Kiroro

Hokkaido, Japan

Kiroro Snow World is mid-sized ski resort close to the coast of Hokkaido, Japan, which means it gets dumped with tons and tons of snow. As well as being a powder lover’s paradise, this purpose-built resort is also a great option for families who want convenience, value and smaller crowds than nearby Niseko.

Scout Loves

  • Copious amounts of powder snow with an unofficially relaxed tree-skiing policy.
  • Fantastic lift infrastructure – lots of high-speed quads.
  • Fewer Western tourists than other Hokkaido resorts.
  • Convenience – especially if you’re staying at the Sheraton Hotel.
  • A surprisingly good variety of dining options.
  • Kiroro is taking a more lenient policy to skiing out of the resort boundary. Great for those wanting to earn their turns!

Scout Tips

  • Due to its seaside position, sometimes the powder can be a little heavier than inland Hokkaido resorts.
  • There’s no village or town and little in the way of nightlife.
  • Your accommodation options are limited to two big hotels.
  • Kiroro ski resort has a few flat areas connecting some runs.
  • For an additional charge you can buy first tracks tickets (for the 2km Yoichi beginner run only).
  • The nearby port town of Otaru makes a great side trip.

Scout Review

Kiroro Snow World is a ski resort with dual personalities. On the snow it has all the elements of a large, well-established ski resort thanks to plenty of high-speed lifts, including a gondola and covered express quads. Plus the resort base area is well organized with a good ski school and facilities for kids, quality rentals, a decent snowsports shop (believe us – these are few and far between in resorts outside of Niseko and Hakuba) and a variety of dining options. Yet at the same time this is a resort that only has two hotels (granted, one is quite big and fancy) so it remains fairly exclusive to those lucky ones that are staying there, or day-trippers from the nearby town of Otaru, Sapporo or Niseko Ski Resort.

It’s almost the complete opposite of Niseko, where in just the past decade the town and its accommodation have been developed to the max, while on-snow infrastructure has advanced at snail’s pace.

These points are not a negative – far from it! Kiroro is a fantastic choice for families wanting to get away from the Aussie crowds at Niseko, or for powderhounds wanting to sample some of the best powder Japan has to offer. At Kiroro it’s all about the snow. Just don’t expect to be doing a lot once the lifts stop turning.

To be fair, Kiroro has a bunch of other activities for kids in “Kiroro Town” – a collection of buildings next to the Hotel Piano (see families section below). But adults (in particular advanced skiers) without kids in tow may find three or four days at Kiroro is plenty.

Kiroro Skiing

Let’s start with the most important part … depending on who’s reporting it, Kiroro receives anywhere from 14 to 21 meters of snow every season! The average snow accumulation is 2.9m/9.5ft while the record was 5.1m/16.7ft. Once you hear those statistics everything else seems insignificant. But there are plenty of other great aspects to skiing at Kiroro. It has 120ha/296 acres of skiable terrain (versus 159ha at Niseko), but due to the layout of the lifts and slopes spanning several ridgelines, the actual resort area could be a lot bigger, especially if you’re the type who wants to ski in the trees between the ridge lines.

Kiroro has nine lifts, including the 3.3km/2 mile Kiroro Gondola and five high-speed hooded lifts. While express lifts might seem normal when compared to North American resorts, such high-quality lifts is unusual in Japan. Thanks to this and the layout of the resort across three different peaks, crowds (if they are there) get dispersed fairly quickly.

First-time kids will have fun in the snow play area that features a magic carpet to help them get the feel for skiing on fairly flat land.

Beginners are well catered for. Most will start on the short two-person lift at the mountain base area and then progress to one of the other express lifts that have fairly gentle beginner/intermediate terrain.

Intermediates will love Kiroro. It has plenty of long groomers to explore (at least for a couple of days), lots of mogul fields and there are specific ungroomed areas set aside for trying out some powder skiing.

Advanced skiers will struggle to find a good challenge on the slopes, despite the fact Kiroro advertises itself as having 26 per cent advanced terrain. However, if you’re experienced in the trees you will find the off-piste tree skiing some of the best in the country. And the best part is that off-piste is now officially allowed in certain areas, accesed by gates. You must register in the morning at the resort center, have appropriate safety gear (beacon, shovel, probe etc), and display a permisssion tag on your bag or clothes. They take it seriously and often police gates, checking for your tag and that your beacon is activated. There’s some great terrain off the top of the gondola as well as the Nagamine area. Like many resorts in Japan the off-piste tree runs usually require a bit of a flat, long run out (but in Kiroro there are some fun little roller coaster style run-outs along gullys!)

There look to be some amazing backcountry opportunities outside the boundaries and down the sides of the valley behind the Piano Hotel. The resort is implementing a more relaxed policy for people wanting to exit the boundary into the backcountry - if you have a guide it could be well worth doing some hiking to explore the area.

Kiroro has night skiing on one lift most nights, and some terrain park features, including some impressive jumps.

Kiroro For Families

Kiroro is an excellent ski resort for families. Staying at either of the hotels has specific benefits. The Sheraton Hotel is right at the base area and getting to the slopes couldn’t be easier. The Kiroro Tribute Portfolio Hotel is a short shuttle ride away, but has better facilities and is next to the snow park with lots of outdoor activities (see below), a 25m pool, and the “Granship” amusement arcade with climbing wall, pirates adventure, table tennis, karaoke and more. All are an additional charge.

Kiroro has a well-developed ski school for kids. The Annie Kids Ski Academy is adapted from a program run out of the French resort, Avoriaz. It has a structured schedule of programs for kids to progress through the different levels. Unfortunately, at this stage, these lessons are only offered in Japanese, though foreigners are welcome to join in. If you require an English-speaking instructor you will need to book a private lesson.

At the mountain center there’s a kids play room (for kids with their parents) and a nursery service with supervised care for kids aged 1-10 years, though kids under 1 can be looked after on request. More details are in our Scout Field Guide for Kiroro.

Kiroro Accommodation

Kiroro has just two hotels– the Sheraton Hotel, at the resort base and the Kiroro Tribute Porftolio Hotel. There is no self-contained accommodation (condos/apartments). The Kiroro Sheraton is now the more luxurious of the two after a recent upgrade, however the Kiroro Tribute has more variety of restaurants, is closer to the additional activities in “Kiroro Town” and is easily connected to the resort via a frequent complimentary shuttle that takes five minutes. It’s rumored that one day a gondola and ski run will connect the Kiroro Tribute Hotel to the resort base. Read the full profiles and book Kiroro accommodation or Kiroro Ski Packages via Scout.

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Resort Activities

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Kiroro has a surprising number of activities beyond just skiing – though they are primarily for families and kids. Most of these are in the small “Kiroro Town” next to the Kiroro Tribute Porftolio Hotel.  They are all an additional charge and include:

  • A snow park for adults and kids. It has snow play areas plus snowmobile rides (including kid-sized snowmobiles), snow rafts, snow Segways, snow buggies, a snow bubble ball (become a human-sized snowball!) and snow banana boats.
  • The “Granship” amusement facility with a pirates adventure, climbing wall, games, table tennis and karaoke.
  • The hot springs (like an onsen, just not with natural hot springs water)
  • 25m swimming pool with jacuzzi, sauna and gym.

Kiroro Tribute Hotel has two bars and there’s a nice-looking lounge area in the Sheraton Kiroro Hotel for those who want to have some refreshing drinks after skiing or in the evening. Just don’t expect a party Niseko style.

If you are looking for a day or afternoon off, a side trip into the coastal town of Otaru (30-40mins) is well worthwhile. It has a lovely historic port area with arts and crafts shops, and restaurants with some of the best sushi in Japan. The resort offers a free shuttle service to the Otaru train station, or you can catch a Chuo Bus or taxi.

More details about resort activities and side trips are in the Scout Field Guides.

Getting There and Around

Kiroro is a direct bus ride from Sapporo New Chitose airport. It takes about two hours and has about eight departures a day. Book your transfer as part of a Kiroro Ski Package with Scout.

Kiroro is only one hour from Niseko, so makes a great day trip or combination resort. It is possible to catch buses between the resorts. If you have your own wheels it’s a lovely drive over the mountain so well worth a day trip (either way) at least.

For getting around Kiroro there is a complimentary shuttle between the mountain center and Piano Hotel. It runs on a loop so leaves regularly. Otherwise it’s a 10-15 minute walk.

When To Go

Kiroro is open from late November until early May. It receives a lot of snow early in the season and throughout. It can be busier on weekends.

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