Kiroro has to be the snowiest major resort on the planet. Sure, Utah and plenty of other places get their share and on their day are awesome. Nearby Niseko gets slammed with amazing consistency. But at Kiroro the 21.5 metres average season snowfall is a step up again. They get an absurd amount of snow, like 753cm in January 2016, more than most places get in a full season. That’s japow on steroids. 2018 is heading off the charts yet again with great conditions since last November.
The stats are hard to argue with, especially when possible rivals don’t collect their total snowfall data, only the snow depth measurements. At Kiroro they got wise to the importance of the figures, and have been keeping score diligently for several seasons.
But it should be no surprise: the original owner overflew Hokkaido in June in a helicopter checking out where he might want to put his new ski resort. Only the Kiroro area and around Asahidake in the centre of the island still had much snow. So he picked it. Smart guy.
Another way of looking at it is snowmaking. “Snowmaking machines are useless in Kiroro, they would just be buried in deep snow” the resort told us, and it’s a good point.
Kiroro sits in an absolute sweet spot for snowfall, seeming to catch the best from most directions as the Siberian Pow Express keeps thundering in off the nearby Sea of Japan. Kokusai, another to get seriously slammed but with less attention to collecting statistics, is nearby, and benefits from almost as much snow – more on that great day-only ski area here.
We put the case that Kiroro is arguably the World’s #1 for major resort powder in our ipad Japan Classics issue in 2015. The only valid counter argument is what constitutes a major resort, because on the snow stats it’s no contest. So many times when nearby areas like Niseko get 10-20cm here it will be 30-40cm. Over a season that adds up. Of course the season is a long one too, from November to May.
Our tip, don’t forget the low light goggle lens, in January 2016 there was just one day when it didn’t snow!
Kiroro powder for all the people
But legendary snow doesn’t mean you have to be a legend skier to enjoy it. Quite the opposite, there are easy groomers and plenty of moderately pitched powder lines that are perfect to get your deep snow skills working on.
One day when the gondola was shut for wind I spent the morning lapping the Nagamine chair, with a bunch of fellow day trippers from Niseko. On the bus back everyone was raving about the best snow and best day’s riding ever; not a soul complained about that being on intermediate runs all day.
Deep days in light snow for most of us involve a share of stacks. In the snow angel powder here those are miraculously pain free, and fun – face plants are kind of like diving head first into the coloured foam ball cage at IKEA all over again, it takes you back to being a kid.
Getting moving again can be a struggle though, especially on a board, so use the nice consistent pitch on Kiroro’s easier terrain to get used to pointing it as fast as the depth and gradient let you go. If the gondola is open better skiers head straight there, leaving the Nagamine area alone, so going there first to improve is a good idea if you are new to powder.
Not that the terrain and powder zone off the gondola and backside hooded double chair is super steep, but there are tighter lines, trees, and competition, so you want to be on your game.
Kiroro’s best terrain is in the abundant side country, via their entry and reentry points, and their Kiroro Mountain Club program is what you need to get on to get into it. It’s just ¥1,000 daily or ¥10,000 for the season, and allows you several benefits, including exclusive weekday access to the Asari 2-C course.
To head out the access points you need to submit a Mountain Climbing Registration form; Members can submit forms from 8am, non-members have to wait till 9am. They have avi essentials rental (probe, shovel, beeper) for ¥3,000 daily, and as members you save 20% on hot waxes and premium rentals.
You can also get on free ski & board culture tours with Japanese lessons included along the way.
Which brings us to why only day trip? Sure, those are great for a great introduction to the resort, operating midweek for the 70 minute trip over from Niseko. But staying at the base is better. There are two deluxe hotel options (see following spread), ski in/ski out at the Sheraton or one kilometre down the road at the The Kiroro.
Otherwise there’s not a lot here – the Mountain Centre has all the basics of hires, ski school etc, ski shop, coffee shop, and a public hot bath, while down the road at the little ‘Kiroro village’ there’s a shopping area. But Kiroro’s not where you come for party nightlife.
Kiroro 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.
Kiroro 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.
No wonder it’s on a roll, with some exciting new condo developments in the pipeline – more on that in another post.
Kiroro Mountain stats
• Summit 1180m, base 570m, max vertical 610m
• 21.5m plus snowfall
• 21 courses longest 4km; terrain 33% beginner, 29% intermediate, 38% advanced/expert
• Park, wave course, Annie Kids Ski Academy with progressive fun zones for kids
• 11 lifts including 1 gondola, 1 combi gondola/quad, 4 hooded express quads, 1 hooded express double
• Lift pass rates day adult ¥5,800 youth (13-18) ¥5100, child (6-13) ¥3000
Getting to Kiroro
Kiroro is 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.
Kiroro Resort www.kiroro.co.jp/en/
Packages www.deeppowdertours.com www.skijapan.com
Kiroro hotel options
The Kiroro Tribute Portfolio Hotel Hokkaido, surrounded by
two magnificent peaks, is breathtaking in both its architecture
and views, boasting 282 spacious rooms and suites including
authentic Japanese suites. Adventure in any season, with nature’s
beauty and world-class facilities to keep everyone delightfully
Enjoy a plethora of dining options from authentic Italian cuisine at
the hotel’s signature restaurant to casual buffet or a-la-carte dining
at the Cafe.
Relax in the indoor/outdoor onsen, resort pool, and gym.
Clean and modern, the Sheraton Hokkaido Kiroro Resort is the
perfect haven for the avid skier. Hit the slopes first with ski in/ski
out convenience, then later unwind in the healing waters of our
Tokiwa Geothermal Spa. With every luxury at hand, come winter
or summer we have endless activities for you.
Enjoy a range of creative Japanese and Western culinary options
at the Rivierouge all-day dining restaurant, or the Lumiere Cafe for
a memorable lunch.
The Lobby Lounge is the place for après. Gather fireside over local whisky, light fare and more.