Skiing in Hokkaido: Furano Ski Resort (富良野) - Vikingess Voyages

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Skiing in Hokkaido: Furano Ski Resort (富良野)

Hokkaido is known far outside Japan's borders for its soft powder snow and magnificent skiing slopes. There are many areas on the island where one can enjoy some leisure time in the pristine powder snow, and one of them is the city Furano (富良野). 
Furano lies in the heart of Hokkaido and is known throughout Japan as a famous skiing destination; in fact more World Cups have been held here than anywhere else in Japan. Even so it remains a hidden jewel for foreign tourists, as most of the visitors to Hokkaido head towards the more famous slopes of Niseko instead.

Last weekend we had a 3-day holiday (called sanrenkyu - 3連休) here in Japan, and for the holiday I went visiting Furano Ski Resort for a ski trip with my family. We flew to the New Chitose Airport (新千歳空港) from Tokyo with a package tour that included both the stay at New Furano Prince Hotel and the shuttle bus to and from the airport, and we reached Furano after a 2 hour long bus ride.
The New Furano Prince seen from the ski slope
The main location for skiing, the Furano Ski Resort, is owned and operated by one of Japan's largest hotel chains called Prince Hotels and Resorts. Two large resort hotels operated by Prince are located right by the Furino Ski Resort; the Furano Prince (富良野プリンス) and the hotel we stayed at, the New Furano Prince (新富良野プリンス)
Ski rental in the New Furano Prince resort
The ski resort area it has 2 connecting peaks, and throughout the year various skiing and snowboarding events are held here. One thing to be careful about is that some of the gondolas close after 4 pm, and after this you'll have to stick to the slopes in the area close to your hotel.
A map of the two ski areas
The Kitanomine area
During our second day a small ski race was arranged by the Prince Resort, which anyone could take part in for a mere 500 yen participation fee. Yuma and his father were eager to compete, and reluctantly I decided to join in on the competition too. I had never tried to compete in a slalom race before and was out of the competition before I knew it, but it was still fun to watch the rest of it. All participants got prizes too, and we ended up getting a free gift card to use for lunch in our hotel's restaurant worth more than the price we paid to compete, so the competition had a very happy ending after all.
One of the participants in action
A Kids Park at one of the restaurants by the Kitanomine Gondola
One of the benefits of choosing Furano over Niseko is that it is both a lot less crowded and a lot cheaper; the restaurants offer meals at around half the price of what it costs to dine out in Niseko (according to Yuma).

The local community is also very open to foreign tourists, and the Furano Tourism Association even offer you the chance to be guided around for free by an English-speaking local ski host if you stop by the Furano Tourism Association office at the JR Furano Station or call them at 080-90053881 at the Kitanomine information desk.
For people who are interested in experiencing other things than the ski slopes Furano is also the location of a number of famous Japanese TV series, the most well-known of them being the human drama "From a North Country" - Kita no Kuni kara (北の国から). This drama was sent on TV for more than two decades – from 1981 until 2002 - and many of the locations featured in the drama can be found around town. Besides film locations Furano is also a famous for its beautiful lavender fields, and you can for instance visit local farms where they produce cheese and other dairy products.

Furano can easily be reached from the major airports in Hokkaido. In our case we had booked a package which included the plane to New Chitose Airport and transportation to and from the hotel. The Ashikawa Airport is however closer, located just about an hour by car/bus from the airport (costs around 770 yen and takes about 60 minutes).

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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