Today, in another article, we gathered up a list of the latest grand opening information for seven major ski resorts across Japan, and wrote about our first powder ride of the 2020–2021 season, where we think we may have found the best powder snow in the country—Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort.
Sapporo Kokusai is a ski resort in the Jozankei area of the South Ward of Sapporo City.
It is about an hour drive form the Sapporo city center, or 30 minutes from the Jozankei onsen town.
The longest course stretches 3.6 km, which is not as long as the courses in other major resorts, but it still has decent length and plenty of room to ski as it does not get as crowded as places like Hirafu.
Because the resort is located at a high altitude, it actually snows earlier than in other resorts and is usually the first to open for skiing/boarding.
It's a simple gondola ride from the bottom to the top of the slopes and there are several more lifts that can take you to a few more areas depending on whether you are a skiier, boarder, etc.
It's not a big resort, but it's very wide and fairly long, so it's perfect for the beginning of the season before the other big resorts fully open.
Although it's a bit difficult to show you how powdery it was with just a photograph, let me share a picture that might give you a rough idea.
I took this around 1pm on 4th December, nearer to the bottom of the course.
Fresh snow kept on piling up that day as it was snowing quite heavily!
The forecast says it won't be snowing as much next week beginning 7th Dec compared to the previous week, but it's still probably the best place to be riding at the beginning of the season!
Another thing that was surprising is how the resort had three connected cafeterias/restaurants and a ramen shop all inside a relatively compact main building.
There were steaks, pizzas, noodles, burgers...
A whole variety of what you would expect at a food court in Japan and all at reasonable prices.
I had the Kokusai Curry Ramen, which was around 1200 yen ($11 USD.)
It had a chicken cutlet on top with a delicious curry broth, ramen, wakame seaweed and negi leak.
Most credit cards as well as IC cards like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and SUICA can be used in the cafeterias here.
One thing to note is that there isn't a linked hotel or accommodation very near the resort, nor there is a shower room within the resort itself.
You would have to drive down to Jozankei for your choice of a variety of day onsens.
The one I went to was part of a package I bought at the resort and called Koganeyu.
It has four big communal onsen baths inside, a big onsen bath and three tsuboyu cabins outside, a sauna and a mist sauna.
I liked how you can quietly hear the sound of the Toyohira River that runs right outside the onsen in the rotenburo area and can enjoy the snow falling slowly all around you.
There are plenty of other options in Jozankei, but this one was just the best candidate for me as it was right on the route to my next destination and I was curious about the Ainu Center next door.
To get to Sapporo Kokusai, you need to drive up a mountain for a while, so you should definitely be comfortable driving on winter roads if you are driving yourself there.
Make sure you do not take the Otaru—Jozankei route as this road is only open during green season.
(Although we strongly hope that Otaru/Sapporo/Yoichi will work together to open it during winter so Kiroro, Sapporo Kokusai, Otaru and Sapporo can become more accessible.)
If you are not comfortable driving on winter roads, there is a tour package available.
It includes a lift pass and a bus ride from Sapporo city center.
You can check it out on their website here.
Here are the opening dates and the opening status of the lifts of each ski resort.
The locals told us that almost every year the go-to resort in Japan from Nov–towards the end of December is usually Sapporo Kokusai.
January–February is better in Niseko, Rusutsu, and Kiroro as all the courses and lifts are fully open by then, which is good to know!!
This may also come in handy for the snow forecast from the Japan Meteorological Agency.
If there is any other information you need us to cover, please let us know in the comments!
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