Furano Ski Resort

User rating 8 out of 10

A game of cat and mouse

Sun 30 April 2006 by Teach

Furano is one of Japan's most famous ski resorts, although relatively little is known about it outside of Japan. Situated in the middle of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, Furano benefits from Siberian storm systems that pass over the Sea of Japan and then dump the lightest and driest snow in all of Hokkaido - and 9 meters of it each season. After a big snow fall there is often untracked powder for days.

However, the bummer about Furano is the powder generally stays untracked. Isn't this a good thing you may well ask? Well yes it is. Having spent a season there, there is no better feeling than not having to rush for first tracks on a powder day and knowing that the next day those runs you didn't hit will have no lines on them for the next week apart from yours. It's a tough life. But be prepared to be on the run from the Ski Patrol. The thing is due to the leasing arrangements with the National Park Authority all tree areas are out of bounds. Although this really makes no sense, ski patrol and the lifties take their jobs seriously and will yell at you and sometimes follow you into the trees as you poach some epic turns. Rumour has it that this may change in the near future but for now be prepared.

If you don't mind having to play a game of cat and mouse there are some great lines to be had. Furano is split into two zones the Kitanomine zone and Furano zone. Kitanomine has the most challenging terrain with the downside of having a slow 6 person Gondola. Kumaotoshi (meaning falling bear), Furikasawa and under gondola are the best powder runs. Between the two zones is the link lift and run with lots of hidden spots off the sides of the run and around and under the lift.

On the Furano side the pick is Challenge course and if you can find it the abondoned lift is epic. The downhill course has a great powder run under the lift and through perfectly spaced trees but it's short and is directly above the ski patrol office, so do this run once then head off.

Backcountry access is great with some awesome runs straight of piste. Nishdake is the pick being north facing and steep. Again the problem is the rules. To gain backcountry access you have to get a police pass and if you don't speak fluent Japanese then forget it.

As for the night life well don't some here if you are looking for apres ski life. This is a small country town and the only entertainment you'll find is what you make yourself or good old Kareoke. The bars and restaurants are great though and if you don't mind struggling a bit with the language then its fun.

Furano is definitely a ski area you come to, to board epic powder enjoy the culture and escape the crowds. It's also a great base from which to explore all the ski areas in central Hokkaido.