We’ve made Sapporo our home base for a month in December, and we wanted to enjoy some of the snow sports that Hokkaido has to offer – on a budget, of course!
This post is all about what we found on our quest for the cheapest way to enjoy snowboarding from a base location in Sapporo. We’ll go through all the details, including gear, where to go, and transport costs.
Hokkaido in Japan is famous for snow and is apparently quite highly regarded in the snow sports realm for its fine powder snow.
There are heaps of different ski resorts where you can enjoy skiing or snowboarding. However, we had a slightly different approach – we wanted to do a good amount of snow-sports without staying at a ski resort, since we are currently living in Sapporo.
The main things we had to consider were:
- Gear hire (we had no gear since we’re one-bag traveling around Japan)
- Where to go (travel time and cost to get to a ski resort were a concern, since we’d be doing day-trips from Sapporo)
- Cost of lift hire (we were looking for the cheapest ones, since we’re just beginners)
Gear – Snowboarding / Skiing
Let’s start with gear. Whether you’re planning on snowboarding or skiing, if you are a tourist and not a serious snow-sports fanatic, it’s unlikely you’ll have your own gear.
Pretty much all ski resorts in Hokkaido offer gear hire to some degree (usually you can get a snowboard and boots set, or skis and boots set, or pay a bit more and get all your ‘wear’ gear – jacket, pants etc. – included as well).
Keep in mind that some resorts don’t offer goggles or gloves as part of their ‘wear’ hire.
After looking at a few of the closer ski slope’s rental rates, we decided that it would be cheaper to purchase our own gear if we were going to go at least 3 times to the ski slopes.
Purchasing Your Own Snowsports Gear For Cheap
Of course, there’s no way we could afford new gear, so we went on the hunt for snowsports equipment that is second hand.
Thankfully, there is a chain of stores called “2nd Street” in Hokkaido. As the name suggests, it’s a thrift store selling second-hand items. The website is only in Japanese, but you can use Google Translate with some success.
Remember that not all 2nd Street stores sell snow sports gear – some only just sell regular clothing.
If you need more details, click here to find out exactly where we went and more recommendations on where to purchase second hand snow sports gear in Sapporo.
We ended up spending around 13,300 Yen (excl tax) on a full snowboarding set for one of us, and 6,000 Yen (excl tax) for snow gear for another, for a total of 20,884 Yen (including tax).
The plan was that one of us would rent a board and boots from the resort, since we couldn’t find boots in the required size.
Compared to hiring a full set of gear, which costs around 7,000 for 4 hours per go, we’d break even if we went for more than 2 day trips to the snow.
Plus, you also get about 1/3 of the value of the items back when you sell them back to the 2nd Street store.
Where To Go – Ski Fields That Are A Day Trip From Sapporo
We looked at a few different ski resorts that are day-trippable from Sapporo.
Basically if you are based in Sapporo and want to spend some time at the snow fields, you can’t travel too far to get to a ski resort, otherwise it eats up too much of the day.
Unfortunately, this means that famous slopes like Niseko, Rusutsu, Furano, etc. are off the cards, unless you want to spend a good deal of money and time on transport each day.
One thing to keep in mind is that in winter, the daylight hours are much reduced. I remember being really surprised when we first arrived in Sapporo, to see that it was pretty much night time before 5PM in mid-December.
Coming into late December now, it seems to start getting dark around 4PM, so unless there’s night-skiing at the resort you choose, the days are short.
Ski Resorts That Are Close To Sapporo
The following ski slopes are close enough to Sapporo that you can take a day trip to them even if you don’t have a car.
They are listed from nearest to furthest from Sapporo city center.
Don’t forget to check the latest information on each resort’s website, to make sure they’re open and check their rates!