Furano Increasingly Becoming the Cool Place to Be for Foreign Skiers; International Visitors Drawn to Powder Snow

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Skiers and snowboarders from overseas flocked to the Furano Ski Resort in Furano, Hokkaido, this winter.

FURANO, Hokkaido — Niseko might have been first, but fellow Hokkaido resort area Furano is quickly becoming another magnet for skiers and snowboarders from around the world.

Furano Ski Resort was buzzing this winter with an increasing number of skiers from overseas attracted by its light, fluffy snow and its pistes that are relatively proximate to hotels and the city’s main urban area. Visitors can enjoy skiing on high-quality snow and a lengthy stay in the area.

In mid-March, a Canadian skier had a blast carving up the powder snow in the ski resort’s Kitanomine Zone. “It’s amazing,” Miles, 26, said excitedly that he could not believe the snow quality was this good in March.

Shin Furano Prince Hotel, which operates the ski resort, expects that about 202,000 people will have visited the resort by the end of March — about 11,000 more people than the previous ski season. In addition to powder hounds from the “usual” sources of Australia, the United States and Europe, this season has been noteworthy for the uptick in visitors from nations such as Portugal and Norway. “In December and January, we had more foreign guests than Japanese guests,” explained Akihiko Taniguchi, the hotel’s sales and marketing manager. The hotel’s occupancy rate hovered above 80%, and some guests stayed for a week or even up to 10 days.

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Masahiro Yokoi, general manager of the foreign-owned Nozo Hotel in Furano, managed a hotel in Niseko previously. “It seems many Australian skiers are coming to Furano to get away from the hustle and bustle of Niseko,” Yokoi said.

One factor behind the surge in skiers from abroad has been a wider dissemination of information about Furano’s powder snow. The city government provides a unique “fluffiness quotient” index for its powder snow on a website called “Furano bonchi powder,” which helps to showcase the area’s excellent snow quality. These details are spread through social media and other channels to raise awareness of the resort among foreign skiers.

Furano’s convenient facilities have been another key factor. This winter through March 16, the Furano Tourism Association and other entities ran shuttle buses that traveled from the Shin Furano Prince Hotel to JR Furano Station three times per night. Intercity buses ferried passengers on the return route to the hotel. The distance from the Kitanomine area to Furano Station is about two kilometers as the crow flies, and many visitors reportedly walk both ways between the hotel and city’s urban area.

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“Foreign visitors don’t come just to go skiing. It seems they’re also here to enjoy themselves in a broader sense, and that includes going out for dinner in the town and interacting with the locals,” said a managing director of the tourism association. “One problem is the lack of nightlife here. We’ll think about activities they could do, like enjoying plays produced by playwright So Kuramoto, who lives in the city.”

The Kitanomine Zone’s season finished on March 24, but skiers can still hit the slopes of the Furano Zone until about the Golden Week holiday period in early May.