Tomamu

Hokkaido, Japan

Tomamu is one of Japan’s best ski resorts for families, with plenty of facilities, activities and services to make for an easy and enjoyable ski holiday. Fortunately it’s also got some of the best off-piste tree skiing in the country and, better still, it’s completely legal. Powder-hungry skiers and boarders will be delighted!

Scout Loves

  • Amazing facilities for families, including plenty of indoor and outdoor activities.
  • Dedicated powder areas set aside for advanced skiers and boarders with a new express quad.
  • Everything is convenient and it’s easy to get around.
  • A variety of dining options, including a cute “Forest Mall” with small, local-style restaurants.
  • Uncrowded slopes.
  • Being greeted by Snow Angels at the entrance to the Snow Hotel.

Scout Tips

  • Skiers and boarders wanting to ski the powder zones need to register at the resort center.
  • There’s no village or town attached to Tomamu. There is a small community 10-minutes drive away, but it’s not accessible by public transport.
  • There are only two hotel options and they’re not necessarily for those on a tight budget.
  • “Resort fever” may set in for adults without kids, if staying for longer than a few days.
  • The main restaurants are giant buffet halls (although the food is actually quite good).
  • There is absolutely no nightlife.
  • Tomamu can get bitterly cold in January or in a big snow storm.

Scout Review

Arriving at Tomamu ski resort in Hokkaido is surreal. Four giant skyscrapers up to 40-floors high rise from the valley floor and contrast starkly with the beautiful mountains and snowfields that surround them. Once there, the out-of-this-world experience continues as you discover that Tomamu is like a cross between a luxurious cruise ship and Disneyland.

Tomamu is a purpose-built ski resort about 1.5 hours drive East of Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport. Like Kiroro and Appi Kogen, the resort was developed in the boom times of the late 80s by a single developer that owns all parts of the mountain and facilities at the base area.

No expense was spared at Tomamu and fortunately over the past 25 years the resort has continued to invest in facilities and infrastructure – most notably new express lifts, including the Powder Express lift that accesses powder-skiing areas preserved and reserved for advanced skiers and riders. Tomamu also offers cat skiing and backcountry guides to explore even more powder areas close to the resort.

At the base area there are a ton of activities on and off the snow (see full list below), including one of Japan’s largest wave pools – 80m long and 30m wide. There’s even an ice chapel should you feel the need to suddenly get married!

Scattered throughout the resort’s two hotels and buildings are a variety of restaurants and dining options, all connected by undercover walkways or a looped shuttle bus.

The result of all this is a ski resort that is perfect for families and powderhounds – as long as they don’t mind buying their après beers from a vending machine.

Tomamu Skiing

Tomamu has great skiing for all standards and some of the best powder snow in the country. Since it’s inland, the snowfall is generally less than that on the coast, but it’s light and dry.

The ski area is divided over two main mountains – Tomamu Mountain and Tower Mountain. Each has a separate base area with the main Tower Hotel appropriately forming the base of the Tower Mountain. The two mountains are connected via an old chair and green and blue runs.

Beginners will spend most of their time on Tower Mountain. The ski school, which has English-speaking instructors (for private lessons only) meets at the Tower. There’s a magic carpet right outside, and the Nipo Chair which accesses beginner runs and “Adventure Mountain”. Beginners will progress to longer green runs on both mountains and then some of the resort’s intermediate runs.

Although there are some intermediate runs, it’s this group that’s not as well catered for at Tomamu. There are parts of the mountain in which they can try their hand at powder skiing, but until they have adequate skills much of the great powder terrain is strictly for advanced skiers.

It’s the advanced powder-hungry skiers who are very well looked after at Tomamu. The resort has a “Commitment to Winter Mountains” program that regulates off-piste skiing but makes it legal, unlike many other resorts in Japan. You can even ski under a lift line! When combined with the Powder Express Lift (new in 14/15) at the top of Tomamu Mountain it really is like a dream. The other area is at the top of Tower Mountain, appropriately named Powder Heaven. The best runs require a short hike that accesses wind-loaded powder fields. To participate in the program advanced skiers and riders must register at the Resort Center (base of the Unkai Gondola) where they are made to listen to an explanation about the slope conditions, are given a bib to wear and they must possess a helmet and sign a waiver. All of these precautions are well worth the effort. The resort even provides a handy map, explaining the characteristic of the different areas.

Tomamu has a terrain park with a variety of features and it’s been reported to have a high quality half-pipe. There’s night skiing from 4pm–7pm under the Tower Express.  The resort has a good variety of rentals including high-end Atomic skis and Salomon snowboards.

Unfortunately for Scout our visit to Tomamu was timed with a 1.5m/5ft dump over two days that, when combined with electrical problems, caused the ski resort to shut for the entire duration – the first time this had happened in years. It was cruel being forced to watch dry, light powder pile up head high in a resort that actively encourages off-piste powder skiing, all while being stuck inside. Next time …

Tomamu For Families

Where Tomamu is a powder heaven for advanced skiers, it’s like Disneyland for families. Plenty to keep the kids entertained for hours on end and with great facilities on and off the snow. (See the full list of activities below). Parents will love how convenient everything is – it certainly makes for an easy ski holiday.

Tomamu provides English-speaking instructors for private kids lessons (not guaranteed for group lessons). There’s a great learning area called Nipo Town, just outside the Tower Hotel, for first-timers with magic carpet for skiing and sledding, and play equipment (including igloos).

Tomamu offers child care at a nursery in the Tower (¥750 per 30 minutes) that operates from 9am–6pm. Unusually for Japan it doesn’t shut during lunch hours, so parents can ski all day to their hearts’ content! There’s an additional option for the staff to take the children outside for snow play. Reservations are recommended.

Tomamu Accommodation

The accommodation at Tomamu is restricted to two hotels – both of which contain hotel rooms only (no self-contained accommodation). The Tower Hotel (which is actually two giant towers) is the hub of most of the activity in the resort. Risonare Tomamu is another pair of tall towers located a little further away from the Tower base. It’s the more luxurious of the two options and has some big suites. It’s a 10-minute walk between the two via a covered walkway.

Read our detailed reviews of the two hotels in Tomamu and book your accommodation and ski package via Scout.

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Resort Activities

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Scout Field Guide >

It takes a big pamphlet to list all the non-skiing activities available at Tomamu. Needless to say guests (particularly families) will be kept entertained for hours.

Outdoor Activities

  • Polar Village: An outdoor snow-play area with snowshoeing, tree climbing, kids snowmobiles, snow rafting, banana boats and sled parks.
  • Excursions: Cross-country skiing with breakfast, night snow-cruising in a sled with cheese raclette dinner, ice-fishing.
  • The Ice Village: Opens 5pm-10pm with an ice-skating rink, ice slides and ice playground, illuminated igloos with an ice bar, ice café, shop and ice school (where you can turn a snow crystal into a charm!).
  • An ice chapel.
  • Cat skiing and backcountry guides.

Indoor Activities

  • Mina-Mina Beach: One of Japan’s largest indoor wave pools and shallow kids pool.
  • Onsen: Although not strictly an onsen since it’s artificially heated, there’s an outdoor hot bath.
  • Spa treatments.
  • A delightful, Scandinavian-style café with an excellent range of design magazines.
  • A kids room.
  • Souvenir stores with some convenience items.

Getting There and Around

Tomamu is located in central Hokkaido, east of Sapporo. It’s very easy to get there from New Chitose Airport with direct buses (1hr, 25mins). There are six return buses a day.

Alternatively you can catch the train to Tomamu station (1hr from New Chitose with one change) and then catch a free courtesy bus to the resort.

More details are in the Scout Field Guide for Tomamu.

When To Go

Tomamu’s ski season runs from late November until early April. It can be bitterly cold in January-February, but this is when you find the best powder. Conditions can be variable in March and December – from blue sunny skies one day to dumping with snow the next.

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