Snow as Tall as Shaq
Imagine Shaquille O’Neal standing on top of Shaquille O’Neal. That’s about 16 feet of beef and also happens to be the average base depth at Kiroro Ski Resort in Japan. At 7’1″, just one Shaq would make for a solid base, but two of them?! Now we’re starting to get it, but let’s continue.
It’s all Hokkaido from here.
Lesson 1: Japan is split into two islands, Honshu and Hokkaido. Honshu, to the south, is where the main population is, consisting of the metropolises Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka. Hokkaido to the north hangs out like Honshu’s mountainous balloon held at bay by an underwater tunnel.
Lesson 2: There’s a lot of snow in Hokkaido, and it’s good snow, too. Air from frigid Siberia to the north sweeps down and cools the moisture evaporated off the ocean creating light, fluffy, champagne powder—none of that heavy wet cement that can sometimes float off the top of the Pacific Ocean here stateside.
Hokkaido is, simply put, a skiers paradise. While Sapporo contains most of the island’s population, the rest is, in general, idyllic mountainous countryside, cows, ice cream, and of course, a bunch of ski resorts. In total, the ski resorts add up to 21, which, at 32,000 square miles, is roughly the size of Maine. Every resort is buried in snow.
Overall, if there’s anything you need to know about Hokkaido as a whole it’s this–squid ink ice cream (yum) and snow. Lots and lots of snow.
But as any right-minded individual looking to visit Japan should ask, “okay cool, but who gets the most?”.
Enter Kiroro Ski Resort
Located just an hour from Sapporo, Kiroro is an easily accessed one-way ticket to Japow Fun Town. Every year an average 800 inches of snow falls within the resort’s boundaries making it one of the deepest resorts on the island. It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that 800” is a lot of snow. For comparison, Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana got hammered last year, racking up 400″+. We all felt very good about it, and the skiing was legendary. Makes you scratch your head doesn’t it?
And in Japan, it just keeps on coming. If you break down the possible ski season in Japan into a generous 6 months, that’s an average of 4.5″ every single day of the season. If I could ski 4.5″ of fresh every day of my life I would die with the dumbest smile on my face.
So what about the terrain?
Kiroro is well balanced. The runs are broken down at 30% beginner, 40% intermediate, and 30% expert all accessed by one gondola and 8 chair lifts. For the expert skiers it’s important to keep in mind that by Rocky Mountain standards, Hokkaido is not as steep. Luckily, if you’re seeking something something a little more thrilling, the recent addition of backcountry gates makes the possibility of finding steeper untouched runs through the trees very real.
Then after a long day you can unwind with…
Hot Springs and Ramen
Lesson 3: Hokkaido is littered with onsen, or natural hot springs, and Kiroro has it’s own. Consider having your feet buried under snow skiing powder all day and then finally breathing life into them by soaking in a natural hot spring.
Then, grab a bowl of hot Hokkaido seafood ramen.
I don’t think there exists a better existence. Try to find one I dare you.