Furano was everything we had hoped it would be as an authentic Japanese ski destination- Friendly locals, amazing food and glorious snow. Around 2 hours from Sapporo airport, its in the centre of Hokkaido.
Furano Ski Lifts
Furnano's two main lifts the Kitanomine Gondola on the Kitanomine side and the Furano Ropeway on the Furano side are very good. Both are fast and modern and go from bottom to top. The other chairlifts are all decent and serve a huge amount of terrain. The link lift between the two sides is quite slow.
Furano's best runs
In terms of in-bounds runs the premium zone on the Kitanomine side is brilliant. We happened to be there when people were queueing for it to open and it was worth the wait. A huge luxurious bowl of perfect snow.
Where Furano was particularly good was the runs outside the boundaries. We ducked the ropes on many occasions and never had any trouble at all, although we tried to go round them where possible. The ridges from "downhill romance no.3" chair hold great snow and aren't tracked out at all. If you don't mind a hike, a walk up the ridge from the premium zone will leave you staring down at a bowl so perfect in pitch and snow, that it is what dreams are made of. Totally and completely epic.
There is so much untouched powder that you start to take it for granted and the best thing is that you aren't competing with many powder hounds. The locals seem to stay on the groomed runs allowing you to fly powder drunk into trees to your hearts content.
So dry and light that you would struggle to make a snowball. After the day we arrived it snowed and it just didn't stop. The driest and lightest powder we have ever skied, it was breath taking.
We didn't have a bad meal in Furano, everywhere was of really high quality.
Yama no Doxon was a a great brewery and restaurant a few hundred metres from the Kitanomine Gondola. It is a pretty unassuming building but the wooden interior is really cool. You sit either at small traditional tables or larger stand up bench ones. We tried their beer (the ale was very tasty) and had the curry with homemade sausage. Both were excellent.
We ate Ramen at a few places but the Ramen at the bottom of the Furano ropeway was actually the best. We wouldn't advise eating one until the end of the day as they are pretty big and will make you want to snooze.
It was Hogmanay (New Years Eve) when were there and we celebrated this at Ajito. Its a warm bar with a wooden interior. They served free sake at the bells which lead to a new type of hangover the next morning.
Furano's (Budget) Accomodation
We stayed at Alpine Backpackers in Kitanomine. The room was basic but functional. Possibly its best feature is its own Onsen which was great for easing the legs after a days skiing. The backpackers is a great meeting place for like minded folk. You can book through them for backcountry tours. Its close to the Gondola and has places to book tours all round it.
We loved Furano. It is right beside a working town and hasn't been westernised too much. The food was excellent. It was easy to get to. The terrain is endless and the snow has to be skied to be believed.
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