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Furano is found in the direct centre of the island of Hokkaido. Just 50 minutes away from Asahikawa Airport and the 2nd largest city on the island or three hours away from New Chitose Airport and the islands largest city of Sapporo.
Just starting to draw some attention from western visitors as word gets out about the deep, light and dry powder that falls in abundance.
The temperatures are much colder here in the middle of the island thus keeping the snow in great condition. The lack of wind makes the area actually feel warmer than other resorts when riding.
Furano Resort is made up of two ski areas, the Furano Zone and the Kitanomine Zone. A single chair links the two areas.
The strange thing about Furano unfortunately is it’s out of bounds policy. Every single lot of trees are roped off and out of bounds! Why, you ask? It has something do with the leasing and national park arrangements. The Ski Patrol and lifties take their job seriously and will threaten to remove your ski pass! You almost feel like you're playing a cat and mouse game with them.
Though the tree runs are out of bounds, it will be at your discretion whether you choose to follow the resort rules. Be prepared for any consequences that may occur.
What I will say is that there are some fantastic and truly epic tree runs to be found. It is best to hook up with a local if possible and get taken to all the sweet spots. Be careful though as there are some areas that you will do some serious hike out in deep snow, so have a good think about what you are doing and don’t just bomb some of the powder fields just because it looks good. Case in point is directly under the link chair.
The Furano zone is tighter and more of a skier's mountain, the best run here is the Kumagera and Challenge runs and there are a couple of tree runs here as well that are pretty dam good.
The peak on the Furano zone is at 1,209m and is accessed by taking the single chair off to the left of the Ropeway station.
The Furano Zone has the ropeway cable car, which holds 101 persons and takes 4 minutes to get up the mountain.
The Kitanomine zone is the pick for boarders. The groomers are wicked in the morning long fast and steep and wide. The Kumaostoshi powder run from the top is the pick as it is left ungroomed.
The peak is also out of bounds at 940m, you could take a walk under the ropes at the top of the Kitanomine gondola along the ridgeline and drop into the bowl, BUT please take note of the conditions and watch for any cracks in the face. (season 2006, the bowl was closed for good reason massive cracks made it dangerous for all)
There are decent two tabletops located the base of the Kitanomine Gondola.
An ordinary boarder cross course is just down and too the left of the Ropeway.
The FIS Snowboard World Cup was held for the first time in 2006 and they built a specific half pipe for the event down at the Prince C run with the Prince Hotel in the background. The Snowboard World Cup was held again in 2007. In 2008, the Prince Hotel has built an FIS approved half pipe again, and it is open to the public. Riders have unlimited access to the half pipe for 500 yen a day. For 2000 yen, riders can purchase a day pass for the half pipe and the Prince Romance Lift (which takes you to the top of the half pipe). ID is required when purchasing a halfpipe day pass.
If you are looking for another Niseko, look elsewhere. Where Niseko has almost turned into a white gold rush village filled with Australians. In Furano you will find a sleepy traditional Japanese village at the bottom of the ski resort. Furano City is a short 20-minute stroll away with the Daisetsuzan Mountain Range across the valley.
The terrain is significantly different here at Furano than at Niseko.
Niseko is wide open off the peaks with a heap of tree runs and accessible backcountry.
On the surface Furano is more of an on-piste mountain and as such is perhaps more favoured for skiers. Though if you are prepared to perhaps get your hands caught in the cookie jar you will find that you will score big. The snow is deep and light and so much fun and the trees are spaced well with perfect gradient to rip through.
One can only hope that the resort has a change of attitude and opens up areas that do not pose any risk. I would definitely recommend Furano as a destination to use as a base to explore the whole Furano /Asahikawa region. This is what puts in on a different level and a far greater and total Japanese experience to Niseko.
The opportunity to ride at Mt Asahidake, Hokkaido’s tallest mountain
is a full backcountry playground accessed by a ropeway only 1 hour away. Kamui Ski links
is a super fun ski hill only 50 minutes away. Pop into the very strange Santa Present Park
only 10 minutes outside Asahikawa.
The Daisetsuzan National Park
range is spectacular and provides the opportunity to do guided backcountry tours at Furanodake
1912m and Mt Tokachidake Volcano
Once all the snowboarding is done you can visit the Ryounkaku Onsen
and relax in the thermal waters at an elevation of 1280m looking over the awesome mountain views.
It dumps! What more can I say? An average annual snowfall of 8m the light dry white stuff is found in abundance. As such the weather will be overcast often and as in the rest of Hokkaido the sun doesn’t bust through so often. The Bluebird days are rare and to be treasured.
Furano is a quiet village. There are a number of bars in the Kitanomine area (2 ice bars, Tirol, Yama no Doxon, and other cafe / bar type locations), however, the majority of the bars / restaurants are in town which is easily accessed by the Night Shuttle Bus. Taxis into town take 10 minutes and cost less than 1000 yen.
Most of the bars are located in one block radius, the best being Bar Bocca, the Wonder Bar and the 500 Yen bar, where each drink is only 500yen. Check out the Karaoke houses as well.
Friday and Saturday nights are low key as well, you will find a handful of westerners who live in town teaching English or are in town from Asahikawa.
For something a lot more upper class, but reasonably priced, the Prince hotel has a bar on the 12th floor called "Top of Furano" located at the base of the Furano Ski Zone.
You could always head to the city of Asahikawa if you are desperate for nightclubs and skirt.
Contact the crew at Deep Powder Tours at www.deeppowdertours.com
for booking accommodation, ski passes and airport transport information.
Most likely staying at the great North Country Inn
, which provides a shuttle bus every hour to and from the Kitanomine Gondola and also a Car hire service which will come in handy for exploring the region (Make sure you bring your International Drivers Licence). It has its own hot baths inside and outside and is awesome after a hard days riding. Places to Eat
There are a bunch of great places to eat in the village and in town, mostly traditional Japanese restaurants which is the way to go. The Wonder Bar has a great selection of food for something more traditional try Kumagera. ATM
Japan is a cash society and as such ATM machines are rare.
Credit and debit cards issued outside of Japan can be used to withdraw Japanese yen from the ATMs located in any 7-eleven location or at the POST office in town.
Don’t be afraid to bring all your cash, there is very little or no theft.
Contact Furano Tourism
can help out with any other queries about the Furano and Ashaikawa regions and you can email James Mutter at email@example.com Thanks
A big thanks to Furano Tourism for showing me around the region.
Last updated on 03 February 2008.