December 5, 2020

Which ski resort in Japan is the best to go for an early ride for 2020-2021? Our recommendation!

how it looks like snowboarding in Sapporo Kokusai Ski resort

Today we gathered up a list of the latest grand opening information of 7 major ski resorts from Japan, and wrote about our first powder ride of the season of 2020-2021 where it probably has the best powder snow, Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort.

Best Resort to be in the beginning of the season: Sapporo Kokusai

main building of Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort

Sapporo Kokusai, is a ski resort in the South Ward of Sapporo City, in Jozankei area.

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, not as long as the courses in other major resorts.

However, it still has decent length and plenty of room as it does not get too crowded like it does in Hirafu.

Because the resort is located in a high altitude, it actually snows earlier than in other resorts, and is usually the first to open for skiing/boarding.

The base point and gondola of Sapporo International Ski Resort

It's a really simple gondola ride from bottom to the top, then there are several lifts that gives you options to a few areas depending whether you are a skiier, boarder, or what your tastes are when riding.

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 open fully from top to bottom.

Already open from top to bottom with deep powder!

Although it's a bit difficult to take a picture to show how powdery it was, let me share you a picture that would give you a rough idea.

powder snowboard ride at a course in Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort

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 next week from the 7th Dec~ compared to the previous week, but it's still probably the best place to be riding at the beginning of the season!

Sapporo Kokusai: Places to eat

Another thing that was surprising is how the resort had 3 connected cafeterias/restaurants and a ramen shop all inside a relatively compact main building.

cafeteria at Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort

There were steaks, pizzas, noodles, burgers...

A whole variety of what you would expect at a food court in Japan, all reasonably priced.

one of the most popular menus in the cafeteria of Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort

I've had the Kokusai Curry Ramen, which was around 1200 yen (11USD.)

It had a chicken cutlet on top with good 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.

Sapporo Kokuai: Onsen

One thing to note is that there isn't a hotel linked nor nearby the resort, nor there is a shower room within.

You would have to drive down to Jozankei for a variety of Day Onsens.

The one I went to was a package I bought at the resort, Koganeyu.

entrance of Koganeyu Onsen

It had 4 big common onsen baths inside and a big onsen bath and 3 tsuboyu outside, a sauna and a mist sauna.

I liked how you can slightly hear the sound of the Toyohira River that is right by the onsen outside in the rotenburo area, and enjoy the snow falling slowly at you.

There are plenty of other options in Jozankei, but this one was just the best candidate as it was right on the route back to my next destination, and I was curious of the Ainu Center that is next to Koganeyu.

Sapporo Kokusai: Package Tours

To get to Sapporo Kokusai, you will be driving up a mountain for awhile.

you should definitely be comfortable driving in winter roads if you are self driving.

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 be better accessible)

If you are not comfortable driving on winter roads, there is a tour package available.

It has a combination of a lift pass and a bus ride from Sapporo city center.

You can check it out in their website here.

List of the opening information for 2020-2021 winter in Hokkaido/Nagano

Here are the opening dates and the opening status of the lifts of each ski resort.

The locals were telling 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 open up fully. Good to know!!

Ski Resorts in Hokkaido

Ski Resorts in Nagano

Also, this might come in handy for a snow forecast from the Japan Meteorological Agency.

If you need any other info, contact Helping Dragon

If there are any other information you need us to cover, let us know from the comments!

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