Kokusai is another little gem powder paradise that gets ridiculous amounts of snow, in the same snow band as Kiroro, and only an hour from downtown Sapporo, or just 40 minutes from Otaru. Along with Sapporo Teine it makes Sapporo skiing stack up with anywhere in Hokkaido.
We woke to 15cm or so outside our base at the Sapporo Prince Hotel, and with a day trip to Kokusai the main item on the schedule froth levels were rising.
Several daily bus services pick up from major hotels and subway stations, with a combo return bus and Kokusai lift pass deal for just ¥5,300 that you can buy on the bus.
That is sensational value for what you get – cruisy long groomers perfect for intermediates and superb side country, not to mention some shorter sweet shots under lifts, especially the new top quad.
Being a dutiful husband, I restrained myself for one cruisy lap with Mrs SA off the top quad – there was 15cm or more on top of the groomer since the machines passed. But for the next lap I couldn’t resist and just dived in under Kokusai’s new Echo quad lift for knee to thigh deep shots over rollers.
The morning was wearing on, competition was arriving, so I got my fill being first in several sections off the quad, which has made a huge difference by allowing you to lap the better upper part without the long flatter runout to the bottom you used to have to do every time.
The boss warmed up too, and she usually beat me back to the lift, as I kept finding new ways to get stuck in hollows where it was waist deep in places.
After 5 or 6 laps it was getting tracked, and we were both getting leg weary, so we hauled in for a coffee break at the little restaurant at the top.
A couple of tables along a group of three well equipped Swedes were also taking a breather. They looked capable, being fully geared up with airbags, so I went model hunting for a side country session.
They were cruising round Hokkaido in a motorhome, and were more than happy to get some shots lapping the ridgeline runs a very short hike above the top of the gondola. Close in you get nicely spaced pines, with plenty of glade openings and a decent pitch for 350m vertical or so before you have to start working left back to the runout to the gondola.
If you don’t know it hang left earlier till you get your bearings. It’s not huge, but going further out along the ridge when it’s safe opens up plenty more untracked, all funneling back to the same runout zone. This day I just lapped with my new Swedish friends, with very few others getting in there, especially from the top.
If you keep working it further right each lap from the top you should get your share too. We sure did!
Back at the bottom for a late lunch the Euros were outnumbering the Aussies in the restaurant, with a big group of Dutch there as well as the Swedes, a sign of the changing times.
Kokusai is a day only area, with easy access and great value – lift passes are only ¥4500 adults, ¥2200 high school, ¥1000 primary school, and the bus + pass deals make it simple from Sapporo.
more at www.sapporo-kokusai.jp