Lifts & Terrain
Ski Furano – Terrain Review
Furano ski resort has great on-piste terrain for beginners through to advanced skiers and boarders. For advanced and expert riders, there’s a wealth of off-piste terrain, and thankfully off-piste skiing is now tolerated by ski patrol. This is amazing that a Prince Resort could become so progressive (relative to many other Japanese ski resorts that are stuck in a time warp and ban off-piste riding!). Those wanting to sniff out the powder no longer need to practise the limbo and art of being invisible before visiting Furano!
The Furano ski area has two zones. One is called the Furano Zone
(open late Nov to early May) which has the New Furano Prince Hotel
at the base (which is not to be confused with the Furano Prince Hotel
which is closer to the Kitanomine base). The Kitanomine Zone
(open mid Dec to late March) has the Kitanomine gondola station and lots of accommodation near the base. The two zones are interconnected by a link run and lift.
There are many beginner and intermediate runs at the base of each side of the mountain, with the steeper and deeper runs up higher.
The Furano lift infrastructure is very good on both the Kitanomine and Furano sides of the resort. If your legs aren’t super fit, you’ll be wishing that some of the lifts were a bit slower! There are a couple of fast quad chairs, as well as a gondola and cable car, 5 double chairs, and a single chair.
The main lift at Kitanomine is a gondola (which disappointingly doesn’t open until 9am). On the Furano side the main lift infrastructure is a cable car (ropeway), which is supposedly the fastest lift in Japan. The only downside (unless you need a rest!) is that sometimes you have to wait for the cable car to arrive (or wait for a 2nd one).
Furano has night skiing on small areas on both sides of the mountain.
Furano ski resort accepts credit cards for lift ticket purchases if you want to pay as you go – yippee! There are a variety of lift pass configurations and children 12 and under ski free.
Furano Snow and Weather Conditions
Furano receives an average of 8-9 metres of powder each year. Additional distance from the coast as well as colder temperatures in Central Hokkaido contribute to snow that’s generally nicer than at the coastal resorts such as Niseko. The ski area has a mostly easterly orientation, although the snow is a little better in the link area where the slopes face a little more northerly. Occasionally the powder is super heavy and nasty for the thighs, but hey that can happen anywhere.
Furano gets the most snow from the northerly storms (versus nearby Tomamu
that does well out of southerly storms). The best part of the Furano ski season for powder is in early January through to late February.
It’s not usually particularly windy at Furano, and the hooded chair lift, ropeway and gondola provide lovely protection in the event of inclement weather.
Furano Ski Terrain for the Beginner
Furano has three areas where beginners can learn to ski or snowboard on beautifully groomed wide runs. At Kitanomine these are off the quad chair (there are no beginners runs from the top of the gondola), and at the Furano base by utilising the lower Romance Chair. From the top of the ropeway, another beginners’ area can be accessed by riding the upper Romance Chair. You might be kept company by the typical school groups in identical outfits, only to be differentiated by the numbered bib. Enjoy the uniqueness of your own outfit!!
Furano Skiing - Intermediates
Furano is heaven for the intermediate skier or snowboarder, or those wanting to progress to the next level. With long cruisers and fantastic fall-line, there’s plenty to choose from to improve the technique and start picking up the speed.
Furano Terrain Park & Pipe
There’s a half pipe above the New Furano Prince Hotel, and there are very limited park facilities including a table top, bank and wave. The terrain park is nothing worth writing home about.
Advanced Skiing Furano – On-Piste
The top half of the mountain has some steep groomed descents including the ladies’ downhill which is some fast fun. There are also a few fast runs off the ropeway to test the leg fitness. There are some ungroomed courses under the gondola and the long and reasonably steep Kumaotoshi is accessed from the gondola. It is only open for limited parts of the day, possibly to make it seem exclusive! The Challenge course on the far skiers left of the Furano Zone provides some ungroomed skiing, and an opportunity to ruin your knees on the bumps.
Ski Furano Experts – On-Piste
There is no in-bounds piste terrain for experts. There are no super steeps, no chutes or drop-offs.
The resort’s approach to tree skiing and off-piste skiing has relaxed significantly. Understandably, there are still a couple of areas that are marked by the patrollers as no go zones due to avalanche risk.
There are lots of off-piste areas to explore, with the link area being one of the most obvious spots to play. Some of the other tree runs do not have a great fall-line, with significant side angles resulting in one-legged quad burn. The runs that do have a good fall-line have patches of steep pitch and some tight trees to test your turning radius. Not surprisingly, the tighter the trees, the less trashed the snow becomes!
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 might be frustrating for snowboarders.
Many years ago we were able to repeatedly hit the sidecountry to the skiers’ right of the resort and enable all our power dreams to come true – freshies everywhere, steep descents, widely spaced trees and neck deep powder in places. Unfortunately the freshies don’t last long now, but at least you don’t have to play Furano fox with the patrollers anymore.