Seasons change, but our wanderlust remains. And this coming winter, instead of escaping the cold by jetting off to a tropical paradise somewhere along the equator, why not head North – specifically to Hokkaido, Japan.
Hokkaido is one of the main islands of Japan known primarily for two things: the beer in Sapporo, and the ski resorts everywhere else. The powder snow that falls from the heavens once December rolls around is one of the best in the world, and thanks to the dry winds that blow down from Siberia, the snowfall in the region is constant.
According to experts (or just frequent travellers who love skiing), the best time to go to Hokkaido is in January, where it can average almost 24 days of snow during the month in the most popular ski area, Niseko. The only caveat to this? Everyone who has been planning a trip to Hokkaido also knows that it is the best season to visit the ski slopes. You can thank us later when you find out you got the last room of the resort you picked out.
Still need further persuasion? Hokkaido played host to the athletes competing in the 1972 Winter Olympics and the 2017 Asian Winter Games, and the numerous family-friendly resorts scattered around the island all boast coveted views of the mountains and ski trails.
Here, we rounded up the six best ski resorts in Hokkaido, should you be planning a trip with your partner or family. Be it a boutique resort or a upscale chain, there’s bound to be one that fits your needs. And if you’ve already booked your dates, check out our list of the best high-tech ski gear that will make your life easier on the slopes.
One of the top ski resorts in Hokkaido, Ki Niseko is a boutique ski-in ski-out hotel that lies at the base of the Grand Hirafu Resort with views of Mount Yotei. And don’t for a second think that it’s an adults only playground – families often bring their kids along to the Ki, too. After a long day out in the snow, indulge in one of the two indoor and outdoor onsens that originate from Ki’s own spring-water source.
Ki Niseko, 183-43 Yamada, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, 044-0081, Japan, +81-136-212565
Loyalists of Hilton’s HHonors programme can take heed knowing that their favourite hotel chain has set up shop at the foot of Niseko’s Annupuri Mountain. Hilton’s Niseko resort has all the bells and whistles of a resort you don’t want to leave: four restaurants, a gondola at the door step, and an onsen. If you wanna stay till the summer, there’s horseback riding and a golf course for you, too.
Hilton Niseko Village, 048-1592, Abuta-gun, Niseko-cho, Higashiyama Onsen, Japan, +81-136-441111
The ski town of Furano is an alternative you can consider if you aren’t looking to be caught up in the crowds that will gather at Niseko. The New Furano Prince Hotel is situated right at the base of the Furano Ski Area, with a Family Snow Land within walking distance if you’re bringing the young ones for a good snow time. If you’re bored and tired of skiing, theres a star watching tour you can embark. If you see a shooting star, you know what to do.
New Furano Prince Hotel, Hokkaido, Furano, Nakagoryo,076-8511, Japan, +81-167-221111
Ski resorts can’t turn a profit if it only operates during winter, that’s why the Westin Rusutsu Resort has decided to operate year-round. Not only are its 210 rooms equipped with the signature Westin Heavenly Beds, they are all bi-level suites that boast either spectacular views of the Rusutsu ski mountains or the three golf courses.
Westin Rusutsu Resort, 133 Izumikawa Rusutsu-mura, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, 048-1711, Japan, +81-136-462111
Skiers who want a no-frills ski resort can head to the village of Akaigawa and stay at the Sheraton Kiroro Resort. The ski area has 21 trails for you to pick from, with the longest one at just slightly over 4km. Nearby, there is the Kiroro Town that is decked out with a market, hot springs, and an indoor arcade for children.
Sheraton Hokkaido Kiroro Resort, 650 Tokiwa Akaigawa, Yoichi-gun, Hokkaido, 046-0593, Japan, +81-135-347111
Club Med is known around the world for its all-inclusive resorts, and the latest addition to its portfolio is their second ski resort in Hokkaido, the Tomamu. Slated to open come December 2017, the Club Med Tomamu has access to over 145 acres of the Tomamu mountainous ranges, and is nearby Japan’s largest indoor wave pool, Mina Mina beach, perfect if you want to take a break from all the snow and the onsens.
Club Med Tomamu Hokkaido, Nakatomamu, Shimukappu, Yufutsu District, Hokkaido, 079-2204, Japan, 1800 258 2633