Sapporo Snow Bliss: Slopes and Après Ski Delights with Your Local Guide



Sapporo: The Ultimate Snow Resort City

Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s islands and a globally acclaimed haven for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, proudly features Sapporo as its largest city—a captivating tourist hub where reveling in snowy activities takes center stage. Not merely a bustling city, Sapporo is a remarkable ‘Snow Resort City’ boasting a total of six ski resorts within its urban landscape. This unique metropolis offers a perfect blend of urban life and winter adventure, providing hidden gems that transform the city into a remarkable snow resort.

Nestled in the southwest of Hokkaido, Sapporo stands out as one of the snowiest major cities globally, with an impressive annual average snowfall of five meters. Delicate snowflakes usually make their appearance in early November, gradually transforming the city into a winter wonderland between early and late December. This enchanting snowy landscape typically persists until March, casting a silvery veil over Sapporo for nearly five months. With over 120 snowy days each year, Sapporo is a rare gem among metropolises in such wintry realms.

The abundance of snow transforms Sapporo into a haven for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts during winter, hosting world-famous events like the Sapporo Snow Festival. Visitors spending several days in Sapporo can relish experiences such as gliding across powder snow while enjoying the city nightscape and the ocean, or weaving through the woods on a tree run. Remarkably convenient, Sapporo allows you to reach a ski ground after less than an hour of driving from the city center. In your quest for the perfect powder snow city, you’d be hard-pressed to find another location where geographical and climate conditions align so perfectly.

Home to approximately two million people, Sapporo claims the title of the fifth-largest metropolis in Japan. As the most significant city in Hokkaido, it offers visitors a myriad of delights, from vibrant shopping and dining to entertaining activities. Sapporo is distinctive for its seamless blend of urban amenities and natural surroundings, allowing visitors to relish the grandeur of nature while immersed in the dynamic pulse of city life. Finding a metropolis so harmoniously connected to its snowy environment, where snow graces the landscape for over 120 days annually, is indeed a rare treasure.

Today, get ready for a journey to unveil the irresistible charm that defines Sapporo. It hosted Asia’s first-ever Winter Olympics, and served as the gathering ground for elite skiers seeking the joys of their sport. A destination of unparalleled allure, Sapporo encompasses top-notch snow, majestic mountains, exquisite cuisine, vibrant tourism, luxurious shopping, enriching cultural experiences, and more.

Discovering Sapporo’s Winter Wonderland

There are six ski areas to choose from: Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort, Sapporo Teine, Mt. Moiwa Ski Area, Sapporo Bankei Ski Area, Takino Snow World and Fu’s Snow Area. Ski resorts in Sapporo cater to diverse preferences, ensuring there’s something for everyone. Powder enthusiasts can revel in the pristine snow, while beginners and non-skiers can indulge in tubing, snowshoeing, and various other activities. Conveniently located within an hour from the city center, accessible by car, free shuttle bus, or an affordable taxi ride, these resorts offer a hassle-free escape. For those who prefer a lighter travel load, rental services for extensive ski gear and attire are available at some of these resorts. Sledding and snow-tubing are particularly recommended for young children and those new to skiing. Now, let’s delve into the distinctive features of each ski resort.

Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort

Sapporo Kokusai, nestled in the mountains just an hour’s drive from downtown Sapporo, is renowned for its substantial snowfall. The expansive slope boasts a maximum run distance of 3.6 km and offers a total of 7 courses, each rich in variety. With six of its seven courses, Sapporo Kokusai caters well to beginners and intermediate-level skiers. While its single advanced run may not be as enticing for skiers seeking steep slopes, the resort compensates with intriguing off-piste and tree areas, many of which are within its bounds, providing excellent opportunities to relish deep powder snow.

To enhance the visitor experience, the resort provides an abundant lineup of new rental ski and snowboard equipment. Additionally, the Snow Playground offers a myriad of activities, including snow racing, snowshoeing, snow rafting for families, and more. A unique addition to the snowboarding scene in Hokkaido is the introduction of handlebar snowboards, a first for the region. With no need for boots or bindings, this innovation allows everyone to effortlessly enjoy the thrill of snowboarding.

Located not far from Jozankei, a renowned hot spring town, Sapporo Kokusai invites visitors to unwind in the soothing waters of an onsen after a day on the mountain, enhancing the overall experience.

Sapporo Teine

Featuring advanced zones once utilized in the Sapporo Olympics, as well as courses tailored for beginners and families, Teine offers a total of 15 diverse courses. This variety caters to various skiing styles, making it an ideal destination for all levels of expertise. The resort boasts top-quality powder snow and a range of excellent runs.

Positioned atop Mt. Teine at an altitude of 1,023 meters, skiers and riders can revel in the perfect powder snow conditions while enjoying panoramic views of Sapporo, Ishikari Bay, Mashike Mountains, and Mt. Daisetsu on sunny days.

Remarkably, the runs and the torch from the 1972 Olympic Winter Games can still be experienced today, adding a historical touch to the skiing adventure. I will share detailed insights from our recent special tour at Sapporo Teine in a subsequent report.

Mt. Moiwa Ski Area

Nestled on the slopes of Mt. Moiwa at an elevation of 531 meters (1,742 feet), the Mt. Moiwa Ski Area is conveniently located approximately 30 minutes from the heart of Sapporo. Since its establishment in 1960, it has held a special place in the hearts of Sapporo citizens, being the nearest ski resort to the city center.

Mt. Moiwa is renowned for its breathtaking night view from the summit, earning its place as one of the “new top three major night views of Japan.” The resort extends its allure into the evening with night skiing, allowing enthusiasts to gracefully weave down the slopes against the backdrop of the stunning night vista.

Featuring 10 diverse courses, the resort caters to all skill levels. For beginners, the Scenic City Course: (2.6 km) offers an experience akin to snow trekking, allowing you to appreciate the cityscape of Sapporo below. Notably, all the courses in this resort are exclusive to skiers, a rarity in Hokkaido.

Bankei Ski Area

Bankei Ski Area stands out as a great choice for those with limited time in Sapporo, thanks to its convenient location. Depending on the snowfall, you can hit the slopes in the morning and then explore Sapporo in the afternoon if fresh powder conditions arise. Alternatively, you can start your day with a leisurely morning stroll in the town and later devote yourself to the snow for some afternoon playtime at this versatile ski resort. Whether you’re eager to enjoy the snow, try your hand at skiing, or indulge in the local food and sights, Bankei Ski Area is the perfect spot for you.

It boasts a diverse range of 17 trails that can be enjoyed by everyone from beginners to expert skiers. Although compact in scale, facilities such as the slalom bahn, mogul course, and Japan’s biggest half-pipe boast the quality required to host international events. It remains open until nighttime every day. This allows you to experience the exhilaration of night skiing after spending your daytime in the city. For kids, the Wakuwaku Snow Land (Kids Park) provides the perfect setting for tube rings and sledding. With rental services available, you can enjoy skiing without the hassle of bringing your own equipment and gear.

Takino Snow World

Nestled amidst the natural beauty south of Sapporo, Takino Suzuran Hillside Park transforms into Takino Snow World during winter. Featuring short and gentle runs, it’s an ideal spot for those taking their first steps into skiing or snowboarding. The park offers safe courses with only a seven-degree incline, making it perfect for beginners at both skiing and snowboarding.

Even if you don’t ski or snowboard, there’s plenty to enjoy! A standout attraction is one of Japan’s longest sledding slopes, where zooming down the thrilling 200 m course on a snow tube becomes a joy for people of all ages. Additionally, there are multiple cross-country ski courses winding through the snow-blanketed forest. The play area provides the perfect setting for crafting snowmen, offering a world of winter fun beyond the slopes.

Fu’s Snow Area

This ski area is situated in the southern area and boasts a variety of six courses. Beyond the family-friendly slopes, Fu’s Snow area offers more challenging options with slopes as steep as 38 degrees. The gently sloping terrain at the mountain’s base is perfect for those making their snowboarding debut, attracting many children looking to hone their skills.

Notably, this is the sole location in Hokkaido where you can enjoy the thrill of luge. The luge stadium, originally constructed as a training ground for the 1972 Sapporo Olympics, stands out as a unique attraction. Don’t miss the opportunity to participate in the ‘luge experience class,’ designed for participants of all skill levels. Additionally, bikeboard rentals are available for those seeking an alternative adventure.

Skiing Adventure at Sapporo Teine: Guided by a Local Expert

Embark on a thrilling skiing adventure at Sapporo Teine Ski Resort, guided by a local expert. Join the perfect day trip – a chance to revel in the excellence of a snow resort, partake in après ski with a local guide in Sapporo, and discover why Hokkaido’s capital is the ideal base for a skiing adventure in the Far East.

After enjoying a leisurely breakfast at their accommodation in Sapporo, our guests, who were complete beginners from Taiwan, headed directly to Sapporo Station to join our tour without any ski gear. Everything is covered in our tour, so feel free to enjoy the experience without bringing anything for skiing.

Upon arrival, they were welcomed by our special guide, Macy (Masafumi Takahashi), a seasoned professional with an extensive skiing background, including backcountry expertise. Macy began his skiing journey earnestly in elementary school and excelled as a moguls athlete during high school. His dedication to the sport led to being selected as a designated athlete for Hokkaido, highlighting his expertise and commitment. Renowned for his skills, Macy is frequently sought after as an instructor at various ski resorts. Beyond his mastery in skiing, he is a proficient outdoor guide, actively involved in pursuits like mountain hiking during the summer. As the founder of his own company, WHITETREE, Macy adeptly curates delightful journeys while also acting as a community coordinator.

Before hitting the slopes, here are some tips to ensure a comfortable skiing experience:

・While ski wear, boots, boards, and other equipment can be rented, please make sure to bring your own inner layers to wear under the ski gear.

・It’s advisable to have clothing and underwear with insulation and warmth suitable for the cold conditions at high altitudes, along with thick socks that extend to just below the knees.

・Adding a layer of fleece or a light down jacket over the inner layers and wearing a neck warmer can enhance your warmth and comfort.

While we introduced ourselves and chatted relaxedly, the 40-minute drive from the downtown area passed in no time, and we found ourselves at Teine Ski Resort. This extensive ski resort, the largest within Sapporo, boasts an array of 15 courses catering to various skill levels, ensuring a delightful experience for everyone.

“This Teine Ski Resort is like my backyard,” Macy shared. “I grew up around here. If I saw favorable weather and mountain conditions in the morning, I would head straight up to the mountain in 10 minutes to catch and savor the beautiful powder snow. I have been relishing the pleasures of this Teine Resort throughout the entire season since I was a kid.”

Sapporo Teine Ski Resort:

Sapporo Teine, a venue for the 1972 Winter Olympics, still resonates with the historical significance of that event, preserving the same runs and the torch from those iconic Games. Over recent years, it has been selected as the venue for various winter competitions, including the Winter Asian Games and Universiade. Renowned for its exceptional snow quality and meticulously designed courses, Teine Ski Resort secured a place as a finalist in Japan’s Best Ski Resort 2022, solidifying its position among the top ski resorts in Japan.

The summit of Mt. Teine (1,023 m) provides a mesmerizing vista, overlooking the city of Sapporo and Ishikari Bay. The resort is divided into two distinctive zones: the Highland Zone and the Olympia Zone. The Highland Zone, extending from the summit of Mt. Teine at an altitude of 1,023 meters, offers an exhilarating experience as you glide across the snow, capturing panoramic views of the Sapporo cityscape and Ishikari Bay. Many courses in this zone cater to intermediate and advanced skiers, earning a reputation that extends beyond Japan. For those seeking a challenging yet rewarding descent, the Kitakabe (North Face) is a must-try, featuring iconic steep surfaces with a maximum incline of 36 degrees – a thrilling adventure into the steep and deep.

The Highland Zone also presents opportunities for tree runs in the sparsely wooded Nature Zone and a chance to tackle the challenging courses that hosted the slalom and giant slalom events in the Sapporo Olympics. Beginners, on the other hand, can ascend to the summit using the ropeway or chair lift, relishing the view as they glide down the gentle 6,000-meter slope. In contrast, the Olympia Zone is more family-oriented, offering slopes suitable for all levels. Alongside a beginner’s course featuring an average gradient of 13 degrees, it boasts a kids’ park and various snow attractions.

Despite its proximity, just 15 km from the city center, Sapporo Teine receives substantial snowfall, often extending the ski season until early May. The resort remains a favorite among skiers and snowboarders who value its consistent cover of excellent powder snow.

Today’s guests were both skiing for the first time. The tour begins with choosing rental skis, ski boots, outerwear, helmets and other equipment such as gloves, and putting them all on. Macy carefully helped them find the right size. When they were ready, it was time to get started!

The gentle slopes just outside the lodge serve as a practice ground. Initially, handling unfamiliar ski boots and skis posed a challenge, but Macy is adept at dealing with beginners. Even those who aren’t particularly fond of physical activity need not worry. Teine is his home ground, so he often comes and teaches here as an instructor. Our guests struggled initially, even finding it challenging to stand up again using ski poles after a fall, gradually progressing under Macy’s guidance. Thanks to his unique training methods, such as wearing only one ski to develop balance, they quickly advanced to climbing and sliding down short slopes in the morning.

In Japan, meals at ski resorts are often referred to as “Gela-shoku (ゲレ食),” and lunch time is also highly anticipated. Teine Ski Resort boasts four restaurants. Popular Hokkaido dishes like ramen, unique Hokkaido-style meals like Genghis Khan don (ジンギスカン丼 Lamb BBQ served on top of a bowl of rice), and Zangi meat pasta (ザンギミートパスタ Spaghetti Bolognese with deep-fried chicken) are available. On this particular day, the guests and Macy each chose different ramen varieties. The diverse ramen offerings are a characteristic feature of Hokkaido. Of course, besides these, you can enjoy a variety of dishes ranging from Western cuisine to snacks.

After satisfying their appetites, the afternoon marked their ascent to the mountaintop via the ropeway. The view from the summit overlooks the Japan Sea in the distance, providing a breathtaking experience! On this particular day, adorned by the recent heavy snowfall of a few days ago, the snow-covered trees presented a stunning sight, showcasing their captivating beauty.

The natural course from the mountaintop traverses approximately 4 km through wooded areas, allowing skiers to glide down at their own pace while feeling close to nature. Coupled with the gentle slope connecting the Highland Zone and Olympia Zone, approximately 2 km in length, the total distance adds up to around 6 km. This journey offers the longest downhill experience in Hokkaido, with views of the cityscape and Ishikari Bay along the way.

Both of our guests successfully completed this beautiful, lengthy course with sheer joy. For their first attempt, they performed remarkably well! Now is the perfect time to give it a shot. There’s no better time to try it than now, and anyone can do it. Radiating satisfaction, they marveled at the fact that such an authentic skiing resort experience was available so close to the city—no need to embark on a lengthy journey! Skiing in the metropolis while gazing at the ocean truly offers a luxurious experience. It’s an indulgence I would recommend to anyone who hasn’t tried skiing in Sapporo before! I guarantee you would love it and want to discover another of Sapporo’s gems. In your quest across the globe, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another powder snow city where geographical and climate conditions align so perfectly. Its very existence is nothing short of a miracle.

After skiing comes the much-anticipated après ski time. On this particular day, we headed to Susukino, the bustling downtown of Sapporo.

Susukino Nights: The All-Important Après Ski

Après ski, a term of French origin, encompasses the socializing, entertainment, and relaxation that follow a day of skiing or other winter sports. Typically, it involves enjoying drinks, food, and socializing in a cozy atmosphere, making it an essential and enjoyable part of the overall skiing experience.

The best way to have fun in Sapporo during winter is to indulge in skiing or snowboarding during the day and explore the city’s attractions in the evening. After a day on the slopes, savor a couple of cold beers while feasting on Sapporo’s culinary delights. If you have the opportunity, take in the night view of Sapporo. The evening sightseeing truly kicks off when you return to the city center. Head to the nightlife entertainment district of Susukino and let yourself be captivated by the night and the delicious food on your trip.

To round off the day, it’s time for a toast! Today’s spot is the modern Japanese Izakaya, Uontana (うぉんたな), named after a fish rack, which offers fresh seasonal ingredients from all over Hokkaido. At the counter, witness the meticulous cooking process of exquisite dishes crafted by chefs.

This restaurant is renowned for its diverse selection of sake, boasting a lineup of over 40 carefully chosen premium sakes that captivate even connoisseurs. The interior, decorated with attention to detail and adorned with dishes and glassware, creates a tranquil, high-quality space illuminated by the warmth of wood and gentle lights.

After raising their beer glasses with a hearty “Kanpai”, they took a moment to reflect on the day, indulging in delectable dishes like grilled oysters, crab-cream croquette, and chopped herring with miso—especially delightful with herring in season. Expanding their culinary experience, they delved into creative cuisine, savoring French fries and baked potatoes crafted from potatoes aged for an impressive 540 days, promising a sweetness like no other. The baked potatoes are served with butter, handmade salted mackerel, and salmon roe. Our guests were surprised by how unexpectedly well the flavors match!

As a shop proud of its sake selection, this delightful time is complemented with Hokkaido local sake as well, including Hitotsume from Chitosetsuru Sapporo Local Sake Brewery and TOKACHI from Kamikawa Taisetsu Sake Brewery. This enjoyable part of the overall skiing experience provides an opportunity for skiers and snowboarders to unwind and share their experiences. Cheers to a memorable evening!

After enjoying an authentic snow resort experience, you can unwind at local eateries, indulge in leisurely relaxation, soak in hot springs, and even enjoy cultural activities. How easy it is to enjoy the various delights of après ski in Sapporo!

Sapporo stands out as a fantastic city, conveniently situated near some of the world’s finest powder skiing destinations. Consider making it your base for future trips to Japan, where you can immerse yourself in a distinctive blend of city and mountain life. The Snow Resort City of Sapporo eagerly looks forward to welcoming you in the not-too-distant future!