Other than bathing naked in 40 degrees hot water, the other favourite thing I like about Japan is skiing in light and fluffy snow. For that, you can’t go wrong with just about any ski resort in Hokkaido. Having spent a month already at Niseko located on the western end of Hokkaido back in 2010, we decided to try something new this time. We decided on Furano as the base of our short 4 days skiing trip. The free shuttle bus offerered by the Furano council to take us from airport to our booked hotel in Furano probably contributed to our decision to come here, not to mention everything is cheaper than the overcrowded Niseko popular with many tourists.
We stayed a little further away from the ski resort this time, at a nicer hotel than I would normally stay in. Having said that, Natulux hotel is only about 10 minutes away by free shuttle provided by the hotel. It’s certainly cheaper than the hotel we’ve been staying in Singapore, for the same money!
Not only that, this hotel features one of the best Furano ‘Omelete Rice’ in town for 1000 yen. Food is a completely separate topic, which I’ll cover in a separate post.
Skiing at Furano was almost everything I expected it to be. No, it is definitely not Niseko, in terms of the abundance of thick soft snow on the main runs. The groomed runs were uninspiring and for me, it’s just a waste of my leg energy! It didn’t take me too long to realise that the ‘good’ stuff isn’t too far away from the groomed runs at all. Wai Kuan enjoyed it though. I mean, where else can you find this in the middle of a ski run?
However, the ‘real’ Furano that foreigners all rave on about, and gets my heart pumping is hidden behing these lines:
Yes.. the best I can describe Furano ski resort is that, the best stuff are blocked off areas that no one is allowed to access. The rest is rubbish. It’s almost as if they did this on puprpose to stop skiiers from enjoying skiing at all! There are big signs to warn skiiers that crossing these lines into these prohibited areas will result in our passes taken off. Having said that, it also didn’t take me too long to realise that, just about every single ‘prohibited’ sign has ski & snowboard marks under it. So, if you pretend that you didn’t see the sign, and just duck the rope, your skiing / snowboarding experience suddenly crosses into a much more interesting and exciting run, as good as Niseko with plenty of thick powder, and trees.
Granted, it is considered ‘off-piste’ and your insurance would certainly would probably not cover you for rescues or hospital expenses resulting from getting injured in those areas. Now, I am not advocating that you should duck these ropes, nor am I esponsible if you do get caught doing so and losing your pass. Fortunately, there are resorts in Hokkaido that cater for skiiers with off-piste skiing in mind. Introducing ‘Tomamu’!
We spent a single day there, thanks to Tuan who happen to be travelling in Hokkaido during the same week as us. It was a short 1-hour ride on the private bus that she organised. It even have her name displayed on the bus, that could probably carry over 50, yet there’s just 10 of us in total.
Tomamu, on paper, isn’t a large resort. Skiing off-piste involved signing a piece of paper to warn us of the danger, and that we are all ‘compentent’ skiiers etc etc. A helmet and what I call a ‘bib’ was also provided. I find it quite ridiculous that we have to wear these yellow ‘bibs’ that screams out loud to everyone that we are going ‘off-piste’ legally. I do love that the free helmet fits my large head perfectly though.
I was lucky to also have an off-piste buddy, Helen, from the group of 10 who was happy to explore all the off-piste areas of Tomamu with me. It’s quite hard to find someone around the same level as you, who could keep up and as willing as Helen. I had such a ball in those off-piste areas, I forgot to take photos to show just how wonderful Tomamu’s off-piste areas really were. In short, it’s full of trees and challenging steeps with beautful thick snow. I cannot recommend it enough to someone who’s comfortable off-piste. It’s super enjoyable when you get to go off-piste without worrying about your pass being taken away by Ski Patrol.
And what better way to finish off the day than hanging out with a great bunch of people, talking about snow.