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Travel to ski areas from Sapporo

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I'm planning on going to Sapporo in early February and then driving to Rusutsu and Kiroro for day skiing.  Does anyone have experience doing this?  With no knowledge of Japanese is this difficult?





Mod note: moved to International Zone (under EpicSki Community)

post #2 of 6

Paging @markojp or @jimintokyo 

post #3 of 6
If the question is strictly about driving, it's doable without knowing Japanese. Get your international driver's permit from AAA. T-mobile has free international data, you can run your Google map navigational tool or just print the step by step direction before you go. My brother and I drove 2500 km around Hokkaido in April (post ski season there). His fluent Japanese and my ability to read kanji made little difference in driving per se.

Whether you would want to make day trips between Sapporo and Rusutsu/Kiroro is a completely different question. He drove daily between Sapporo and Niseko for a week in late December; some days road condition can be challenging, which is not different from winter driving in U.S. I heard his drive from Niseko to Furano during January storm turned into a nine hour ordeal (rather than the usual 4 hours) with highway shutdown and detours.

Add: Come to think of it, Sapporo to Niseko would be comparable to downtown Seattle to Crystal Mountain. Speaking as former Seattleite.
Edited by Rainbow Jenny - 9/7/15 at 10:32pm
post #4 of 6
Out now, will reply later but simple answer is doable but i wouldnt. Bettrr to stay niseko as base
post #5 of 6
The drive from Sapporo to Rutsutsu and Niseko isn't bad, but in bad weather it wouldn't be too fun. I can say it would get old very quickly. Most Sapporo folks I knew who spent a lot of time at Niseko usually spent the weekend. These days thought, it might be a much more expensive proposition.
post #6 of 6


I suspect your plan is to stay in Sapporo during the Snow Festival and do a few days skiing also. That's not a bad idea, but I'd suggest Teine Highland and Sapporo Kokusai as easier drives. In fact, you can take a train to Teine station and a short bus ride to the mountain base. Kokusai would be an hour-plus, Kiroro maybe an hour using expressway. But wherever you drive from Sapporo you'll run into pretty heavy traffic getting out of the city, and back in late in the afternoon. Teine & Kokusai may not have the intl cache of Niseko, but they make great day trips. 

Alternately, do a couple of days of Snow Fest'ing, then shift over to either Niseko or Rusutsu -- would suggest Niseko as the base if you want any nightlife, I wouldn't want to try driving back to Rusutsu during a blizzard at night after a few drinks (in fact, even without the drinks).

Check out the Places to Stay tab at snowjapan.com; there are still bargains to be had if you're willing to stay Japanese-style in a small inn or lodge. 


As Jenny said, you don't really need Japanese for the driving, and all rental cars in Hokkaido are 4WD/snowtired in winter, and almost all come with navigation systems which the rental folks will be happy to set up for you. 

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