Sapporo Kokusai, Jan. 19, 2016

Tony Crocker

Staff member
For our last two days in Hokkaido, Liz and I signed up for Black Diamond Tours’ “Happy Ending” package in Sapporo. For this you get two days skiing at 2 local Sapporo areas and a night or two in the city depending upon one’s departure flight. There is a fairly fast half hour train to Chitose airport from Sapporo as opposed to a 2+ hour transfer from Niseko.

Weather continued to be difficult at the end of our trip. Niseko had another day of no new snow but high winds closing the upper lifts. So we were better off at Sapporo Kokusai, which had 20cm new snow and was snowing most of the day. Kokusai also marked a significant milestone as my 200th ski area.


Kokusai had 1,600 vertical and 4 of our 5 runs were into the trees to the left of Downhill on the map. It was a 2 hour drive from Niseko so we didn’t get on the hill until 10:30. We were both pretty beat after 10 days of skiing and on one run we both managed to drop a ski and spend quite a bit of time recovering them.

Nonetheless the skiing was just what we could enjoy most under the circumstances. Nearly everyone at Kokusai was in organized school P.E. classes so almost no one was off piste. Thus it was easy to get untracked snow. Our guide Mattias, who is half Swedish and half Japanese, got some good pics of us.




On the traverse in, Liz stops next to a snow blob.

The exit traverse was trickier, with this creek crossing.

The traverses and runouts consumed about half the vertical, similar to Catherine’s/Patsy Marley at Alta, but much better than Kiroro. There is also good off-piste terrain along Kokusai’s gondola line, but unfortunately the local forestry bureaucrats just closed it to skiing this season.

We quit a little after 3PM for other activities with 8,400 vertical, 4K of powder. We fist stopped at Asarigawa Onsen, which I especially appreciated since one of the hot pools had jets to massage beat down ski muscles. Liz liked the “relaxation room” too.

We had dinner in Otaru, reputedly the “sushi capital of Hokkaido.” We trusted Mattias’ expert guidance in ordering, but we also picked a couple of impulse items off this conveyor belt.

Liz particularly thought the Akagai clams, scallops and toro fatty tuna were a cut above what we get at home on “sushi row” in Studio City.

At the end the cashier counts our bill electronically by our plates, color coded by price.
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