Sapporo Area

TRIP REPORT With some settled weather forecast for this Sunday, Haidee and I made a dash for Mt. Shakotan (積丹岳, 1,255m). We were only two weeks into a busy start to the academic year, but we needed some time out to get some exercise and refresh the mind. Mt. Shakotan had been hit with 100km/h winds the day before, so the lower areas were strewn with twigs and branches, but beyond the treeline we got some good views and skiing.

Mt. Shakotan Spring Ski Touring 2018 (Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Ichankoppe (イチャンコッペ山, 828m), with its north-to-south ridge-line approach, has some of the best and most sustained views of Lake Shikotsu and surrounds of any hill on the lake's volcanic caldera rim. Ichankoppe means "salmon spawning ground river" in Ainu, and Mt. Ichankoppe takes its name from the Ichankoppe River nearby. In clear, still weather, the long ridge can be an incredible place for an overnight camp, with glorious views across the lake. It's hard to believe it's only 30km from Sapporo City.

Mt. Ichankoppe spring ski touring and camping (Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Sapporo (札幌岳, 1,293m) is a popular peak in the Jozankei area, not least of all for its name - the same as the city in which it stands. Half way up the route to the peak is the Hokkai Gakuen University managed Hiyamizu Hut (冷水小屋, 845m), available for overnight stays on the first and third weekends of the month. From the hut, there are a multitude of great slopes to choose from for magnificent skiing. Steep, mellow, and everything in between. Mt. Sapporo's summit offers expansive views over Sapporo City and surrounds. Enjoy as a day-trip or very comfortable overnighter.

Mt. Sapporo and Hiyamizu Hut ski tour (Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Muine (無意根山, 1,464m) is a prominent, band-like mountain within the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. It is a popular destination for Sapporo-dwelling backcountry skiers, and can be approached from two different directions. The more popular direction is via the Senjaku Plateau (route guide here). The route below, however, goes via the Hokkaido University Ski Club's Muine Hut (無意根山尻小屋, 1,020m), one of the historic huts built in the hills of Sapporo in the 1930's. It is a long, flat approach, but the hut allows access to some great skiing from Mt. Muine's ridge.

Mt. Muine and Muine Hut ski touring (Sapporo City, Japan)

In 1928, Prince Chichibu (son of Japan Emperor Taisho) skied the hallowed slopes of Utopia Piste (ユートピアゲレンデ) in the hills just west of Sapporo City. Two yeas later the Okuteine Yama-no-Ie Hut (奥手稲山の家) was built at the foot of that ski run, and still stands today. We visited the hut on an overnight ski trip to the Utopia Piste via the Okuteine River (奥手稲山の沢川) route - the most direct route to the hut - for some untracked skiing. Along for the trip was Jasper, a keen mix-breed Hokkaido-dog.

Okuteine Hut and Utopia Piste ski tour (Okuteine Valley Route, ...

Bankei-sanso Hut (万計山荘, 917m) is a beautiful two-story mountain hut, built on the edge of a gorgeous mountain tarn in the hills about 20km south southwest from central Sapporo. Management of the hut was transferred to the volunteer Bankei-sanso Friendship Society (万計山荘友の会) in May 1995. One of the bigger jobs that needs to be done each year is the back-breaking task of removing, by hand, the 5 tons or so of snow that accumulates on the roof of the hut, half way through winter. This was my first time taking part, and I would discover a community of people passionate about the outdoors, sharing knowledge, and protecting this valuable resource.

Bankei-sanso Hut Annual Volunteer Snow-Clearing (Mt. Soranuma, Hokkaido, Japan)

The Nopporo Forest Park (野幌森林公園) is a sprawling 20-square kilometer forest park on the eastern fringes of Sapporo City. It is well known as a birdwatcher's paradise, and in winter, a pair of snowshoes will allow visitors to wander as they please through un-tracked areas. Haidee recently got a new Hokkaido birdwatching information book that shows the general areas that owls are known to be seen, so we headed out with a birdwatching-master friend to take a look.

Nopporo Forest Park Snowshoe Birdwatching (Ebetsu City, Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Goyro-yama (御料山 - 596m) is the unassuming little peak above the now derelict (as of 2008) Kami-Sunagawa-dake International Ski Area (上砂川岳国際スキー場). The views are modest, stretching across to the Iwamizawa Plains and Mt. Pinneshiri to the east, and Mt. Bibai to the south. The main attraction is a gorgeous, short hike along the ridge from the top of the ski field to the summit. The upper slopes of the old ski pistes are also fantastic for untracked downhill skiing - if you can get there early in the morning before everyone else. The Panke Onsen hotsprings - one minute walk from the trailhead - are the cherry on the top of a nice day out.

Ski Touring Mt. Goryo and the derelict Kami-Sunagawa-dake Ski Field ...

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake (小喜茂別岳 - 970m) is the little-sibling of the higher Mt. Kimobetsu-dake (喜茂別岳 - 1,177m) further to the north (Mt. Kimobetsu-dake route guide here). Access to Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake is just as easy though, and its mellow slopes are great for those just getting their feet wet in backcountry skiing. Expect a beginner to intermediate slope at the upper end of the route that is perfect for lapping a couple of times before heading down.

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake Ski Touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

The route up Mt. Onuma (大沼山 - 1,111m) near the Toyoha Mine in Jozankei (southwestern Sapporo City) may become your next favorite Hokkaido backcountry ski touring route. It is close to Sapporo City. The climb up is short; only about 2 hours or so. The terrain is suitably varied. On a clear day it boasts some magnificent views. But the real cherry on the cake is its downhill slopes. The upper, mostly tree-free slope is worthy of a few exhilarating laps, while the second half of the route back down to the carpark is a glorious dodge-em ride through nicely spaced woods.

Mt. Onuma Backcountry Ski Touring (Jozankei, Hokkaido, Japan)

I've been up to the Ginreiso Hut (銀嶺荘) on Mt. Haruka (春香山 - 910m) a number of times now in most seasons. It is one of only three huts in Hokkaido to boast a year-round hut-keeper (Mt. Tarumae Hut and Mt. Muroran's Shiratori Hut being the others). In winter it is a gorgeous, cosy oasis at the foot of Mt. Haruka's upper eastern face, giving prime ski access to easy lapping of tree- and open-runs. While the hut is owned by Tokai University and officially designated as a staff and student retreat facility, the general public are welcome to stay with prior booking when the hutkeeper is present.

Mt. Haruka Ginreiso Hut Overnight Ski Tour (Otaru City, Hokkaido, ...

Shakotan Hut provides an excellent base from which to explore peaks such as Mt. Shakotan-dake (積丹岳 – 1,255m) or Mt. Yobetsu (余別岳 – 1,298m) on the Shakotan Peninsula. About 40 minutes from the end of the snow-cleared section of dirt road, this is a public-transport accessible hut, free to use for overnight stays. As far as Hokkaido mountain huts go, it is a luxurious one – running spring water, a kerosene stove, and a large tatami living area. We stayed overnight there for a blue-sky ascent of Mt. Shakotan.

Shakotan Hut and Mt. Shakotan-dake Ski Tour (Hokkaido, Japan)

First impressions of the Mt. Mayoizawa (迷沢山 – 1,005m) backcountry skiing route are probably not that great. You’d be forgiven to want to shun this route, with its overbearing-looking pylons and not much of a peak to speak of. But it has two seriously good things going for it: it is […]

Mayoizawa-yama mid-week ski tour (Sapporo City, Japan)

Mt. Okotanpe (オコタンペ山 – 968m) is classed as a beginner’s mountain in the guidebook. This is probably a reasonable description if you are on snowshoes. If on skis, you’ll want to be confident of your steep uphill zigzagging and steep downhill tree-dodging skills, such that I’d class it more as […]

Mt. Okotanpe Ski Tour (Hokkaido, Japan)

The approach to Mt. Soranuma-dake (空沼岳 – 1,251m) is a convoluted mess of topography which doesn’t lend well for great downhill skiing. Don’t let that put you off though. The old forester’s outpost Bankei Hut (万計山荘) is worth the effort, and the national park landscape is magical. We did the […]

Mt. Soranuma-dake Overnight Ski Tour (Hokkaido, Japan)

When Chitose City in Hokkaido, Japan, finally gets enough snow (around the beginning of January), the local ski field grinds into action. The tow-rope lift is a brutal contraption, but once you’re used to it, the 60yen per ride (or a whopping 500yen for a day-pass) feels like the bargain […]

Chitose City Ski Field: A one-run wonder micro-resort

Here, I outline a looping ski tour that makes the most of the topography surrounding the amazing Yama-no-Ie Hut tucked below Mt. Okuteine (奥手稲山, 948m) on the outer reaches of Sapporo City. The hut is everything you can expect from a mountain hut managed by largely ambivalent Japanese university students: dingy, messy, and a glowing red-hot potbelly stove kept that way by the intrepid first-year students who hauled the coal up the mountain on their backs. But it’s that charm that makes the 4 hour ski tour to the hut, via Mt. Okuteine and back via Mt. Tsuge (つげ山, 935m), more than worth while.

Hokkaido Ski Touring: Mt. Okuteine, Yama-no-ie Hut and Mt. Tsuge ...