Northeast of Sapporo and southeast of Asahikawa City, the Furano ski area has 23 courses spread over 170 hectares totaling 25km served by 11 lifts with a maximum vertical descent of 980m. Furano is considered by many Japanese riders to be the snowboarding hub of central Hokkaido. The region has an average annual snowfall of 8m light deep powder, and it is known to be very good for beginners and intermediates. The ski area is divided into the Furano Zone and the Kitanomine Zone. These two base area zones are connected to the town by a free shuttle bus.
Since there are no steeps, advanced snowboarders at Furano will enjoy the ungroomed courses, accessible side-country and off-piste terrain. While Furano is known for its old prohibited off-piste policy, the ski patrol tolerates responsible freeriding but make sure you are aware of the truly restricted areas. Start with the glades on either side of the top double chair. Then, expert riders can check out the popular side-country between the two zones of the ski area for steep powder. If you happen to be hanging with freestylers, there is a limited terrain park located above the New Furano Prince Hotel with table tops and banked turns.
The farming town of Furano is quite quaint with local culture and some traditional buildings. It is located about 140km northeast of Sapporo. The town of Furano makes a good base also for day trips by daily shuttle bus to Alpha Resort Tomanu, Kamui Links and/or Ashidake Ropeway. Most of the tourist facilities are located in the Kitanomine section of Furano.
After a long day of snowboarding in Furano, check out the nightlife at Bar Bocco and Bar Tirol.
To reach the snowboarding at Furano by plane, fly into Asahikawa airport and take the train to Furano city centre (44km) via the Nemuro Honseh line. Alternately, you could fly into Sapporo New Chitose airport (CTS) on the southwest side of Hokkaido just southeast of Sapporo. There are numerous direct inter-country flights from Tokyo Haneda Airport. From the airport, there are numerous shuttle bus options to the various Hokkaido ski resorts, including the Hokkaido Resort Line bus (140km). While at the airport, make sure to use their ATMs since they can be quite hard to find at the resorts and credit cards are rarely accepted.
In addition to flying into Sapporo from Tokyo, there is also a train tunnel connecting Hokkaido Island with the main Honshu Island. The train route from Tokyo northbound passes through Aomori, and the total trip takes between 9 to 11 hours.
Note - keep in mind that the ski areas on Hokkaido are not known to be particularly steep, but they are well known for big snow fall. They are also known for their ones, which are hot thermal spring-fed indoor or outdoor pools (be aware that they are usually naked pools). When snowboarding and freeriding internationally, it is important to get a travel insurance policy that covers emergency rescue, medical expense and evacuation. There are many destinations that will not initiate rescue or medical treatment without prior payment or proof of insurance. In many cases, the rescue fees, medical fees or evacuation to a reputable hospital can total tens of thousands of dollars. Plans such as GEOS SAR100 or IMG Patriot Travel Medical Insurance are well worth the per-trip cost of $130 to $200 USD.
Overall, Furano Ski Resort is the 13th most popular snowboard & freeride destination of all 22 snowboarding resorts in Japan.