Kiroro is the powder capital of Japan. It gets slammed with 21m plus average snow fall a season! Enjoying a privileged location in the supersize-the-snowfall zone close to the coast near Otaru and Sapporo (it’s a half day tour over from Kokusai when conditions are good), it just gets more snow than the rest. And now it’s skiing top-to-bottom all the way to the lower hotel with the new Gateway Lift opening on the weekend!
The big terrain news at Kiroro is that now they let you at most of it as designated in-bounds off-piste areas. Opening up these areas as in-bounds allows Kiroro to claim it offers Japan’s largest single mountain ski area.
The other big news is the new Gateway Express combi gondola/quad chair and ski run that links the lower hotel and new Yu Kiroro slopeside condominiums to the base. That means the accommodation is 100% ski in/ski out for 2019/2020 – or since this weekend to be precise as the new lift is open!
Kiroro’s powder terrain
After various policy changes over recent years Kiroro’s new off-piste system is much simpler. There are just a handful of permanently closed areas for safety purposes. Most of the rest of the powder terrain is designated in bounds Off-Piste Area, or OPA. Rescue charges apply if you get into trouble in these zones. Obviously you need to be competent and properly equipped to ride in them.
However you certainly don’t need to be any sort of powder legend to get into many of them. Kiroro has plenty of easy powder terrain that is perfect for getting your act together on.
The Nagamine zone, with its own quad chair, is especially good for this. It offers a consistent easy gradient, with just enough pitch to keep some speed up and nicely spaced trees.
For a short steeper burst try skier’s left heading down under the top section of the gondola past the top of the Asari course. If you are early you can get a couple of laps in on the express double chair here before the ridge line gets trashed.
There are some surprise zones available now too that were completely off limits until recently. Like skier’s left of the Yoichi quad chair out of the base. This is an excellent alternative if the gondola is busy or closed for weather reasons. There are some very sweet tree lines available that don’t get so much attention. Wherever you ride with so much snowfall things can fill in again quickly.
For even more powder options register with the Kiroro Mountain Club on Level 2 at the base centre and submit a Mountain Climbing Plan for backcountry access (it’s a Hokkaido Police requirement to do so) to go out of the exit gates.
A friend of ours saved a lone boarder trapped up to their neck in a creek a few years back within a couple of hundred metres of the resort boundary out wide from the Asahari zone, so don’t go alone, or without someone that knows the area/s you are entering.
The majority of riders can get plenty of pow thrills in-bounds nowadays. You can see what a difference there is on the terrain front checking the old trail map on our previous Kiroro feature.
New Gateway Express lift at Kiroro
Big news for 2019/20 is the new Gateway Express combi gondola/quad chair lift up from the deluxe lower hotel, The Kiroro a Tribute Portfolio Hotel Hokkaido, complete with a new linking ski run down.
Right beside the new ski run are the stunning new Yu Kiroro condominiums.
So now all the accommodation is ski in/ski out. While you can day trip over from Niseko, staying here is the way to maximise your first tracks and minimise effort.
They have some fantastic deals to do that if you book early every year, but anytime there are some specials available.
More/book at www.kiroro.co.jp
For families and beginners
Kiroro is great for families too. Annie Kids Ski Academy offers an innovative French developed system of fun progressive zones for kids that incentivise them to want to improve, get medals, and get on to the next level zone.
The resort is also excellent for beginners and early intermediate skiers of any age – the groomers do a great job of keeping all that snowfall under control for them.
Getting to Kiroro
It’s 2 hours by bus from New Chitose Airport, or 90 minutes by car; 50 minutes bus from JR Otaru Station; 90-150 minutes bus from Sapporo downtown hotels;
70 minutes from Niseko.
Packages www.deeppowdertours.com www.skijapan.com