Hokkaido, Japan

Furano is up there with the best when it comes to ski resorts in Japan. Offering a wide variety of terrain, lots of powder, a good selection of accommodation and a relatively authentic village and nearby town, it has something for everyone and will suit a range of tastes and budgets. Furano is a good mix of Western influences and comforts, and Japanese culture. The ski resort itself caters to all ability levels and skiing preferences, from advanced off-piste and amazing sidecountry (easily accessed) to long leg-burning groomed runs. Receiving abundant snowfall each season (up to 9 metres), Furano is a perfect spot to experience true Hokkaido powder.

Scout Loves

  • The many deep, dry powder days that are typical of the Hokkaido region.
  • The good selection of restaurants and bars in the Kitanomine village.
  • Furano is great for families. There's condo accommodation and kids aged under 12 years ski free!
  • It’s a fantastic base from which to explore other nearby ski resorts and backcountry ski areas.
  • The dairies and cake shops … the best crème caramel ever is at Furano Delice.

Scout Tips

  • There are plenty of extra activities in the area. Visit the helpful Tourist Office at the Kitanomine base for help.
  • Chose your accommodation location carefully, based on what you want to do after skiing or how close it is to the slopes.
  • Unusually for resorts in Japan (except for Hakuba and Niseko) Furano offers some condo-style accommodation.

Scout Review

Located about three hours northeast of New Chitose Sapporo airport, Furano is an increasingly popular ski destination and for many good reasons. Although it hasn’t been taken over by Western developers like nearby Niseko, it feels like it’s on the verge of a boom. Scout hopes it will retain some of what makes Furano special today – a great ski resort with somewhat uncrowded slopes attached to a genuine Japanese town and village.

Furano the ski resort is divided into two zones – Kitanomine and Furano, both of which are serviced by relatively fast lifts including a gondola and a ropeway (cable car). The vertical (974m/3195ft) is fairly impressive by Japanese standards and there’s some decent skiing for all skiers and boarders. Even advanced skiers will be impressed with steep pitches here and there and if you’re careful (of patrollers and inherent dangers) you can even find some great trees to ski in. A powder day at Furano is awesome.

There are two base areas to Furano Ski resort for the Furano Zone and the Kitanomine Zone. It’s Kitanomine Village where most of the après action occurs. The village is a little spread out but there’s a good selection of lodging options (most of which are within walking distance to the slopes), a few shops, some decent restaurants and a few bars. If we were to be overly critical, we feel Kitanomine village’s stretched-outness and lack of a real main street combine to rob it of a happening vibe, even though there’s plenty happening.  We do love that it feels “real” with a sense of community. We enjoyed watching skiers walking home from the slopes along with children returning to their houses after a day at school.

Further down the hill is the town of Furano– a vibrant Japanese town with a ton of shops, restaurants and bars. It’s definitely worth exploring and is easy to get to via taxi. While most major restaurants there cater to Westerners there are some hidden gems to be found and it's a peak into what regular life is like for locals living in snowy Hokkaido.

Furano Skiing

With more than 170ha (420acres) of ski runs, Furano is large by Japanese standards. And thanks to the way it’s spread out and some occasional tree skiing opportunities it actually feels (and probably is) a lot bigger. Scout has skied Furano on some big powder day … we were once even the first to make tracks down the Premium Zone when it opened for the first time after three solid days of dumping. Neck deep in powder, with no tracks in front of us, it’s a run that will never be forgotten. Talk about right place, right time! But in Furano, this sort of deep powder isn’t unusual. It’s in the center of Hokkaido, so often the snow here is a lot dryer and lighter than resorts closer to the sea.

But Furano isn’t just for the powderhounds and advanced skiers and boarders. There are plenty of easy groomed runs and a good beginner area at the base of each zone. Since the runs are very wide at the base it allows beginners to get to the bottom without feeling like they’re being bombarded by other skiers.

For those staying on-piste Furano can be pleasant surprise for those that know Japanese resorts well - and that is mostly thanks to the long runs starting from either a single gondola ride in the Kitanomine zone or a long tram ride in the Furano zone. There are usually some sections that are steep and some with moguls, and there is always an easy way around.

With several guiding companies based in Furano there’s some excellent opportunities for exploring the side and backcountry where you will find plenty of untracked powder… if you’re prepared to work for it. There are now official gates to access the side country for runs that end up back at the resort - though the trees can be very tight in some of these areas. You will need to sign a form at the Kitanomine or Furano base before venturing out and, as always, it is only reccomended for those with the right safety equipment and knowledge.

There is a ski school that operates out of each base area and has lessons in English. They also have ski rentals including top-of-the-range powder skis. Lessons and rentals can be booked via Scout as part of a Furano Ski Package. There are some good terrain park facilities and a night skiing in both zones.

One of the great advantages of staying in Furano is the opportunity to explore several nearby ski areas as day trips, in particular Asahidake, Kurodake, Kamui Ski Links, Sahoro and Tomamu. Generally this is easiest done with a guide who can drive you there and using a guide will also make the experience more enjoyable. And for more advanced resorts such as Asahidake and Kurodake it’s almost essential to go with someone who knows the terrain. Scout can book backcountry guides as part of a Scout ski package. They do get booked up so it's wise to book well in advance.

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Furano For Families

Furano is one of our top picks for families for a variety of reasons. Firstly, kids under 12 ski free! Secondly there’s a good selection of self-catered apartments, some of which are within easy walking distance to the ski lifts. In addition there’s a good ski school with group lessons in English. And lastly, by staying in the Kitanomine village and perhaps venturing into Furano town a few times, you will get at least an essence of the Japanese culture.


Furano Accommodation

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Most of the accommodation in Furano that is best for skiers, is based in the Kitanomine village. It spreads down the hill from the ski area, so those in the lower part of the village will have a 10-15 minute walk up the hill in the morning. Some are even a bit further away and will probably require a shuttle to get to the slopes. Scout wouldn’t recommend staying in the town of Furano. Since there’s no town ski shuttle it’s not that easy to get to and from the slopes, unless you have your own car.

The Prince hotel chain has two properties – the New and the Old. The New Furano Prince is located in a ski-in ski-out location at the base of the Furano Zone. It’s quite separate from the action at Kitanomine, though they do run a regular free shuttle that takes about 10-15 minutes to get to the village. The “Old” Prince hotel is ski-in ski-out at the base of the Kitanomine Zone, a little up the hill from the village.

One of the strengths of Furano as a destination is the opportunity to choose the style of accommodation that suits you best, since most are covered. It’s one of the few resorts in Japan to have self-contained apartments that range from simple to luxurious. There are also some great Japanese-style hotels to choose from. Many of these regularly fill up with school groups so they can get busy.

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Resort Activities

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Furano is a year-round destination so there are always activities no matter what time of year. Summer is actually a busier time when hoards flock to see the lavender fields, taste wines, go hiking and try their hand at fishing, rafting, golfing, cycling and more.

In winter there are still plenty of things to do other than skiing. There’s snow rafting (a snow banana boat towed behind a snowmobile), cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and even ice-fishing!

From late December until March there’s a Snow Night Fantasy village with snow domes, tubing, a café and a play-land near the New Prince Hotel. You can also go hot-air ballooning and there are a few cultural activities such as tea ceremonies and cultural performances.

We also love visiting the Furano dairy for some delicious treats (and great pizza) where you can watch them making cheese.

If you love arts and crafts don’t miss the cute little village of wooden huts next to the New Furano Prince Hotel, called Ningle Terrace, which sells all sorts of handmade goodies. Perfect for gifts to take home!

The Furano Tourist Office can help with most extra activities and has English-speaking staff and is located in the gondola base.

Getting There and Around

Most people come to Furano via New Chitose Sapporo Airport, however Asahikawa airport is another closer option that has daily flights from Narita and Haneda. Furano is a one hour drive from Asahikawa and three hours from New Chitose.

There are direct buses from both airports and those from New Chitose stop at most Furano hotels. Transfers can be booked as part of a Furano Ski Package.

Another alternative is catching the train from Sapporo or Asahikawa to Furano town and then a taxi to your hotel. Some hotels may offer a pick up from the train station.

When To Go

The Furano Zone opens from late November until early May while the Kitanomine zone opens from mid-December until late March.

The best time to experience great powder at Furano is all of January through to late February. It can be quite cold at Furano (even colder than Niseko) so be sure to bring lots of layers.

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 784ft / 239m Gondolas 2 Beginner 40%  
Summit Elevation 3966ft / 1209m Express Quads 2 Intermediates 40%  
Vertical Drop 3195.5ft / 974m Quad Chair 1 Advanced 20%  
Skiable Area 469.50ac / 190ha Triple Chairs 0      
Annual Snowfall 354in / 9m Double Chairs 5      
Longest Run 2.48 miles / 4.0km Single Chair 1      
Operating Hours 9.00am – 7.00pm          
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