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I'm live in the northeast USA, looking to book a 2 week snowboarding trip to Hokkaido in 2021. I'm going to do half of the trip at Niseko, and I need help choosing another location for the other half of the trip. It will just be me and my fiance, we are both advanced riders. We have limited back country experience and have never experienced really deep powder. So the option to explore back country with a guide would be a plus. Since Niseko will be busy, and touristy, I was hoping to go to another location for the other half of the trip to experience a different, quieter, less crowded, side to riding in Japan. I was looking at Furano, and Kiroro, but I really don't know much about the Japanese resorts. Kiroro seemed like it might be expensive with the limited lodging and dining options. What do you all suggest? What's a great mountain that won't bankrupt me and has plenty of food options/variety? Thanks for your help
 

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If you want to go to Kiroro, then it's cheaper to stay down in Otaru, a coastal town that has restaurants n bars etc. It also has other touristy things to see if that's your thing. Furano is in central Hokkaido and doesn't get as much snow as Niseko area but it's much colder so condition of the snow lasts longer in between dumps....this year this really helps. Kiroro is fun but there are a bunch of terrain traps of course if you are too adventurous so be careful if you do venture off that you don't get stuck at the bottom of a gully with no way out. Furano is a year round town, but it's pretty quiet and will be nothing like Niseko. I'm actually heading there this weekend so I will be able to give you more details next week. Rusutsu is nearer to Niseko and has excellent tree skiing that isn't risky at all. The groomers are pretty long as well so if you just like cruising then there are a fair few trails. But it's the trees that Rusutsu is good for.....almost all tree areas are good for bombing, they mostly always lead back to the lifts, it's pretty hard to go wrong at Rusutsu. It is quite busy tho due to its closeness to Niseko (It's about an hour drive and there is a shuttle bus from Niseko). Rusutsu area is VERY quiet with the 2 big resort hotels and a smattering of private lodges.....a few restaurants dotted around the area for after the lifts stop, but it's not exactly pumping nightlife :)
 

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If you want to go to Kiroro, then it's cheaper to stay down in Otaru, a coastal town that has restaurants n bars etc. It also has other touristy things to see if that's your thing. Furano is in central Hokkaido and doesn't get as much snow as Niseko area but it's much colder so condition of the snow lasts longer in between dumps....this year this really helps. Kiroro is fun but there are a bunch of terrain traps of course if you are too adventurous so be careful if you do venture off that you don't get stuck at the bottom of a gully with no way out. Furano is a year round town, but it's pretty quiet and will be nothing like Niseko. I'm actually heading there this weekend so I will be able to give you more details next week. Rusutsu is nearer to Niseko and has excellent tree skiing that isn't risky at all. The groomers are pretty long as well so if you just like cruising then there are a fair few trails. But it's the trees that Rusutsu is good for.....almost all tree areas are good for bombing, they mostly always lead back to the lifts, it's pretty hard to go wrong at Rusutsu. It is quite busy tho due to its closeness to Niseko (It's about an hour drive and there is a shuttle bus from Niseko). Rusutsu area is VERY quiet with the 2 big resort hotels and a smattering of private lodges.....a few restaurants dotted around the area for after the lifts stop, but it's not exactly pumping nightlife :)
Definitely let me know how you like Furano. I would like to stay close to the mountain, so I don't want to stay an hour away. The cold doesn't bother me, I regularly go out with temperatures around -23 C here in VT. I don't mind not having nightlife, I just don't want to be stuck inside a resort with only one dining option which sounds like how Kiroro is? Furano sounds more like what I'm looking for, a variety of lodging and dining options with a quieter local vibe. Rusutsu looked really strange from what I researched. It looked very kid and family oriented, not sure if it's a place I'm looking to stay around. But please correct me if I have the wrong idea about Rusutsu. Thanks for your help, I would love to hear your experience with Furano when you come back. Thanks for your help
 

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Riding Rusutsu is ace, but the hotel vibe definitely is kid n family. It's mainly serviced by the 2 large resort hotels that have a number of restaurants in them. Outside the door of the main hotel is a small street with a handful of restaurants/ bars....izakayas. The ski instructors usually hang out there cos there pretty much isn't any where else to hang out.....even the hotel bar has strange opening times and is usually dead.
 

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Rusutsu and Kiroro are significantly closer than Furano and are well setup for tourists, so I'd def suggest one of those. Neither has anywhere near the infrastructure of Niseko, but you have to remember you're purposely abandoning all that in Niseko. Otherwise stay in Niseko--between all the mountains there and down days to rest or just hang out, there's plenty to keep a couple intermediate riders like you guys busy for the duration of your trip.
 

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If you want to go to Kiroro, then it's cheaper to stay down in Otaru, a coastal town that has restaurants n bars etc. It also has other touristy things to see if that's your thing. Furano is in central Hokkaido and doesn't get as much snow as Niseko area but it's much colder so condition of the snow lasts longer in between dumps....this year this really helps. Kiroro is fun but there are a bunch of terrain traps of course if you are too adventurous so be careful if you do venture off that you don't get stuck at the bottom of a gully with no way out. Furano is a year round town, but it's pretty quiet and will be nothing like Niseko. I'm actually heading there this weekend so I will be able to give you more details next week. Rusutsu is nearer to Niseko and has excellent tree skiing that isn't risky at all. The groomers are pretty long as well so if you just like cruising then there are a fair few trails. But it's the trees that Rusutsu is good for.....almost all tree areas are good for bombing, they mostly always lead back to the lifts, it's pretty hard to go wrong at Rusutsu. It is quite busy tho due to its closeness to Niseko (It's about an hour drive and there is a shuttle bus from Niseko). Rusutsu area is VERY quiet with the 2 big resort hotels and a smattering of private lodges.....a few restaurants dotted around the area for after the lifts stop, but it's not exactly pumping nightlife :)
Any update on Furano, like outside the slopes, the ridge?
 

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Any update on Furano, like outside the slopes, the ridge?
Furano on Tuesday was ridiculous. A shitload of snow fell and everywhere was on. We didn't do anything proper out of bounds other than the gated areas just beyond the ropes and Premium zones. There were few people and lots of snow so we stayed and played in bounds in the trees and under the lifts.

For the OP, I can't recommend Furano enough, it sounds exactly what you are looking for. The town itself is split into 2 parts, the upper part near to the resort is the touristy area. The bars n restaurants were a bit more lively but almost exclusively with foreign tourists. As a result things are slightly more expensive here. We stayed in the lower part, the town itself where most of the locals live. Plenty different restaurant options but don't go expecting pumping bars and clubs :) We did go to a cool karaoke bar that was set up like a live house. Band equipment and a smoke machine when you sing gave it more than a hint of X-Factor :D however there were no tourists here except for us. Met some friendly locals and had a laugh. English wasn't really at a premium here. Went to a couple of bars in what I suppose is "downtown", but the area was like a ghost town. 1 bar is run by an American guy and TBH he's a bit of a know-all douche.....but horses for courses.

Furano is about a 2hr drive from Sapporo. There are buses from the airport, but they will be a bit longer. If you are going to Furano, think about flying into Asahikawa airport, it's much closer. There are scheduled flights from Tokyo if that's where you are connecting.

Kiroro and Rusutsu resort are pretty isolated, they are set up like you suggested, to keep the guests there. Kiroro especially has nothing in the immediate vicinity of the slopes other than the hotel. Rusutsu does have other sleeping options but not a huge amount and the same with alternative eating joints. That said, the main hotel does have a fair few choices of restaurants on site.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Furano on Tuesday was ridiculous. A shitload of snow fell and everywhere was on. We didn't do anything proper out of bounds other than the gated areas just beyond the ropes and Premium zones. There were few people and lots of snow so we stayed and played in bounds in the trees and under the lifts.

For the OP, I can't recommend Furano enough, it sounds exactly what you are looking for. The town itself is split into 2 parts, the upper part near to the resort is the touristy area. The bars n restaurants were a bit more lively but almost exclusively with foreign tourists. As a result things are slightly more expensive here. We stayed in the lower part, the town itself where most of the locals live. Plenty different restaurant options but don't go expecting pumping bars and clubs :) We did go to a cool karaoke bar that was set up like a live house. Band equipment and a smoke machine when you sing gave it more than a hint of X-Factor :D however there were no tourists here except for us. Met some friendly locals and had a laugh. English wasn't really at a premium here. Went to a couple of bars in what I suppose is "downtown", but the area was like a ghost town. 1 bar is run by an American guy and TBH he's a bit of a know-all douche.....but horses for courses.

Furano is about a 2hr drive from Sapporo. There are buses from the airport, but they will be a bit longer. If you are going to Furano, think about flying into Asahikawa airport, it's much closer. There are scheduled flights from Tokyo if that's where you are connecting.

Kiroro and Rusutsu resort are pretty isolated, they are set up like you suggested, to keep the guests there. Kiroro especially has nothing in the immediate vicinity of the slopes other than the hotel. Rusutsu does have other sleeping options but not a huge amount and the same with alternative eating joints. That said, the main hotel does have a fair few choices of restaurants on site.
Awesome, thanks for the info. That sounds what I'm looking for. Thanks for your help
 

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Do check out Rusutsu for a day trip from Niseko if you like trees. It's amazing and super easy to read and navigate.
 

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Just came back from our first trip to Japan a couple weeks ago. Rusutsu hands down was our fave resort. Great terrain with fun pockets of pow in the trees, despite low snowfall during our time there. And really fun, open groomers as well. We stayed at an AirBnB not too far away and rented a car, so we didn't mind that it was quiet around there cos we could get around when needed.

The main Niseko area is very touristy and pricey, as a result. It didn't quite have that local Japanese resort feel imo. But everything is within walking distance, so there's that convenience factor I guess.

We also went to Moiwa & Kiroro. Kiroro's peak views were awesome with decent terrain. It has a few more relatively steeper runs compared to Rusutsu & Niseko imo. And as someone previously mentioned, not too far from the town of Otaru which had some good eats and decent sights to walk around and see. Moiwa was the smallest of the ones previously mentioned. A very intimate feel, and even reminded of home with how small it was. Ran into the fabled "Orange man" there, also, that was pretty dope.

All in all, despite the slow start to winter in Hokkaido this year, was still an amazing exp overall. Can't wait to go back there asap.
 

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I went solo to Hokkaido last winter. While I was there I rode at niseko, asahidake, kiroro, and furano.

Niseko- spent six days here. lots of terrain. I rode the four resorts under the niseko united pass. Went into some of the back country. It was terrific. I was unguided and definitely regret not acquiring one. The terrain parks had a decent setup. Pretty good flow. Not great, but wasn’t really there to ride park. It makes sense that Hokkaido resorts wouldn’t have huge park setups... it would be a lot of digging/build days. I’m not really into the party scene anymore, but the night life was very typical for any town associated with a major ski area. Also, the cost and crowds were very evident. But, that’s to be expected.

Asahidake- spent three days here. small but with some fun terrain. Also, the one tram can shutdown due to wind on occasion. Maybe bring a split board? Absolutely no night life. However, they do have an onsen located in the hotel. Very peaceful and quiet. Relaxing. I would recommend ending a trip here. No terrain park. understandable.

Kiroro- spent two days here. Almost as isolated as asahidake. The cost is high if you are going to stay at the resort. Decent terrain. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with kiroro. I found kiroro to be kind of flat. It had steeps, but it seemed like I was riding flat terrain more than I expected. Also, the gondola shut down one day, so access to the upper half of the mountain was restricted. The lower half being relatively flat. A couple of weird jumps for their park. Odd.

Furano- only rode one day here. I was supposed to go to Tokyo for a few days, but I decided to chase the snow. I really enjoyed furano. It has great terrain. Its relatively steep, decent tree runs. Followed some people into the back/slack country and was really impressed. Great place to get a backcountry guide. Crowds weren’t bad. When I go to Japan again, I will most definitely spend more days here. Can’t say much for the night life. A few rails, jumps, and jibs for a terrain park. Kind of fun, actually.



Hope this helps.
 
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