Tokachidake Ski Area Hokkaido
Unleash the hounds! Tokachidake is an absolute feast for adventurous powder hounds. This is the place where you will potentially experience your deepest powder days ever! You won’t find any cable cars, ski patrol, or trail markings at Tokachidake. This is the wild backcountry where you have to get up the mountain under your own steam, and steamy you will become, just like the active volcano that you skin up! And the skiing and snowboarding on the way down will be smokin’!
And because this isn’t a ski resort you definitely won’t find any snowmaking guns at Mt Tokachi, just the abundant snow that Mother Nature shoots down with her snow machine guns! And in Central Hokkaido, the powder is about as light and dry as it gets, and it’s bottomless. Tokachidake is the capital of the Central Hokkaido snorkel territory!
Where is Tokachi-dake?
Mount Tokachi is a volcanic peak located smack bang in the middle of Hokkaido in the southern section of the Daisetsuzan National Park. “Daisetsuzan” means “mountains of big snow” whilst the indigenous Ainu name (kamui mintara) means “playgrounds of the gods”. In my language it translates to “big playground for powder hounds”!
Daisetsuzan National Park also features Furano-dake which is a fraction southwest of Tokachidake, and the renowned Asahidake
which are to the north of Tokachi.
On the flank of the mountain is Tokachidake Onsen, which consists of a small collection of onsen ryokan and trailheads. This little "village" is situated at the east end of Route 291, 20km from Kamifurano, and a one hour drive northeast of Furano Ski Resort
. The city of Asahikawa
is 57km to the northwest.
How to Get There
It’s easiest to get there and around Tokachidake to the trail heads and onsens if you have your own wheels, or if you head there as part of a day tour or multi-day tour where transport is included (see below for options).
Otherwise it is possible to catch a train to Kami Furano Station. From the station there are 3 buses each day to Tokachidake Onsen. The trip takes about 45 minutes and costs 500 yen.
Tokachidake Ski Terrain
Tokachidake Onsen is at an elevation of 1,280 metres whilst the summit of Tokachi is 2,077 metres, and verticals of about 800 metres can be achieved. The terrain is a mix of true alpine (with the odd fumarole!), sub-alpine and tree skiing amongst gorgeous snow coated birch trees (the treeline is at about 1,450 metres).
The Tokachidake Onsen village accesses three peaks that are sometimes collectively referred to as the “Tokachidake” area. Firstly there’s the actual smoking volcano of Tokachi which is good for fine days. To the lookers’ right is the Three Step Mountain (Sandanyama) which as the name suggests has three steps or plateaus. Further to the right again is Furano-dake, of which its lower parts are great for inclement weather days.
Some of the terrain and the gentle bowls are somewhat similar to Asahidake
, yet the Tokachidake alpine also has some chutes, cliff bands, spines and steeper pitches that continue down into the trees.
The other difference between the two volcanoes is that the ski terrain at Asahidake has a south facing aspect, whilst many of the Tokachidake lines are north facing, which keeps the deep powder in a divine state.
Uphill & Equipment
At Tokachi-dake you have to earn your turns, but the rewards are far superior compared to what you’d find at the ski resorts. Full ascents require about 2-3 hours of skinning. Skiers require alpine touring bindings and skins, and considering the depth of the powder, snowboarders will generally find it easier on a split board, but snow-shoeing will suffice. Snowboarders require collapsible poles, and needless to say, an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe are part of the standard backcountry attire.
There may be a few skin tracks to aid your climb and you might see a few other punters about, but largely you’ll be in splendid isolation.
Tokachidake Snow and Weather
Deciding when to visit may depend on your priorities. The months of January and February are generally very stormy and there’s lots of pow, but you’ll often have to hang in the trees. If you’re keen to access the alpine and see the “gods’ smoking ceremonies”, March provides finer weather that is more conducive to getting to the top.
Tokachidake Onsen Accommodation
There are a few pensions and ryokans (inns) in the “village” of Tokachidake Onsen. These are traditional Japanese lodgings and the food they serve up in the evenings is generally amazing.
at the top of the road used to be a popular choice but it’s reportedly becoming a little run down in more recent times. This ryokan features the famous reddy-brown onsen.
We’ve stayed at the Kamihoro Ryokan
(aka Kamihoroso) which is a very well kept hotel with Japanese style rooms, a lovely onsen, beautiful Japanese dinner fare, and other amenities.
One option for simple accommodation is the Hutte Barden
. The surrounding district of Kamifurano also has various lodgings.
The ryokans at Tokachidake Onsen have hot springs, and it seems almost mandatory at the end of an exhausting day of climbing and riding to have a soak in an onsen. The minerals in the water are supposed to be beneficial for the body and skin, and are bound to make you look gorgeous! Some of the hot springs are pretty hot though, so make sure you don’t poach yourself!
The Fukiage Onsen is a mixed outdoor onsen in amongst the woods. Or in case you’re a bit shy you can visit the segregated baths at the Ryounkaku Ryokan, which are renowned for the deep reddish-brown waters and the fantastic views across the snowy mountains.
Tokachidake Ski Tours
Backcountry skiing at Tokachidake requires the services of a knowledgeable and reputable guide.
Hokkaido Powder Guides provide guided day trips to Mount Tokachidake from Furano that include transport. Otherwise some backcountry skiing is included in multi-day tours such as as the Hokkaido's 3 Volcanoes Backcountry Tour
or see the tours listed below.
Black Diamond Tours also include Tokachidake on some of their multi-day trips such as the Ultimate Pow Trip
or the March Backcountry tour
More Reasons to Snowboard or Ski Tokachidake
Tokachidake is the most delicious snow cone that is blessed with amazing snow. On fine days the scenery is spectacular and the serenity is blissfully a long way from the craziness of Niseko.
Tours That May Include Tokachidake