Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort
At the Sapporo Kokusai ski resort in Japan, it frequently pukes with snow. Some avid powder chasers claim that it snows more at Sapporo Kokusai than the famed Niseko
where it dumps 16 metres per season on average. The volume of snowfall is not reliability cited for Sapporo Kokusai, but in the absence of an official statistic, it’s well known that it snows lots and lots!
If you’re staying in Sapporo
, Sapporo Kokusai ski resort is worth visiting for a day trip. Or if you’re based in Niseko or Rusutsu
and there’s been no new snow, there may be merit in commuting to Sapporo Kokusai for the day. Check out the conditions at Kokusai because despite its proximity to Niseko and Rusutsu, the weather patterns can vary substantially.
Sapporo Kokusai is the trendy spot for the local Sapporo and Otaru folk to play, so even though the ski resort is relatively unknown to international skiers and snowboarders, it’s definitely not off the beaten track. Due to its proximity to Sapporo, the ski resort sometimes gets ridiculously busy, particularly on the weekends. The terrain park and piste runs are often hectic, but thankfully in the off-piste and backcountry areas it is significantly quieter.
Sapporo Kokusai Ski and Snowboard Terrain
It’s not surprising that Kokusai often feels busy because the ski area has 460 metres of vertical and only a handful of piste runs. Snow plough turners have a couple of trails that converge into one wide run. Intermediates might also experience déjà vu because there are only two red runs. Sapporo Kokusai has only one black run, and if it weren’t for the moguls down the side of the run, it would be more aptly rated as an intermediate course.
Whilst the piste area is small, the off-piste areas feel unexpectedly large. There are lots of powder stashes in amongst the trees and various gullies to explore, and there is also a band of R-rated cliffs that most punters will want to avoid. It is officially prohibited to ski or board off-piste, but it is not policed so you won’t find any patrollers chasing you with a whistle.
Beyond the resort boundaries are some amazing backcountry options. Much of the lift-accessed backcountry is easy to find, and minimal powder fossicking is required to hit some great fall line skiing and boarding. The terrain that is a fraction further afield may require some route-finding nouse, so you may want to do a guided tour with Black Diamond Tours
(based in Niseko). They are experts at sniffing out the powder!
Sapporo Kokusai is serviced by five lifts, two of which are modern gondolas that run parallel to each other.
Where is Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort?
Sapporo Kokusai is located on the western fringe of the city of Sapporo
in Hokkaido. From downtown Sapporo, the 46km drive takes about an hour. Sapporo Kokusai ski resort is about 19km (25-30 minutes) from Jozankei Onsen, a hot spring resort town. There are shuttle buses
from Jozankei or downtown Sapporo to the ski area.
Sapporo Kokusai is about 24km southeast of the cute little seaside town of Otaru.
is about a 1:50 hour drive to the southwest. In addition to guiding, WhiteroomTours day tours
include transport to and from Niseko.
Sapporo Kokusai Accommodation
Sapporo Kokusai doesn’t have a village at the base. The nearest accommodation is at Jozankei where there are big resort hotels as well as more Japanese style ryokans. Most of the hotels and inns have indoor and outdoor onsens. You can search for a Jozankei hotel
If you have a car, another option is to stay in the town of Otaru (24km away). The Dormy Inn Premium
is an Otaru hotel that is very nice, yet inexpensive, and it's located only one minute walk from the Otaru train station. The Grand Park Otaru
is a beautiful 4-star hotel which is located right on the water with views along the coast and of the ski mountains. Below the hotel is a shopping centre, bars and restaurants. This Otaru hotel is surprisingly inexpensive considering the quality on offer.
Alternatively stay in Sapporo and enjoy the buzz of this large Japanese city. There are an abundance of Sapporo hotels
to choose from, but if you don’t have a car you may wish to stay at a hotel on (or near) the Hokkaido Resort Liner bus
route (see the Sapporo accommodation
page for information on hotels on the shuttle bus route).
Sapporo Kokusai has a menagerie of options when it comes to on-mountain eateries with Family Restaurant Rabbit, Cafeteria Squirrel, Casual Inn Woodpecker, and Mountain Top Café Cuckoo. There is also a small lobby café selling simple fare, or get a really cheap feed at the convenience store. Kokusai also has a coffee shop where the “barista” puts a lot of pride into making very bitter roasted coffee - it might taste OK if you add four sugars!
Ski or snowboard rental is available at Sapporo Kokusai, although it’s more expensive than what you’ll find in Sapporo ski shops
. They hire out large sized boots (up to 32cm – US size 14 mens) and skis up to 177cm in length.
Ski school typically only caters to Japanese speaking guests, however you can generally reserve an English speaking instructor for a private lesson.
Other facilities include lockers, day care for children ages 2 to 6, and a shop that sells ski and snowboard accessories and Kokusai souvenirs.
The base area has a snow play area where the kids can go sledding (or sledging as they like to call it in Japan!). There is no magic carpet so the kids have to get up the small hill under their own steam. Sapporo Kokusai also has a snow town area where the kids can go for mini-snowmobile rides (10 minute rides), banana boating (4 loops), or tubing (for one hour) at 1,500 yen per activity.
Why Ski or Snowboard at Sapporo Kokusai?
For the best terrain beginners would be better placed at Sapporo Teine
(Olympia), whilst intermediates should go to Tomamu
. However lift tickets are significantly cheaper at Sapporo Kokusai, particularly for children.
Also head to Sapporo Kokusai if you want to hit the terrain park or you’re a powderhound in need of a powder fix. Fresh tracks in-bounds are generally still available a couple of days after a snowfall, and if you head into the backcountry there’s a good chance of riding fresh powder lines all day.
Tours That May Include Kokusai