Sahoro Resort is a much quieter alternative to the better known Hokkaido ski areas further west. It’s so quiet in fact that we got fresh tracks on our first day back in Japan, despite not hitting the slopes until late afternoon.
The quickest way to get here is to avoid busy New Chitose and instead fly into little Tokachi-Obihiro airport, which is just 75 minutes drive from Sahoro. Grab your Nippon Rent-a-Car and hit the empty eastern Hokkaido roads. Sahoro Resort also run buses that connect to flights, so either way your flight-to-snow time is minimal. We had a Qantas/JAL codeshare connection off our Haneda overnight flight, and ANA also have a couple of daily flights.
Even better, while you would have to be lucky to get untracked snow at any of the western Hokkaido big guns mid-morning, never mind mid-afternoon, Sahoro remains off the radar and out of the way enough for us to still find plenty on our arrival late in the day during the first week of February.
A further bonus was the chance to sample the new North-Facing Slopes zone off the Sahoro Express lift, a brand new bubble cover express. This single lift expansion has added 40% or so to the in-bounds terrain, with all 5 of the new cut runs black rated and left ungroomed.
In between and to the sides is some nice pitched tree skiing. The last time we were in Sahoro, back in 2012, the whole north side was out-of-bounds, supposedly a no-go area but in reality an awesome side-country option.
There’s a decent pitch to the top section and down to the lift now, but previously you were left with a long near-flat traverse, ducking branches flying along in the ski-out rut track trying not to lose speed. That was followed by a skate down a road back past the bear enclosure. Yes, bears. They are a big summer attraction for year-round Sahoro Resort. In winter now there’s even an option to see them hibernating.
Back in 2012 we managed 3 laps in two hours it was so good. This time we just lapped the lift, which gives a solid 470m vertical for 5 minutes ride time. The new cut runs are left natural, so they build up some rollers and hits over the previous day’s traffic that will work anyone’s legs. The lift has quickly become the main drawcard on powder days, so better skiers/riders should definitely head here first.
But the new lift has also taken more pressure of the main bowl, which is accessed by the single gondola to the top. You can ski almost anything around the whole main bowl from here, with small trees and old lift-lines providing plenty of options. Some of the other chairs only run on weekends and holidays – like No #4 lift, an old double chair that lets you lap the top section when it is working.
It was dumping when we flew into Obihiro, but our hosts insisted on showing us the ‘sights’ there before we got to Sahoro, otherwise off the overnight flight and our morning connection in Haneda we would easily have been skiing by lunchtime.
With the advantage of knowing the terrain, I just bolted straight for the gondola on arrival, and found myself alone there except for the Club Med Ski School Supervisor. He had just knocked off for the day with the same idea as me for where to find some lines back under the gondola. It runs almost Sahoro’s full 610m vertical – 590m to be precise – and we managed 3 late afternoon laps despite a couple of quick photo stops. Scoring boot to knee deep fresh snow so close to the closing buzzer anywhere is pretty good in my book.
Then it was time to head back to the excellent Sahoro Resort Hotel – which is virtually ski in/ski out, across the road from an express quad lift. This lift and the next quad above it access plenty of very sheltered easy beginner/family terrain, plus there’s a long green run following the southern ridgeline all the way top-to-bottom. Generally it’s a good resort for progressing at, on groomers or in powder.
Last time we were here I remember getting yelled at by an old liftie for popping out next to a lift, but these days it’s more relaxed – the treelines off the sides of the runs are nearly all skiable, and since the main local and international Asian guest markets are not much into the powder there’s plenty for us.
The fact it’s a lot quieter than better known areas is another plus if you’ve got little kids or friends/family in the learner category.
Sure, eastern Hokkaido generally doesn’t get as much total snow as the Western side, but there’s usually way less competition for it.
Where is Sahoro Resort?
Access: Grabbing a car at Tokachi-Obihiro Airport only 77km/75 minutes away and dropping it at New Chitose or Asahikawa (or vice-versa) makes sense. Or use buses – it’s easy to connect on to Furano and Sapporo etc.
Big Runs express bus from New Chitose takes 2 hours / ¥6,000.
Activities at Sahoro Resort
Activities: The resort offers a range of winter activities, including guided all day back country ski/boarding tours, a night snowcat ride to the summit, snowmobiles on a one kilometre circuit, ice fishing, an ‘Air Board Tour’ (which is sort of snowsurfing on an air mattress), and several innovative snowshoe options. Choose from ‘Snowshoe Downhill’, way more fun than just plodding on the flat, or a day nature tour with lunch and a natural onsen included, or a Bear Mountain trip to see signs of bear activity left from summer like claw marks on trees.
The activities add to the all round family attractions, but Sahoro is well worth a visit for the snow and terrain alone now.
Sahoro Resort accommodation
The Tokachi Sahoro Resort Hotel is fully self-contained, with a choice of French, Hokkaido Japanese or buffet dinners, nice onsen, and a lounge bar to make your own aprés at.
The rooms are spacious and it’s excellent value, a lot cheaper than staying at nearby Tomamu for example. It’s virtually ski in/ski out, across the road from the base quad chair lift.
Ski School, ski hire and child minding are on site.
There are lots of great activities on offer.
Sahoro Resort & Hotel www.sahoro.co.jp/en/
For Packages book with www.deeppowdertours.com www.skijapan.com
The other alternative is Club Med’s original Japan offering – see our story on that here.
Sahoro Resort location map