New Chitose Airport into Sapporo. Hokkaido ski resorts that are ideal to travel to via train include Tomamu, Furano, and Teine. And not too far away from a train station are Sahoro and Niseko. Use Hyperdia to search for train routes, schedules, and fares (you can just pay fares as you go). 

From the train station, some ski resorts or accommodations provide transfers to your lodging. Or you may need to take a short taxi ride.

Driving Around Hokkaido

Travelling around Hokkaido by self-driving provides the most flexibility if you want to go to the lower profile ski resorts and/or where it’s a bit harder to get there via bus or train (e.g. Kiroro, Asahidake, Kamui Links, Kurodake).

The roads in Hokkaido are reasonably easy to navigate considering that many of the road signs are in English or at least the roads are numbered. Many rental cars are now installing GPSs that are fully or partially in English, and all you have to do is enter the phone number of where you want to go.

With the exception of Sapporo, the roads are not very busy and driving is not stressful like in horn honking countries such as Vietnam.

In order to rent a car in Japan, you will require an international driving license which you’ll need to organise before you go to Japan. These licenses are only valid for 12 months. 

The rental cars have snow tyres on them so chains generally won’t be necessary, but usual caution when driving on snow-covered or icy roads will need to be exercised.

Tours – Transport Included

Considering that many of the Hokkaido ski resorts are not particularly large, powder hounds will probably want to sample multiple resorts and chase the best snow conditions. Going on a Hokkaido ski tour where your guide also drives you to different ski areas, is a fantastic way to travel around Hokkaido and to get the best out of a ski or snowboard trip.

Single day tours start at resorts such as Niseko and Furano and head to nearby ski areas.

Multi-day tours either have a single base (ie you stay in the same accommodation for the whole trip) and travel to different ski areas each day, or they are safari/road trip style whereby you’ll stay in two or more lodgings during the tour.

Head to the Hokkaido ski tours page and you can use the filters to narrow down your search for factors such as ability level, lift accessed versus backcountry skiing, guided versus hosted only, progression/instruction, and whether you want a private customised trip or you want to join a group. Or if the timing is the biggest factor, check out the Hokkaido ski tours schedule which provides a summary of tours by date.