Sapporo Teine great snow just behind the city

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Sapporo Teine has terrain and powder snow to rival anywhere in Hokkaido right behind Sapporo. Midweek it’s often empty too! Japow doesn’t get much more accessible than this. Anytime the weather lifts you get an instant ski report visible out the window from many downtown hotels.

Powder riding at Sapporo Teine ski area
Slashing a line in Teine’s Panorama zone © Darren Teasdale www.nisekophotography.com

The weather doesn’t lift that often, because it snows so much, but if Sapporo Teine looks good, go! A short bus ride later you will soon be enjoying lift-accessed tree skiing to rival anywhere in Hokkaido.

The back side ‘Kitakabe’ or North Face run off the Highlands lift at Teine runs up to 36° gradient on the official run, with maybe 1000′ vertical feet at that at a decent pitch. Or you can go quite a bit steeper depending on your line and conditions. Heading skiers left under the old gondola line opens up some pillows and drop offs, best not to go it alone in there. There are cliffs and terrain traps to wath out for.

We arrived at lunchtime midweek in February, bang in the middle of the famous Sapporo Snow Festival, and I was amazed how few people were there.

You’ve been warned .. head further skier’s left or right and it gets well past 36° © Owain Price

Off the sides off the main run there were still knee deep fresh laps to be had yet there was almost no one else skiing it.
Niseko locals who watch the weather patterns will sometimes make the 2 hours plus drive over from Hirafu to enjoy far less crowded runs then they would be contending with back there when the snow is good.

Niseko Photography & Guiding run Sapporo Resort Tours, the easy option for all levels with transport and guides included to head over for a day from there.

Sapporo Teine english trail map
Sapporo Teine trail map

Sapporo Teine resort is split between two separate sections, the lower Teine Olympia area – which boasts a summer theme park, and the upper Teine Highlands area.

A gondola up and green trail down links the two, but unless you are a beginner it’s best to head straight to the Highland zone. That said, the steepest official course in the whole resort is the Olympic Cauldron Dive run which gets to 38°. You can get a 6km long cruise over 680m vertical if you ski all the way down top-to-bottom down the green trails.

Apart from the great North Face run and associated side country, the Teine Highland zone has the Panorama No 1 and 2 pair lifts up top. These access cruisy ridgeline runs that have spectacular views over the city and Ishikari Bay whenever the clouds lift off.

The Slalom course is a nice open powder shot too – it can be bumped up underneath from traffic but can easily fill in enough for a clean line. Because the access is off the winding green trail to the bottom a lot of the powder-capable riders miss it, taking the main course – itself the 1992 Olympic GS run down.

Get up here first thing on a powder morning and you can do that then hit the North Face.

Sure, Sapporo Teine is not huge. The official total is only 76 hectares, but the side country adds a chunk to that.

It snows a lot at Sapporo Teine, so ‘groomed’ runs can turn into powder lines during the day © Owain Price

Just remember it snows a lot around here, so a “groomed” run can easily turn into boot or knee deep powder on top. And while you are having lunch the North Face can fill in again quite nicely ..

The night skiing available at the lower Highlands zone is pretty limited, but well worth a shot on a clear night for the views.

There are plenty of facilities at Sapporo Teine, designed to cope with weekend crowds. These include a nice big food court at the Highlands base operating on the usual ticket system to get what you want. The custard filled hot cake/cookie stand by the doorway is perfect for a sugar hit before heading back out into the deep.

Is there a bus to Sapporo Teine?

Getting to Sapporo Teine is simplest using the Big Runs return bus and full day lift package, for ¥6,900 or ¥4,400 primary school age kids.

It picks up from downtown hotels, for example pick up from the Sapporo Prince at 8:20am gets you to Highlands at 9:20am. Check the link here for booking details/times.
Without the bus day passes are ¥5,200 adult, ¥2,500 primary school, ¥3,700 middle school or seniors 60 plus.
A taxi from downtown is around ¥5,500 each way, and takes about 40 minutes, or ¥2,700 and around 15 minutes from Teine JR station. JR buses stop at both zones.
Teine is also only 60 minutes or so by car from New Chitose Airport for first or last day fun if you are self-driving.

Sapporo is a ski resort, with Japan’s best aprés ski

Between Sapporo Teine and Kokusai there are certainly at least 3 or 4 days worth of great skiing and riding to be had by basing yourself in the city. Add in cat skiing at Iwanai near Otaru, and/or Kiroro, and there is easily enough to make Sapporo a fully-fledged ski ‘resort’ in our book.

After many fleeting visits, usually as a last or first night in Hokkaido option, for the past couple of years we have stayed extra nights in Sapporo to allow more skiing there, and discover more of the restaurants and nightlife as well.

The Susukino District is Japan’s largest entertainment district north of Tokyo, packed with bars, restaurants and stores.

Of course the Sapporo International Snow Festival is the number one time to go – best book early as you can for those dates.

Sapporo Teine accommodation options

We like the Sapporo Prince for its great location, big buffet breakfast and nice hot bath. Plus the distinctive round tower is easy to spot for finding your way home at night.

Booking.com

More on Sapporo and the festival in our feature on that topic here.

Sapporo Ice Festival street food stall