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Asahikawa

Asahikawa Airport
airport shuttle bus or taxi

Right in the heart of Hokkaido is Asahikawa, the island's second largest city (after Sapporo). Criminally over-looked by foreign visitors, this is the ideal base from which to visit some of Japan’s best – and quietest - ski mountains in the Daisetsuzan mountain range.

The major draw is Asahidake, essentially a huge backcountry ski area that is serviced by a single cable car. Then there is Kamui – this gorgeous (and usually empty) ski resort is only 20-minutes away and one of Hokkaido’s best kept secrets. Throw in the cat skiing operation in nearby Otoe and the extreme challenges for those brave enough to ski Mount Kuradake.

Asashikawa itself is a really pleasant city. It’s also a lively city – like many provincial centres the world over, the locals do enjoy a night out. And because overseas visitors are so rare, the many restaurants, bars and izakayas are as authentic as can be, with your novelty-factor assuring you sincere and enthusiastic welcome. This is the real Japan, one absent from Niseko and many other purpose-built ski resorts up on Hokkaido Island, and using this super-convenient city as you base from which to explore the region adds another dimension to your holiday.

Asahikawa

Resort Card

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Our Opinion

"To the east are two of Japan’s best freeride mountains. To the west our favourite hidden ski resort and Japan’s best cat ski operation. In the middle, Hokkaido’s second largest city – provincial, bustling and totally authentic. This is exactly why Different Snow was borne, to combine the world’s best skiing combined with Japanese amazingness! Few have cottoned on to how amazing Asahikawa City is, both as a base from which to explore the region and as a city in its own right."

Nick Coates Founder
Asahikawa
43.7709°N 142.3650°E

Skiing around Asahikawa

You are here because of nearby Asahidake mountain, where a single ropeway heads up the volcano (at 2,290 metres, the highest in Hokkaido) providing unfettered access to terrain both above and below the treeline. Simply put, this will be the best days' skiing or riding of your life, waist deep in powder and to all the better if you’re willing to earn your turns a little, with short hikes to find the abundant freshies.



From Asahikawa you will also ski Kamui Ski Links - an open-minded powder-bowl ski resort set on its own, with only seven lifts accessing a network of wide open cruises as well as perfectly-spaced trees and gullies. It feels like your riding your own private mountain as crowds here a virtually non-existent. 

Throw in the cat ski operation at Otoe (see 'activities' below), the intrepid challenges of Kuradake (another Asahidake-like ropeway up a volcano, though more extreme terrain) and several other ski resorts - this is ground for skiing in Japan.

Off Piste & Backcountry

This is why you are here. Asahidake is - essentially - a huge volcano, with a single ropeway taking you two-thirds of the way up one flank. There are a couple of cat track 'pistes' coning down under the cables, but why would  you?! This is pure heaven for anyone who loves deep powder, varied terrain and no crowds. An off-piste paradise that is the exclusive domain of advanced or expert skiers only. Open bowls, some steeps, shoots and gullies up top, the world's best tree skiing on the bottom half.  

This is proper backcountry skiing - unpatrolled and not avalanche controlled, so carry your beacon, shovel and probe, and take the usual backcountry precautions. 

Elsewhere - Kamui is truly a gem, and the ski patrollers are enlightened. And because the ski resort is so quiet, popular with Japanese families only, the off-piste bounty is just waiting for you. We skied there 48 hours after a storm and it was fresh tracks all day.

Kurodake is another volcano in the region and really defies Hokkaido's reputation for mellow terrain. The ski area consists of a ropeway (or cable car) and a double chairlift that were originally installed for hiking in summer. In winter, however, these lifts access a range of terrain that drops steeply into the Sounkyo gorge below. With a bit of hiking the options for advanced skiers are endless, but this is potentially treacherous terrain for those without local knowledge and we'll only let you loose with an experienced, knowledgable and safety-conscious guide on this most tricky of mountains.

 

Intermediates

Kamui is a great ski resort and a couple of days here for anyone is tremendous fun - be it caving down the immaculate groomers or dipping your skis in the abundant powder in amongst the tees. It may not be a huge resort, but the lack of crowds and its friendly nature make it a hugely enjoyable experience. Other than that, several other nearby ski resorts - Canmore and Santa Park - are worth a day each.

But the big guns in the region - Asahidake and Kuradake - are not for intermediates and anyone heading up without the skills is putting themselves in danger. Admittedly, Asahidake does have the cat tracks - which the Japanese consider 'pistes' coming back down under the ropeway so there is an escape route. But....why bother? Instead, these are places to ski if you have the confidence and experience to ride deep powder off-piste.

Novice

Pottering around Kamui Ski Links is gear and it would be a wonderful place to learn to ski, but without any language instructors, it's kind of pointless. Head to Niseko or Furano instead.

Staying in Asahikawa City

This is a large town / small city and, as provincial hub, there are many humdrum hotels to be found - ubiquitous Japanese 'business' hotels; two- or three-stars, functional but grubby, tiny single rooms, very cheap. However, because this is a holiday we prefer something a little more salubrious and when Hoshino recently opened the OMO7 in town it was this, more than any other factor, which put Asahikawa on the map as a ski destination. Alternatively, you could stay out at the base of Asahidake ropeway but do be mindful of the fact that there is nothing - and we mean absolutely nothing - else out there.

Hotels & Ryokans

A lively and stylish hotel with plenty of fun, quirky touches - Asahikawa deserves a hotel this go...

First Class
Asahikawa City Centre

At the foot of the cable car, and with nothing else around, is this hundrum 'resort complex'.

Medium
Asahidake Mountain

Ski Guiding in Asahidake

Ski in Kamui to your heart's content. Head off to Pippu or Canmore and  explore at your own pace. However, for days on Asahidake or even Kurodake, then a private ski guide is a great idea - actually, essential if heading to the latter. 

 

Theoretically it would be possible to head over to Asahidake mountain by yourself, though this huge ski area and a local guide (at least for the first day you ski this mountain) is a massive boon. It's what everyone does - otherwise you'll simply end up skiing down below the ropeway. You need to be shown and - because the weather is so changeable up here - the safety factor also makes it necessary.

 

Kurodake is an extreme mistress and the weather here can be utterly unpredictable. We won't even consider letting you consider it without our local go-to man, who knows the area. 

On the mountain

The ultimate powder day - a single cable car affords access to fabled, un-pisted slopes.

Long, open off-piste runs, often through the trees. Then snowcat...straight back up again.

Hire an experienced, qualified, locally-knowledgeable private ski or snowboard guide.

Itineraries featuring central Hokkaido

The below itineraries are offered to provide you with a starting point, to demonstrate what your ski or snowboarding holiday to Japan could potentially entail. But, with us, there are no set departures.

 

Consider them as inspiration only, as each itinerary we put together will be tailored to suit your preferences and budget. Get in contact with us, and we'll craft your perfect itinerary together.

Hokkaido Powder Unlimited - Itinerary
Itinerary

Hokkaido Powder Unlimited

An itinerary with a singular objective: to ride the finest, deepest powder snow in Hokkaido.

15 days
Niseko - Asahikawa - Furano
Find out more
The Powder Hunter - Itinerary
Itinerary

The Powder Hunter

Untracked powder snow. That's it...nothing more required. The best in Japan please...

14 days
Asahikawa - Furano - Shiga Kogen
Find out more

Ski Concierge

When basing yourself in Asahikawa, flexibility is key. Therefore, we will book your accommodation in the city (or out at Asahidake) and then leave you independent, to head to either Kamui, Asahidake, Canmore or any of the other ski resorts as you see fit and depending on local conditions. You'll buy lift passes, organise local transport and hire ski equipment yourself - but we'll give you the low-down on how, why, where and what?

Lift Passes

Asahidake Mountain - it's cheap! A full day pass costs only ¥2,500 (circa £18). The ropeway leaves every 20 minutes and, expect to do 6-10 runs in a day, depending on crowds and how much exploring and skinning you do.

Kamui Ski Links - again...cheap! A day's pass for an adult costs only ¥3,100 (circa £25).

Kurodake - guess what?...cheap! A full day pass at Kurodake, allowing access to the ropeway (cable car) and chair lift costs only ¥3,800 (circa £30).

Canmore is ¥2,500 for the day and Pippu is ¥3,000.

 

Equipment Hire

The OMO7 hotel in Asahikawa has, in its lobby, a small but brilliantly stocked ski apparel outlet. And here they hire out ski and snowboarding equipment - the stock is in limited supply, but super high quality i.e. powder-specialist skis and boards, latest model...etc. We'll get it reserved for you, you pay locally. 

Local Transport

There is a shuttle bus, operated by Kamui Ski Links, which links the hotel in Asahikawa, the train station and the ski resort. It's complimentary, it leaves at convenient times, it only takes 20-minutes each way and it's quite literally door-to-door.

The OMO7 Hotel also operates a daily shuttle to and from Asahidake mountain each day, giving you a full day on the volcano. This is a longer journey - it takes about an hour each way. 

Getting to the cat ski operation in Otoe requires a taxi - we will pre-book, you pay locally.

Getting to other nearby ski resorts, such as Canmore, Pippu or Santa Park is easy - local buses or taxis, which the hotel will be happy to book / explain.

 

Getting to and from Asahikawa City

Asahikawa has its own airport, which has several direct flights a day coming in from Tokyo. Therefore, it serves as a great starting or end point for your itinerary.

Connecting up with Niseko is more pf a challenge, bur perhaps best achieved by train - the route takes you through both Sapporo City and Otaru, requiring a change of train in both. It's a five-hour journey, if you don't loiter along the way.

There are regular public coaches, and a local branch line train, which connects Asahikawa City and Furano - they are reasonably close.

What our customers say

4.5 star rating

Our customers rate us 'Excellent'

Highly recommend

We had no idea what to expect in Japan (or how we would get around), we couldn't have done it without the expertise and guide documents from Different Snow. Everything on the holiday ran very smoothly and we felt like we could call at any time if we had any questions.

Grace  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

We had a trip of a lifetime holiday

Different Snow presented us with an excellent itinerary to suit our budget and accommodated specific requests. We had a whistlestop tour of Tokyo followed by great powder skiing in Hakuba then a cultural exploration of Kyoto. A fascinating and rewarding trip!

S Macquaker  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

Please visit our TrustPilot page to read the full reviews.

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