Silky Powder Discovery Tour FAQ’s
PLEASE NOTE: This Frequently Asked Question Section is for the Silky Powder Discovery, our multi-day beginner ski & sightseeing trips for first-timers and beginner skiers. For intermediate/advenced/expert tours, please visit our Silky Powder Adventure FAQ page.
Is the Silky Powder Discovery Tour for me?
Are you new to snow, or have you just started skiing and are looking to improve your skills? Do you want to experience the thrill of sliding down a snowy hill and having fun in deep fluffy powder snow? As well as skiing, do you want to explore the magical island of Hokkaido with its stunning winter landscapes, incredible food and fascinating Japanese culture?
If so then this tour is for you!
On the snow
Our aim is to get you to experience the most incredible powder snow on offer in Japan!
We believe that in magical Hokkaido our guests can enjoy as much virgin powder as they want without having to go too far. As such, we will generally start our ski days in resort, staying within the resort boundaries and doing some short side country excursions. As the day progresses we may go further afield to find those hidden stashes of powder. For the more adventurous we will go deeper in the side country to find steeper terrain and more challenges.
Our tours are fully guided, meaning that your experienced powder ski guide is at your disposal for you to get the most out of your time in the snow. Generally this means that your guide will take you to all the best powder spots in and around the resorts, finding you amazing lines all day. Depending on your ability and experience, you may also have different requests for your guide, who will always be on hand to cater for your needs. You may want to:
– perfect your deep powder turns in incredibly light and consistent Hokkaido powder;
– find out where the best secret powder stashes around resort are;
– be introduced to the resort slopes, facilities and activities;
– try out deep Hokkaido powder for the first time;
– head to the steepest inbound terrain available;
– show off your skills in the park;
– explore the superb side-country, tree skiing and off-piste itineraries, or even take a trip out of the back-country gates;
– simply freeride together with a fun guide and enjoy the whole mountain without even the need for a piste map or working out where the best lines are.
The Silky Powder Adventure is not a hardcore back-country holiday with stays in mountain huts and getting up at the crack of dawn to climb for 5 hours up an active volcano (although this can be arranged if all group members are keen!*). We will rarely do any long back-country hikes, skinning etc. (unless the whole group specifically ask for this and have the appropriate gear, safety equipment and backcountry experience). There is plenty of deep virgin powder to be had by all – if you know where to go!
* Do you want to climb the iconic Mt. Yotei, or do some other serious ski touring for a day? We can offer the services of local backcountry guides for special one-day excursions on request (additional charges may apply). Please contact us for more information.
In order to prepare your itinerary in the best way possible, please provide as much information regarding your skiing/snowboarding ability and aims upon booking your Silky Powder Adventure Tour. We will then match you to the most appropriate group and guide combination. Also please feel free to discuss your guiding needs with your guide throughout the trip – you will find that your daily requirements may change frequently as you look for new challenges and even more fun experiences!
Off the snow
The main aim of Skilas Japan when offering the Silky Powder Adventure Tour is to provide the most enjoyable and fun Japow powder trip ever! So the trip is not only about the incredible Hokkaido snow; it is also about what happens off the mountain, and sharing all the Japanese adventures with like-minded people and new friends.
Onsens (traditional Japanese hot springs) are an integral part of life in Hokkaido, and a fantastic way to relax and soothe weary muscles after a memorable day out in the powder. Your guide will take you to various onsens during your trip to complete your authentic Japanese ski adventure and make you experience the magical recovery powers of Hokkaido’s volcanic waters.
On non-ski days, there are countless activities and sightseeing tours to be done in and around Sapporo. Whether you want to visit a Japanese temple, tour the Sapporo Beer museum, visit the Winter Olympic Museum and ski jump, sample local drinks at a local sake museum or Nikka whiskey distillery, stroll around the sights and through the many parks of Sapporo, or have fun making chocolate in the famous Shiroi Koibito Chocolate Factory, there is something for everyone to enjoy! And of course the food is a definite highlight of any stay in Sapporo (see the Food section below)
If you want to continue in the winter sport theme, there are plenty of other snow activities to enjoy. Why not try snowmobiling, or get your catch of the day on an ice fishing adventure. Of course, if you can’t get enough of the deep powder, you can also add an additional ski day to your trip (many of our guests tend to get a little bit addicted to the white stuff!)
In the evenings, we will all enjoy superb food and relax with a drink in comfortable surroundings to share our day’s stories – before heading for an early night or partying the night away if you so wish!
What ski / snowboard level do I need to be to join your Silky Powder Adventure tour?
Any level of skier or snowboarder from intermediate upwards is welcome to join the trip. However to get the most out of a ski trip to Japan, it is recommended (but not essential) that you have already experienced some off-piste skiing in powder snow conditions. Japanese ski resorts are much smaller than major European and North American ones, so groomers are quite limited; the real fun starts when you head off the marked courses. We will assess your level of skiing / snowboarding and put you into the most appropriate group on the mountain:
- Advanced Group: You are confident on all pistes (groomers) in a variety of conditions. You have a good amount of experience off-piste (side-country) including some powder days and tree skiing. You are adventurous and keen to explore Japan’s amazing off-piste (side-country) and deep powder snow!
- Intermediates Group: You are a good skier on most pistes (groomers) although you may have difficulty on blacks (diamond / double diamond) especially in trickier conditions. You may have a little off-piste experience but are not very confident off the marked trails. You are keen to improve your skiing and experience your first deep powder skiing experience!
If you are a pure powderhound who wants to find the deepest, freshest, fluffiest powder on the planet, a Silky Powder Adventure tour is perfect for you!
If you are a confident skier / snowboarder with little powder experience wanting to improve your powder skiing skills and off-piste experience, this tour is also a great match for you.
If you are a casual skier (wanting to stay on groomed pistes or tempted to try some off-piste) who is a keen foodie or interested in Japanese culture, a Silky Powder Adventure tour would definitely be very suitable for you too.
Beginners and travellers with young children may wish to join our fun Silky Powder Discovery tours (four to seven day tours which include ski lessons and sightseeing tours around Western Hokkaido, hot spring visits and more) or arrange a custom-made tour instead to include ski hire, lessons and childcare.
For groups (4+) who want different itineraries, dates and activities, please visit our custom-made tour page to have us plan your very own ski adventure.
What is included in the Silky Powder Adventure trip?
The Silky Powder Adventure provides unbeatable value! The trip price includes:
- All accommodation for 9-13 nights with breakfast in a well appointed 3-star hotel (upgrades and single rooms available on request) and or Skilas Japan’s Kiroro Ski Lodge.
- 7-10 days ski pass in at least 4 different resorts (see ‘Which ski resorts will I visit’ for more information)
- 7-10 days of guided tours of the ski areas including resort runs and sidecountry/backcountry (depending on individual and group ability)
- All private ground transportation required throughout your trip (door-to-door airport and daily resort transfers from the hotel)
- Some optional side tours included in the itinerary (depending on group requirements, we can take you on onsen trips, to cultural sites, evening entertainment etc.)
- Skilas Welcome Dinner (a chance to get to know fellow tour members over a drink or two and enjoy delicious local specialities)
Crucially you get the invaluable knowledge of Skilas and his team who will take you to the best powder stashes and find you the best places to visit on and off the snow. We will look after you straight from your arrival right through until you leave. You do not need to worry about arranging anything once you are in Sapporo as we will take care of everything for you!
It does NOT include return flights, ski / snowboard equipment rental, other meals, insurance, optional tours and other daily expenses; however our team is on hand to help you with any of these when you book with us.
The Silky Powder Safari is our shorter, 10 day trip. It includes the same services but for a shorter duration (9 nights accommodation, 7 ski days).
How big are the groups?
Silky Powder Adventure Tour groups vary in size. However we keep each group to a maximum of 8 people per guide when out on the mountain, and a maximum of 6 when we head out into the side-country and back-country. Groups may be divided by ability, discipline (ski/snowboard), goals (back-country, side-country, powder basics, groomers etc.) and other factors.
Can I come on my own?
Absolutely! Join our group and meet new friends! We often get single travellers who are keen to experience Japan with like-minded individuals. Sharing a passion is a great way to make friends.
Occasionally we may even be able to arrange room shares with same-sex travellers; otherwise single supplements apply.
Do I need to arrive at Sapporo Airport (CTS) at a certain time?
No – we will provide private transportation from the airport at any time for you. No waiting around for a set transfer time, or for other guests’ delayed flights. Just let us know your flight details to New Chitose International Airport (CTS) and we will arrange the door-to-door transfer for you. You will be picked up from the Arrivals Hall and taken straight to your hotel. And don’t worry if your flight is delayed – we will be waiting for you.
Can I change tour dates?
The Silky Powder Adventure tours have set arrival and departure days; however if you require different dates then please let us know. We can accommodate date changes subject to availability (additional charges may apply). We may also be able to add days to the start and/or end of your trip if you have a different itinerary planned.
What accommodation will I stay in?
During your Silky Powder Adventure you will be staying in Central Sapporo. In addition, you have the option to include a 1-week stay in our new Kiroro Ski Lodge!
We have a range of well-appointed Sapporo three, four and five-star hotels that we have carefully chosen for you. They are all centrally located, close to restaurants, famous sights and nightlife. The tour price is the three-star hotel option unless otherwise stated. You can select a hotel upgrade when booking. Once you have booked the trip, we will inform you which hotel has been selected for you. Please contact us if you wish to discuss other options.
Skilas Japan’s Kiroro Ski Lodge:
New for the 2019/2020 winter season, the Skilas Japan team is proud to present our Silky Powder Ski Lodge. Conveniently located just 10 minutes from Kiroro Ski Resort, the fully renovated lodge comprises of 4 double/twin bedrooms each with their own en-suite shower rooms, a spacious living room with wood stove and a Japanese-style bath / onsen area. Based in Hokkaido’s snowiest valley and in a tranquil setting right beside the Yoichi river, it provides groups of 6 to 10 guests with a comfortable and social environment in which to relax and recount the best moments of the day’s powder adventures. Japow is at your doorstep; it is the perfect place for those seeking the deepest powder skiing experience!
Distances from ski areas (road & weather conditions permitting):
Kiroro – 10 mins Niseko – 40 mins Asari – 40 mins
Rusutsu – 1 hr Sapporo Kokusai / Sapporo Teine / Iwanai Catskiing – 1 hr
Depending on availability, you can choose to stay both in Sapporo and Kiroro during your stay. Ski Lodge stays are Sunday to Sunday. An example stay for a 13-night Silky Powder Adventure: 6 nights in Sapporo, followed by 7 nights in our Kiroro Ski Lodge.
When skiing in Europe or North America, it is almost unheard of to stay on holiday outside a ski resort. The resorts often offer great options for apres-ski, eating out and other entertainment. However Japan is very different; most resorts are very small, solely for skiing and they close down completely at night. Many do not even have hotels, shops or restaurants open in the evenings. The few that do (Niseko, for example) certainly do not offer the true Japanese experience (see Niseko section below)…
So instead we have devised this trip in order for you to make the most out of what Japan has to offer. Of course for us powder snow lovers this means skiing in waist deep super-dry powder every day!! But it would be a shame to come all this way and not experience the real Japan, with its rich culinary and cultural heritage. We know that this perfect combination of deep powder skiing alongside the best Japanese food and culture is found in Sapporo.
A stay in Sapporo – surrounded by awesome ski resorts but also with all the best Japanese food, entertainment and cultural options – is something not to be missed. It allows the flexibility to visit numerous resorts during your stay, and you are guaranteed the best snow and weather conditions of the day. However there is more travel involved as resorts are 30mins to 1hr30mins away. These transfers give the opportunity to get to know your fellow travelers, have a coffee together and enjoy the stunning Hokkaido scenery.
If you are solely interested in staying in a small ski resort (irrespective of weather and snow conditions), and you are happy to eat average food at expensive prices and are not fussed about seeing any Japanese culture, then a stay in a ski resort may be the best option for you.
Why not stay in Niseko?
Niseko is by far the most famous and talked about ski resort in Japan. Its international reputation is certainly not unfounded: it gets plenty of Hokkaido powder of course, but also has great terrain, a good attitude to back country skiing, and plenty of rowdy nightlife to enjoy. But with ski slopes totally a mere 45kms, it is tiny in comparison to European and North American resorts. Unfortunately it has in recent years become overcrowded with a huge influx of Australian and Asian tourists flocking to get a piece of the action. As a result, lift queues are commonplace, finding fresh tracks has become more difficult (by lunchtime you can guarantee that all the easily accessible powder has been completely tracked out), and accommodation, restaurant and shop prices have sky-rocketed. It is no longer a Japanese ski resort, but rather has become an international ski resort. You are more likely to hear English (or Chinese or Russian) being spoken than Japanese; there is very little Japanese culture left in this increasingly high-end resort.
Another often overlooked factor is lift closures. Niseko’s upper lift system – which links the mountain areas together – is very exposed to the elements, and its operation is frequently stopped due to high winds. When this happens, skiing is limited to the lower slopes which do get very crowded. For this reason we prefer to avoid staying in Niseko to ensure our clients make the most of their holiday by providing them with the best chance to get optimal skiing every day.
Whilst we at Skilas Japan recognise that all skiers want to experience Niseko, we firmly believe that there are far better options if you are looking for a ‘proper’ Japow ski trip: untracked powder all day every day, no lift queues, a more laid back atmosphere, cheaper prices and a true feeling of Japanese adventure.
Which ski resorts will I visit during the trip?
There are numerous top-class powder snow resorts within close proximity to Sapporo, and others all around Hokkaido. We have selected what we regard as the best resorts in the region (based on terrain, snow quality, fresh track potential and short transfer time). Due to the often ferocious winter weather conditions in this part of the World, resorts do occasionally close due to excessive snowfall or strong winds. So rather than having a set itinerary, we instead assess which resort offers the optimal conditions on any day to ensure that you get as much quality time on the ski slopes as possible. You will get to discover most of these following outstanding resorts:
Sapporo Teine (transfer time from Sapporo: 30mins)
Sapporo Teine boasts some of the steepest terrain of any Hokkaido resort, and is the closest of the major resorts to Sapporo (just 30 minutes from the city centre). The resort has two distinct ski areas linked together by a gondola: Teine Olympia (mainly reserved for beginners) and Teine Highland (more challenging terrain). The latter adopted a new backcountry ‘Gate’ system last season: based on similar principles to Niseko’s Rules, backcountry riders are welcome as long as they abide by certain rules (for example, only accessing backcountry terrain through dedicated gates) – and there are some awesome routes, most not even requiring any hiking or skinning!
Kiroro Snow World (transfer time from Sapporo: 1hr30mins)
Rapidly gaining in popularity overseas, Kiroro is a modern resort that offers powder lovers with some outstanding terrain to enjoy the bottomless white stuff on offer. There are plenty of groomers available on the slopes of Mount Asari and Nagamine, as well as some superbly designated Powder Zones for those who want to let rip in the deep stuff. Whilst backcountry is officially banned here, the rules are being relaxed and there are plenty of secret powder stashes to be discovered all over the resort.
Sapporo Kokusai (transfer time from Sapporo: 1hr)
The tiny lift system may put many powderhounds off, but Kokusai’s terrain is awesomely varied and hugely rewarding – if you know where to go! Nature feature drops, beautiful tree skiing, avalanche barrier jumps, open powder bowls… Officially the snowiest resort in Hokkaido (an incredible claim to fame!), some of Skilas’ deepest and happiest days have been experienced here.
Rusutsu Resort (transfer time from Sapporo: 1hr30mins)
One of the largest resorts in Japan, this powder gem has some of the best tree skiing in the World. There is something for every kind of skier and boarder here: perfectly prepared groomers, gentle slopes to learn how to ride powder, mind-blowing sidecountry (oh those trees!!) and epic backcountry on nearby Shiribetsu. And if you want to look like a pro, why not try the world-renowned Side Country Park. The resort has some great facilities with plenty of restaurants, hot springs and even a swimming pool.
Furano Resort (transfer time from Sapporo: 2hrs)
A great resort in Central Hokkaido with plenty of steeps. On a powder day this place absolutely rocks, with some superb off-piste routes and a decent 1000m vertical. Whilst it may not get as much snow as some other Hokkaido resorts to the west, the powder is lighter and drier here, and on stormy days the lifts often stay open thanks to the sheltered trees.
Kamui Ski Links (transfer time from Sapporo: 1hr30mins)
Kamui, a little known resort close to Asahikawa, provides a perfect introduction to Central Hokkaido resorts (Furano, Tomamu, Sahoro, Asahidake…). The powder is usually even fluffier in this region than in Sapporo and Western Hokkaido resorts, and the resort atmosphere is markedly more relaxed and Japanese. The skiing at Kamui is plenty of fun, with plenty of pistes and excellent, easily-accessible sidecountry to keep all skiers and boarders wonderfully happy.
Yubari Mount Racey (transfer time from Sapporo: 1hr30mins)
To the east of Sapporo and more inland than its more famous neighbours, Yubari has its own special micro-climate bringing some impressive overnight dumps. The snow in Yubari can get very deep, especially in the Nature Zone – an area of the resort left ungroomed for those dream powder runs.
Niseko (transfer time from Sapporo: 2hrs) –
(see Niseko section above)
You may also get to discover other resorts: Tomamu, Asahidake, Sahoro, Moiwa…
What equipment do I need to bring?
We strongly recommend bringing your own ski/snowboard equipment with you since renting in Japan can be expensive. Renting for two-weeks in Japan will be roughly equivalent to buying new equipment. Many airlines carry ski equipment free of charge. Having said that we can arrange ski / snowboard and boot rental for you.
Bring the fattest pair of skis you can get your hands on (for the best powder riding experience, we recommend ski waists over 100mm). For snowboarders you will need a powder board. The powder is always deep and light out here!
A helmet has become an essential part of ski equipment (and especially important if you are skiing through trees!).
In addition to your riding equipment, you are strongly advised to bring back-country safety equipment (beeper, shovel, probe) if you want to enjoy some off-piste. This can be rented in Japan on a daily basis.
It can get very cold in Hokkaido, so make sure your clothes are plentiful and of good quality. In addition, facemasks and spare gloves are important. There is generally very little sunshine (it dumps most days!) so a good pair of goggles with low-visibility lenses is a must (and always a wise plan to carry a spare pair too).
What insurance do I need?
IMPORTANT: Please make sure you are fully insured for all the activities that you are planning on taking part in. Japan has excellent healthcare but it can be very expensive for foreign travellers.
Most reputable travel insurance companies offer worldwide ski cover. It is crucial that you check the details for off-piste cover inclusion (a rescue outside resort boundaries is pricey). Many insurers do not cover skiing out of resort pistes/groomers so it is very important for you to check that you are covered if you plan to ski out-of-bounds (which is the main attraction of skiing in Japan). Hokkaido’s mountains are low (below 2300m / 7500ft) so no high-altitude cover is required.
No other specialist insurance is required.
Is Japan expensive?
Perhaps the biggest misconception about Japan is that it is a very expensive country to visit. No, you really don’t need to re-mortgage your house to enjoy a trip to Japan! Sure, some places (like Tokyo) and some imported goods can be (very) expensive. The reality however is that a ski holiday in Japan is much cheaper than you may think. A two week ski holiday to Japan – all-in – will cost roughly the same as an equivalent ski holiday in Europe. This may surprise most people who have never been fortunate enough to holiday in Japan. Although the initial cost of the flight may be high, expenses once in Japan are often much less than in European ski resorts. The exchange rate has also become very favourable for tourists coming and spending their own currency as the Japanese Yen has been strongly devalued in recent months.
To give you an idea, below are some examples of average food & drinks prices in Sapporo and Hokkaido resorts:
Lunch on the slopes (ramen noodles, meat&rice bowl, spaghetti bolognaise) – £4-7 / USD 5-10
Sushi lunch in Sapporo – £5-10 / USD 6-14
Pint of beer – £2-£3 / USD 3-4
Coffee (convenience store) – 80p / USD 1
Dinner including drinks (local restaurant) – £10-20 / USD 15-30
I don’t like seafood – can I eat other things in Japan?
Yes: there is much more to Japanese cuisine than just raw fish and rice! Japanese food is deliciously varied and there is definitely something for everyone. Of course Japan is famed for its incredible sushi and other fish specialities (and with good reason too!), but there are so many other dishes that should be tried. In addition to its seafood, Hokkaido is well-known for its fresh vegetables, organic dairy products and warming noodle and curry soups.
Ramen: a steaming bowl of noodles in soy or miso-based soup with meat and vegetable options, great to warm yourself up after a session in the powder. Try the superb Hokkaido corn and butter ramen!
Soup Curry: a Hokkaido speciality, meat or seafood with tasty fresh vegetables and a choice of spicy sauces – choose as hot as you like!
Yakitori: Meat skewers (perfect accompaniment to an apres-ski drink)
Okonomiyaki: Make-your-own Japanese savoury pancakes using a hot plate on your table.
Izakayas: Japanese-style local restaurants that serve up a large array of tasty nosh, from obscure Japanese delicacies to mainstream fried chicken and chips – something for all tastes.
How long does it take to get to Hokkaido, Japan?
Direct flights operate to Japan from all major international airports. However there are currently no non-stop flights from Europe to Hokkaido. Depending on which airline you fly with you will need to change planes either in another Japanese city (Tokyo, Osaka etc.) or an Asian hub airport (Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Singapore etc.) A flight from Europe to Tokyo takes around 10 hours, and the internal flight from Tokyo to Sapporo is 1hr30mins. Also don’t forget the time difference, which is 9 hours between Europe and Japan in winter.
Should I add a stopover in Tokyo?
Tokyo is an incredible city to visit. Many flight options include a change of plane in Tokyo, so if you want to take in the bustling city a one or two night stopover comes highly recommended. However the downside to Tokyo is that it is expensive, crowded and not near any skiing; so if that doesn’t suit you then why not stay longer in cheaper, chilled-out, snowy Sapporo instead?
Other great places to visit in Japan include Kyoto (temples & geishas), Hakone/Mount Fuji (landscape), Osaka, Hiroshima…
Do you have any more questions?
No problem! Please don’t hesitate to send an email to the Skilas Japan Team!