A snow sports paradise not far from the bright lights of Sapporo
Stars and Stripes February 8, 2024
Snowy pine-covered mountains and valleys at this quality resort just over an hour’s drive from the largest city in northern Japan are the perfect winter playground for skiers and snowboarders.
Kiroro, which opened in 1991, is west of Yoichi-dake, at 4,881 feet the tallest peak within the Sapporo city limits on the island of Hokkaido. The ski area is near Akaigawa, a small country town close to a scenic caldera formed by a volcanic eruption more than a million years ago.
Skiers looking for an alternative to resorts in and around the better-known Niseko resort might consider this upscale but more moderately priced ski area.
An adult day pass at Kiroro costs 7,400 yen, or about $49.80, but a good option is the six-hour pass for 6,600 yen. That’s more than you’ll pay at most places on main-island Japan, but a lot lower than U.S. prices and cheaper than some of the resorts near Niseko.
If you arrive early, you’ll be able to park in front of the ski lifts at the Mountain Center. Most skiers park farther away, but there’s a free gondola to ride up to the lift ticket office and other facilities.
Everything at Kiroro, from lifts to lodges, seems top notch. If you’re a non-skier, you can enjoy the stunning scenery and ride a gondola to a mountaintop restaurant.
If you’re a beginner, the place has more than its share of instructors guiding people around the slopes, which are connected by relatively flat beginner trails. There’s also a large kids’ area at the bottom of the hill.
Competent skiers can zoom down dozens of groomed intermediate runs that will take an entire weekend to explore.
Experts can enjoy Hokkaido’s famous champagne powder in numerous ungroomed expanses as well as tree-run and backcountry areas. Several valleys feeding down from the upper areas of the ski field feed back to the Mountain Center, although you’ll have to be careful not to fall into snow-covered creeks running along valley floors.
The ski area has several eateries. I had pie and a soft drink for lunch at a cafe under the gondola, which served Japanese staples such as curry rice and pork cutlet for around $11 a plate.
Hotels near the ski area are pricey, but it’s possible to find cheaper accommodation not far off at Otaru or even in Sapporo if you don’t mind a longer drive.
Japan boasts more than its share of great snow resorts, but whatever kind of ski or snowboard experience you’re looking for, Kiroro is a good place to start.
On the QT
Directions: 128-1 Aza-Tokiwa, Akaigawa-mura, Yoichi-gun, Hokkaido, Japan. By car, about an hour and 20 minutes from Sapporo and an hour and 40 minutes from New Chitose Airport.
Times: Open daily, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Costs: Adult day pass, 7,400 yen; senior pass (over 65), 6,500 yen; youth, ages 13-18, 6,500 yen; children ages 6-12, 4,000 yen.
Food: The resort boasts several eateries, including a mountaintop restaurant.
Information: Online: kiroro.co.jp