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SKI JAPAN

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Furano

Furano is one of Japan's most famous ski resorts, although relatively little is known about it outside of Japan. Situated in the middle of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, Furano benefits from Siberian storm systems that pass over the Sea of Japan and then dump the lightest and driest snow in all of Hokkaido - and 9 meters of it each season.

The Furano Ski area is made up two zones, the Kitanomine zone (Mid. Dec - Late Mar) and the Furano zone (Late Nov - Early May). Both areas have a variety of accommodation options and the town of Furano is only a 3 min shuttle from the Kitanomine zone and a 6 min shuttle away from the Furano zone, and is home to a wide array of restaurants and bars and all the services you would expect to find in a town. Both of these zones can be accessed on the one pass and are serviced by 11 lifts. Furano has an abundance of varied terrain for every level of skier and snowboarder and a vertical drop of over 950 meters making it one of the steepest mountains in Hokkaido.

There are a number of restaurants and cafeterias open on the mountain during the ski season. At the base of both the Kitanomine Gondola and the Furano Ropeway (cable car), there are decent restaurants where you can get a wide variety of good, hearty and healthy meals. At the top of the ropeway in the Furano Zone there is also a small European style café restaurant with a fireplace to sit by. There are a variety of choices for all diets and tastes if you look for it and all the food is reasonably priced. There is also food, drinks and beers available at vending machines right across the hill at different points. All drinks are also very reasonably priced. At the base of the Kitanomine gondola you can find the Snow Dome Festival site. This is a great area to grab a bite to eat after skiing, have a relaxing drink, hot wine, beer or hot chocolate, and unwind in a small country festival atmosphere.

Two ski-in, ski-out Prince Hotels are located on the mountain, and the ski area shares a common lift pass with two nearby ski resorts. The New Furano Prince Hotel is the newer of the two hotels, and is also much larger than the Furano Prince Hotel. Located in the heart of the Furano Zone it is an easy ski passed two chair lifts to the Rope-way. The Furano Prince Hotel is located in the Kitanomine Zone with easy access to the lifts. A semi-regular hotel bus connects the two hotels. Outside of these two Prince hotels there are numerous smaller hotels, motels, and pensions located on close to the slopes or in the downtown area. There are a number of restaurants at the New Furano Prince that offer a both Western and Japanese food options;

Restaurant Karamatsu

12th Floor (seats 128).


Dishes are based around seasonal ingredients to bring you the best of Japanese food in Hokkaido.

Kiroro

Kiroro is a smallish ski resort on the Northern island of Hokkaido. Close to Niseko it enjoys mountains of snowfall (approx 12m per year), without the crowds and has that family friendly feel. Less well known, Kiroro is the hidden gem of the region, only an hour North-East of Niseko. Usually receiving more snow than its sibling resorts, locals come to Kiroro to escape the lift lines and find deep untracked tree-skiing. Lift lines are rare and even when the snow does stop falling, fresh tracks can be found for days. There are 21 runs ranging from 400m-4,050m in length, with a good spread of difficulties, split almost evenly between green, red (blue), and black.

Getting here is relatively easy. There are regular shuttles from Chitose airport that deliver you right to the door. The last one leaves at 5:40pm, so if your flight arrives later than that then it's a train/taxi trip. Board the JR Rapid Airport headed OTARU, for ¥1,590, but get off at Otaruchikko - 2 stops before Otaru. This train stops many times on the way and takes approx 75mins. Once at Otaruchikko, make your way to the South exit and grab a taxi to Kiroro. It takes about 50mins and should cost approx ¥7,000. It is not that far to Kiroro but in winter the drive is slower due to the road conditions.

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There are two hotels at Kiroro, both part of the Sheraton group. We stayed at The Kiroro, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, the other is Sheraton Hokkaido Kiroro Resort. The Sheraton is a ski-in/ski-out hotel, while the Tribute is 1 km down the road from the slopes. There is a shuttle bus that runs between the Mountain Centre and the Tribute every 10mins between 8am-9pm. Then after 9pm it is every 30mins until midnight.

The Staff were very friendly and helpful, and there is a good mix of English speakers. The rooms were a good size for Japan, and quite functional. The Wi-fi was good throughout the hotel, with only minimal slow periods during heavy use. 

The Kiroro, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel (formerly the Piano Hotel), is a reasonably lavish hotel with 282 hotel rooms across 13 floors. There are a range of western room standards and Japanese/western combo rooms. All rooms are well appointed, spacious and have ensuites, and the upscale Hollywood rooms have mountain views from the bathtub! The hotel has a range of restaurants including a delightful Italian restaurant, a sushi restaurant, and a casual buffet eatery. The hotel also has loads of facilities including a day spa, swimming pool, onsen, entertainment complex and a few shops.

Sheraton Hokkaido Kiroro Resort
Whilst not as glamorous, the Sheraton Hokkaido Kiroro Resort also provides a high standard of accommodation, and the ski-in ski-out convenience is fantastic. The Mountain Hotel has 5 floors with 140 rooms that provide a spread of Western and Japanese style accommodation. The hotel has an upscale buffet restaurant and easy access to the facilities of the Resort Centre.

The Tokiwayu Spa is directly connected to both the ski slopes and hotel and is fully equipped with indoor baths, cold-water baths, open air Jacuzzi and saunas. Best of all it is free to guests staying at the Sheraton Hokkaido Kiroro Resort.

Tomamu

Tomamu

Tomamu Ski Resort in Hokkaido is the most extravagant of the Hokkaido ski resorts, with a 50 metre wave pool, glamorous restaurants and peculiar looking sky-scraper hotel towers. When you see the size of the hotel towers at the base, you’d think that the Tomamu ski area must be the size of Whistler Blackcomb. Then you remember you’re in Japan where the ski resorts are only small to medium sized and Tomamu Ski Resort is no exception. The Tomamu ski resort also caters really well to families and the young at heart, with an adventure terrain park and a kids-specific park.

Officially the ski resort is 145 hectares in size (which probably only refers to the piste) with 28 courses (ie trails) and a vertical drop of 699 metres (540-1,239m). The ski area offers a variety of terrain including a great beginner area, various groomers for intermediates, and a couple of advanced mogul runs. The "expert" courses and off-piste skiing are certainly a drawcard for the advanced skier and snowboarder, whilst the sidecountry and backcountry areas around Tomamu are a major bonus.

There are two hotels at Tomamu, both part of the Hoshino Resorts group. We stayed at 'The Tower' on both our visits. It is the 'budget' hotel for guests who are looking for an active holiday at a reasonable price. The Tower - or actually Towers (there are two) is conveniently located in the center of the resort, close to the restaurant mall Foresta Mall and the golf course. They are the two towers (green and brown) in background of the photo.

The other hotel is the Risonare Tomamu - also comprised of two towers - shown in the foreground of the photo. The Risonare Tomamu is an all-suite hotel, located on an elevated site in the resort surrounded by coniferous trees. Each room is 100 square meters or larger with a sauna and a jacuzzi with a view.

Shiga Kogan

Shiga Kogan is Japan’s largest ski resort. Twenty-one interlinked ski areas provide many options, from long cruisers to challenging moguls, from powder bowls to beginner slopes. And one lift ticket gives you access to 71 lifts, gondolas and ropeways. As with a lot of resorts in Japan - the snow conditions are amazing. The extensive lift network enables skiers and snowboarders to easily move around from one resort to the next or there is a shuttle bus running between each resort if you do not want to ski. There are certain areas in Shiga Kogen for Skiers only. Snowboarding is at times is also restricted when the ski runs are being used for school excursion programs.

The northern area leads to Oku Shiga Kogen and is flanked by a number of 2000 m high peaks providing an immense area for skiers and snowboarders to explore. The northern area's Higashidateyama Resort hosted the slalom and giant slalom events of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Most of the ski areas are connected such that you can easily travel between them on ski or snowboard; however, there is also a shuttle bus that serves the resorts from December to early May (free for lift ticket holders).

Visitors to Nagano can also see a range of fascinating cultural sights. Apart from the 3000 metre Japanese Alps, there is the World famous Jigokudani Monkey Hot Springs, where wild snow monkeys can be seen bathing in the natural hot springs. Or visit the Matsumoto castle or Zenkoji Temple . Be sure not to miss the Wasabi farm where this amazing flavour is used in a variety of different foods - even ice cream!

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We stayed at The Shiga Kogen Prince Hotel West Wing as it is one of the top hotels in the Shiga Kogen Resort. Located at the impossible to pronounce Yakibitaiyama, this hotel is a true 5 star, ski in / ski out resort hotel. Rooms look out over the ski slopes, and up to the 2,000m peak of Mt Yakibitaiyama. The hotel has several restaurants, or you can move to the nearby Eastern wing for even more options. The resort in front of the hotel takes a day to explore all runs, while the same lift pass is valid at all Shiga Kogen Ski Areas.

There are a number of restaurants across the 3 Shiga Kogen Prince Hotels.;

  • Main Dining Room - East Building (seats 222). - For lunch, enjoy Japanese and Western favorites from the a la carte menu in cozy surroundings as you look out over a winter wonderland. For dinner, enjoy a leisurely meal of dishes that make the most of local ingredients, including popular Italian dishes and Japanese favorites such as shabu-shabu.

  • Dining Room - South Building (seats 202).Enjoy a Japanese, Western, Chinese-style buffet in elegant surroundings with a view of a silver birch wood.

  • Restaurant Westside - West Building (seats 804). Enjoy a relaxing meal in the casual surroundings of this spacious restaurant with large windows that look out over the snow
     

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