Furano Ski Area & the Yubari Mountains
Updated: Jul 28, 2019
Furano is by far my favorite ski area in Japan, that is why I am based here. Although Furano receives slightly less snow than ski areas in the famous Niseko area, the snow is drier and there are significantly less people here to ski it. Therefore, in a sense, there is more powder. Being the northernmost popular ski town in Japan, winter persists here longer than anywhere else. The town is surrounded by a large farming community and has a relaxing atmosphere. If Furano is not deep enough for you, Asahidake and other ski areas are a 1 - 1.5 hour drive away.
Furano Ski Area
There are plenty of steep, long tree runs and well-hidden powder stashes that often take a long time to get tracked out. There are still a few pockets in the trees where I have never seen a single track but my own. The complex nature of the terrain and dense trees make it difficult to figure out. However, there are many open slopes near the top of the ski area that are obvious. I would say that the tree skiing here is mostly suited to advanced and intermediate skiers although there are some great mellow runs if you know where to look. Most other ski areas in range of Furano offer tree skiing that is less steep.
The groomers here are seamless and the views across the valley of the smoking Tokachi mountains are stunning. If you want to escape the trees, try a run on the long, wide and rolling groomer beneath the Furano ropeway. There is something here for everyone. You can find a trail map here. However, realize that this map distorts the trees and backcountry badly.
When I first skied in Furano it was a 'cat and mouse' game with ski patrol. If you were caught skiing in the trees they could pull your pass. In recent years, backcountry gates have been added. The tree skiing in Furano is technically backcountry, including the sections of trees between groomed runs. It is important to note that these backcountry access gates do not mean you can ski in any direction and still make it back to the ski area. If you ski the northernmost gate at the top of the Kitanomine gondola you will end up in a valley that heads away from the ski area. Ski patrol basically just put gates where people used to duck the ropes!
The groomers are laid out along spur features with all the terrain in between being heavily treed gullies and creeks. This makes a lot of the tree skiing quite committing as you usually can't traverse back to the groomers and instead have to follow long creeks out. On a powder day, snowboarders often have to wait for the skiers to make the low angle out-tracks to avoid getting stuck. Make sure your board is waxed.
There are two sides/ zones to the ski area. The Kitanomine side and the Furano side. They are both a similar aspect and are connected by the Link chairlift. The ropeway on the Furano side opens at 08:30 and the Kitanomine gondola at 09:00. The Kitanomine gondola is located in the suburb of Kitanomine which is full of hotels aimed at ski tourists. From here, it is a short taxi ride across the river to the town of Furano where there are plenty of restaurants. On the 'Furano side' of the ski area is simply the New Prince Hotel and onsen, a bakery and a village of small shops that are illuminated in the evenings.
The Yubari Mountains
The ski area is located on the northern end of the Yubari range. To the South, the terrain grows in size until it culminates with Ashibetsudake. Ashibestsudake is a serious mountain boasting 1400m of skiable vertical, large couloirs, ice climbing and alpine rock climbing routes. It is one of Japan's '100 famous peaks'. The impressive 900m vert north couloir can be seen from the town center on a clear day. I have skied Ashibetsudake thoroughly including every named peak between there and the ski area.
Below are a couple of videos that show some of the steeper terrain on offer here:
It was late-February and everyone was complaining that it hadn't snowed in a few days and spring was coming early.. ..so we took the chance to get high in the alpine! It was a big day where we used the lifts to get on a remote alpine traverse that eventually finished at a car we dropped earlier that morning.
A mid-winter couloir smashing mission! They told me Hokkaido was flat? Have a look at what I found:
Get in touch for Furano lift accessed guiding, lift assisted touring and guiding in the Yubari range!