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Furano


If talk of powder like clouds has piqued your interest then Furano should be your central Hokkaido base.

If you are unconvinced by spending all your time in Westerners’ mecca Niseko, then Furano is the alternative or, at the very least, an addition to the itinerary. Simply stated, Furano is a fantastic ski resort with abundant terrain for all ability levels, outstanding off-piste opportunities (only recently realised), and it also maintains the character of an authentic, thriving Japanese town.

And because it lies in a region as far from the coast as it gets the climate is more gentle, blessing the mountains and volcanoes with crisp, clear days ideal for making the most of Hokkaido’s delectable snow.

Skiing in Furano

With fluffy powder, sunny days, fast no-nonsense lifts and uncrowded runs, many of which are open until 8.30pm, how could you not love Furano? The resort is renowned for well-groomed sweepers, so cruisers of all abilities will be laughing; but that’s not to take away from the staggering advanced skiing with fantastic on-piste runs, several of which are left au naturel and with pitch of up to 34 degrees. Then there is the now-within-limits backcountry – restrictions have been relaxed in recent years and you can access awesome tree runs and untracked powder through the new gate system.

For those with the inclination and know-how the main attractions lie beyond Furano: the powder havens of Mount Asahidake, Kamui and Tomamu are all within striking range.

Off Piste

Furano used to be really annoying. There was all this amazing terrain you could see from the pistes, tantalizingly just beyond the ropes - deep powder, perfectly-spaced tress, steeps and chutes. But the policy on skiing off-piste was unenlightened and policed vigorously. However two years ago it all changed and now Furano has joined the revolution. We think they realised what an opportunity they had on their doorstep and now off-piste skiing is permitted in most parts of Furano (understandably, there are still a couple of areas that are marked by the patrollers as no go zones due to avalanche risk.)

With this new-found freedom, we like to head to the un-pisted zone which sits in the middle of the ski map or, even better still, off to the far skiers right in Kitanomine: freshies galore, great pitches, widely spaced trees and snorkel deep powder in places.

But - as stated above - this should never be only about Furano. Qualified guides can take you to alternative mountains in the region where various challenges await; from softer slopes to tight tree runs and long, steep vertical.

Advanced

Furano isn’t a place where you’ll find hours of fun on super-steeps, chutes and drop-offs; we’d make for Kumaotoshi from the top of Kitanomine gondola and The Challenge course in the Furano zone for un-groomed terrain and moguls if staying in-resort.

Powder can be knee, waist or neck high in Furano – and that’s the greatest test, especially if you head out of Furano into the backcountry in Tokachidake, Asahidake or Kamui with a guide.

Intermediate

There’s plenty of choice across the two resorts and the snow quality is up there with the best, allowing ample time for honing your carving technique. Furano’s pleasurable long, wide courses vary from gentle to precipitous, meaning lots of options and something new around every corner. The World Cup Downhill course provides the ultimate challenge.

Beginners

Both Furano and Kitanomine offer something for beginners, with wide gentle runs at their bases and two excellent ski schools with English-speaking instructors. There’s also the chance to get up higher and ski mellow courses from the top of the Furano Cable Car.

Snowboarders

Broad runs groomed to perfection make boarding a breeze (particularly in Furano’s Speise C and Sailor C) and on the courses that run from Swift Lift 1 in Kitanomine. You’ll no doubt be inclined to glide off piste where there are some awesome side-country runs on both sides of the resort, and between the two parts of the resort in the link area. These areas are accessed fairly easily with no hiking, but the exits can be frustrating for snowboarders.

Après Ski

One of the things we enjoy most about Furano is the world that awaits after the slopes have closed. Between the Kitanomine village area and the city itself, you’ll get a real flavour of Japan: there are traditional izakayas serving local wine and informal tapas-style food; restaurants offering kaiseki (course after course of light-as-a-feather fayre); and lots in between, including sushi, noodles, Mongolian barbecue and the odd Western favourite. You can usually get by with a few basic Japanese words and phrases; failing that, pick somewhere with a picture menu!

Family Suitability

Great news! Children under the age of 12 ski for free in Furano, and both bases have ski schools with English-speaking staff. Childcare is available at Kojima Academy opposite the Kitanomine Gondola for children under five (pre-booking is advisable). The academy picks up from several hotels, and can include a private ski lesson as part of the childcare on request – ideal if your young ones aren’t quite ready for a full day just yet.

RESORT SCORECARD

Snowsure:  

Beginners:  

Intermediate:  

Advanced:  

Snowboarders:  

Après Ski:  

Families:  

Season:  December - April

Base elevation:  240 metres

Top elevation:  1,209 metres

Vertical drop:  just shy of 1,000 metres

Number of lifts:  11

Number of runs:  23

Longest run:  4.1 kilometres

Access:  Fly in to Sapporo Chitose (Hokkaido's main airport) and then it's two-and-a-half hours by coach or private transfer east to Furano. Smaller Asahikawa Airport is closer, with a one-and-a-half hour coach transfer. To get to Niseko in the west, it takes at least five to six hours by road.

Suggested Itineraries featuring Furano

These suggested itineraries will give you a starting point for what your ski holiday to Japan could entail. Sometimes we combine ski resorts and we often cherish the opportunity to explore and experience Japan beyond the ski slopes. We hope these itineraries will inspire, excite and inform you as we begin the planning process. They’re not set departures or tours, as every holiday we plan is completely tailor-made for you - treat them as inspiration only.

Japanese Powder Unlimited

Niseko - Sapporo - Furano - Asahidake

Duration: 10 / 12 days

An itinerary with a singular objective: to ride the finest, deepest powder snow in Japan. Stay on Hokkaido Island, and ski hard.

from £2,345 per person, including flights

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The ‘Different’ Japan Itinerary

Furano - Hakone - Tokyo

Duration: 10 / 12 days

A left field and perfectly conceived itinerary. Furano for the powder snow, Hakone for the ryokan and onsens and the capital for high jinx.

from £1,998 per person, including flights

Read More

Snow & Beach - Honeymoon

Japanese Ski Resort - Tokyo - Asian Beach

Duration: two weeks

First the powder snow of Japan, then it's a city break in Tokyo, before heading to Thailand or The Philippines and a tropical beach.

from £3,250 per person, including flights

Read More

Prices are indicative only and include accommodation (low season), lift passes, transfers and – because we are ATOL-bonded – your flights from the UK. Different Snow can also include ski hire, backcountry and off-piste tours, rail passes, private transfers, English-speaking guides, cultural excursions and activities.

Accommodation

The two ski-in, ski-out Prince hotels – the older, more simple one near Kitanomine village  and the newer one at the Furano ski base – are the all-singing all-dancing options. The New Furano Prince Hotel is the best in the region and dominates the base of Furano Zone, housing most of its shops and restaurants, whereas Kitanomine’s goodies are a bit more spread out; cute little cafés, bars and a few accommodation options give it much less of a 'resort’ feel.

New Furano Prince Hotel

Furano's premium choice, right on the slopes. Plenty of facilities, good service and - all things considered - a very good resort hotel.

Located next to the lifts in the Furano zone - away from Kitanomine - this is the best option in town for ski-in, ski-out convenience. The New Furano Prince Hotel is a big old boy, with over 400 Western style rooms and more facilities than we have space to itemise here; let's simply mention the five restaurants, indoor-outdoor baths with sauna, cafes, bars and a shop selling sweets, locally-made arts and souvenirs.

The hotel also operates it's own ski school, so you really won’t have to go far – day or night - to find what you need. However, when you do need a change of scene, you can easily catch the shuttle to Kitanomine or Furano city.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 10 metres

Village centre: 5 minutes' drive

Furano Prince Hotel

The original Prince hotel, offering a great location and comfortable accommodation, though a little dated once inside.

The original Prince hotel is tucked into the hillside near Kitanomine village. Nowadays, it has been has been upstaged by its younger, brasher brother (the New Furano Prince), and we think it's fair to say it could do with a facelift. But it does still provide a convenient base and a wide range of facilities.

There are a range of rooms, including regular doubles and twins, family rooms sleeping up to six, and maisonette suites sleeping four with extra lounge space; larger rooms offer particularly good value for families. The hotel restaurant is fine, but we’d suggest that you make the most of your close proximity to Furano city, or stay closer to home and try some of Kitanomine’s little gems.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 10 metres

Village centre: 6 minutes' walk

Restaurants & Bars: 8 minutes' walk

B&B Furano

A cosy little bed & breakfast, worthy of consideration if location, a homely atmosphere and great value are of importance.

Guests at B&B Furano stay in one of only nine simply furnished Western-style rooms (and then there is a family room, with a loft), all with en suite bathrooms. It’s just a few minutes' walk to the gondola in Kitanomine village, and there are several inviting restaurants and bars nearby.

However, do be aware of a midnight curfew at this hotel. It's not a party place, as B&B Furano’s owner sets a quiet, courteous precedent, and whilst the place has a friendly vibe, it will never be raucous. We enjoyed swapping ski stories in the lounge, and really appreciated the hearty breakfasts and the top-notch drying room, which left our boots toasty each morning.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 3 minutes' walk

Restaurants & Bars: 4 minutes' walk

Chalet Fuyuri

1 and 2-bedroom apartments

A little gem, two-story maisonette-style rooms with lofts and outstanding views across Furano.

Large, well-equipped, clean & comfortable apartments, only a short walk away from Kitanomine Gondola Station. Great views across the valley. All mod-cons present and correct and there’s nothing like settling down on your own sofa, watching a DVD on a flat-screen TVs after a grueling day on the slopes.

One of the main features is the location – it’s on the edge of the village (very quiet), up on the hill ... so the views are wonderful. Get up for the sunrise from your balcony! It’ less then three minutes to the lifts and then the convenience of Kitanomine village is close enough.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 3 minutes' walk

Restaurants & Bars: 4 minutes' walk

Tsuru Apartments

1 and 2-bedroom apartments

Modest, yet comfortable, apartments in Kitanomine village, hosted by the brilliant 'Hiro'.

The one and two bedroom apartments at Tsuru are contemporary, affordable bolt holes. The apartments are just downhill from the Kitanomine Gondola and each has a small but functional kitchen with microwave and dishwasher, lounge with satellite TV, and washing and drying facilities.

Staying here you won’t need to sacrifice hotel-style service, as delightful host Hiro will be on hand to help with anything you need, and will be happy to run you to the supermarket to pick up groceries.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 550 metres

Restaurants & Bars: 2 minutes' walk

Shuttle bus: 3 minutes' walk

Activities

Many come to Furano to establish a base from which to explore the region. However, to explore you need local knowledge, transport, and the personable company of a good guide to reveal the powder stashes. There are only a handful of local off-piste and backcountry operators in Furano and it's worth your while to be booked in with the best...and that's who we work with. They run a range of guided day tours for both resort and backcountry skiing and each week they use their local knowledge, contacts and predicted weather to determine the best day tour options and that could be staying in Furano, Kamui, Tomamu, Asahidake or even the Tokachi Mountains. We need to book them for a minimum of two full days, but we leave the actual destination for each day fluid as they will take you to the best locations each day. Their tours include transport, safety equipment (where required), and expert guiding.

If it’s immersion you’re after, look no further than historic Furano city, which isn’t overly westernised. It provides a good Japanese cultural experience and we’ll make suggestions and be happy to arrange activities for you.

Oteo Powder Cat

Long, open off-piste runs, often through the trees. And then the snowcat simply takes you right back up to the top again.

The Otoe 'cat skiing operation is based an hour north of Furano - they have a regular shuttle coach that will pick up the lucky few booked on each day from Kitanomine village. The mountains are a fantastic mix of long open runs in open bowls and then those Hokkaido-famous tree runs. It covers a huge area, with a maze of runs all over the mountain. There are no long ski-outs as the 'cat is waiting at the bottom of each run to take you back to the top, and repeat to your heart's content. Lunch is taken in a local restaurant and of course there is an onsen for those that enjoy a good hot soak after a cracking day in the powder.

Asahidake Ropeway

The ultimate powder day - a single cable car affords access to fabled, un-pisted slopes. At at 2,290 metres, this is the highest in Hokkaido.

The ultimate powder day for advanced or confident intermediate skiers. Hokkaido is world-famous for its powder, and Asahidake is the best place to get a taste. Almighty Mount Asahi keeps the good stuff cold, crisp and perfect - you’d be crazy not to spend a day in heaven! An hour’s journey from Furano, uncrowded Asahidake has just one cable car providing easy access to hundreds of metres of vertical and a few easy trails which lead to eye popping off-piste opportunities, including challenging tree skiing. Tours usually leave Furano at 8am and return around 4/5pm. The best backcountry day you'll ever have.

Tomamu, Kamui & Sahoro

Iconic middle Hokkaido ski resorts, well worth the trip. Empty midweek, with wondrous tree-skiing and fabulous off-piste.

Book yourself a local guide - with wheels - and over the course of several days we'll show you a whole new powdery world. Depending on prevelent conditions, your enthusiasm levels and ability you'll head off in the morning with a fresh destion in your sights. Often to one of the aforementioned nearby resorts, the tours include transport, safety equipment (where required), and guiding. 

Favouries include Tomamu, with its 11 lifts covering two mountains. There are no über-steep pitches, but with such great powder and empty slopes (during the mid-week) it's tremendous fun. Let's be honest, it is the fully-sanctioned off-piste tree skiing within resort boundaries that you are here for in the 'Advanced Liberation Area'. So, you have to sign in, they'll check you have a helmet on and you must wear a lovely fluorescent 'bib'. But who cares when it's this good?!

Also Kamui Ski Links is a great option, as there’s something for everyone: soft, winding pistes for beginners and intermediates and a refreshingly easy going attitude to off-piste. So, whether you’re an intermediate making your first forays or an advanced skier or boarder yearning to be free, you’ll relish the prospect of exploring via the seven chair lifts and one gondola. Away from the runs it’s beautifully deserted, and the side country serves up stacks of powder and great tree skiing. A bit of traversing will be necessary but it will be well worth it.

Hot Air Ballooning over the Furano Valley

A half-hour floating above the whitewashed valley before you hit the slopes?

Before you hit the slopes, make the effort to get up early for a float over snow-covered rice fields, forests, Mount Tokachi and the beautiful Daisetsu National Park. The winterscape scenery is wonderful - just don’t forget your bobble hat! Furano’s calmer weather has lots of benefits – not least the chance to get up, up and away for a memorable flight over the snowy mountains and forests of Furano valley. We have every confidence in the fully-licensed and safety-conscious operators, so you can relax and enjoy the scenery and the crisp mountain air. There’s certainly no better vantage point from which to appreciate quite how much skiing you’ve done! The 20 or 30 minute flights usually heads out early morning (7.30/8am), but will be postponed until another day if the weather’s bad. We're sure you won't mind.

Ski Concierge

In Furano we can include transfers, lift passes, equipment hire, ski school, activities and excursions. In each instance, the price you pay will be cheaper – or, at worst the same – as what you would pay locally.

Lift Passes

Lift passes in Furano are valid on consecutive days only – therefore if you head out of Furano to ski Asahidake, Kamui or any one of the other nearby resorts you will lose a day, unless you time it for the first or last days.

Children under the age of 12 ski for free. Night skiing is included, when operating.

Because Prince Hotels own the lift infrastructure in Furano, lift passes are cheaper if you are staying in either the Prince or the New Furano Prince Hotel. It's a flat rate for all, irrespective of age and season.

Equipment Hire

Atomic & Salomon Station rental shops offer a wide range of snow equipment and clothing rentals. Rental shops are located in both Prince Hotels, as well as in the Furano Zone Ropeway Station and the Kitanomine Zone Gondola Station.

Lessons

Furano offers a variety of lessons in English for skiers and snowboarders who are either getting on the mountain for the first time, or for the more experienced who are keen on fine-tuning their skills. Private lessons, group lessons, and children’s lessons are available from Furano Snow School (FSS) and Furano International Snowsports School (FISS).

Following are some indicative prices, but it's best we tailor something to suit – let us know and we'll get a price for you.

Travel Insurance

Winter sports travel insurance is an important part of your holiday booking and we strongly recommend that you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy to cover all your winter sports holiday requirements. We're happy to be able to offer our customers a 10% discount on all policies from Ski Club Travel Insurance.

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