Mt. Asahidake is Hokkaido's tallest mountain at 2,291 meters high and is part of the Daisetsuzan mountain range — a group of 25 mountains spread over 60 kilometers. The mountain range forms part of the larger Daisetsuzan National Park and during winter, the weather conditions produce snow valleys and permafrost similar to what is more commonly found on 3,000-4,000-meter peaks. While deep snow blankets Mt. Asahidake in the winter, you can still access the mountain via the Asahidake Ropeway. When you get off at the ropeway’s terminal station — located at an altitude of 1,600 meters — you will be above the tree line where you can can take in the grand scale and beautiful scenery of Hokkaido’s wintry landscape. Mt. Asahidake is not just a spot for appreciating the scenery; it is an area popular among snow sports enthusiasts as heavy snowfall and low temperatures combine to form some fantastic powder snow. In particular, advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders are drawn to the courses at Asahidake to test their abilities on the steep courses and backcountry.
Asahikawa is one of Hokkaido’s largest metropolitan areas and is the perfect base for exploring Mt. Asahidake and the Daisetsuzan mountain range. You can reach Asahikawa in 90 minutes from Sapporo via train and there are direct flights from Tokyo and Osaka to Asahikawa Airport.
Along with snow activities, Asahikawa is famous for its innovative Asahiyama Zoo. One of the zoo's aims is to educate its visitors about animal behavior and lifestyles, and has set up behavioral exhibits to achieve this goal. These exhibits allow the animals to relax and for visitors to see new sides of the animals.
Asahikawa is also known for its food and there are 2,000 restaurants in the area with many serving up local fare all-year round. While most areas of Japan have their own style of ramen, Asahikawa ramen is one of the most famous.
Asahikawa is located within easy reach of many different ski resorts making it a town of sports and recreation, similar to Sapporo. The largest ski resort in the area is Kamui Ski Links, a resort of 25 varied courses suitable for all ability levels. The 4-kilometer course is ideal for beginners, while advanced skiers and snowboarders can test their skills on the deep-powder tree run. The inland location of Kamui Ski Links means low temperatures and low humidity, resulting in plenty of high-quality snow.
If you want to ride the backcountry, then join other advanced-level skiers and snowboarders on the Asahidake Ropeway that will take you to the mountain summit. There are four courses, labeled A-D, that begin at the ropeway's upper station, but be aware that these are not standard resort-style slopes. You will only find poles to mark the courses and the bare minimum of signage. You need to use your judgment about which course you should take and evaluate the risks depending on your ability. This is a serious backcountry ski area, so be equipped with proper winter mountain gear and knowledge. Also, be aware that there is no permanent mountain rescue team stationed on Mt. Asahidake, therefore help may take a little while to come. The ropeway is an hour's drive from Asahikawa City.
Daisetsuzan Kurodake Ski Resort is a 90-minute drive from Asahikawa, and located on the northeast face of Mt. Kurodake, a 1,984-meter peak.
Daisetsuzan Kurodake is located at the highest altitude of all Hokkaido’s snow resorts, meaning snow travelers here can enjoy incredible scenic views as well as a very long snow season — from November until mid-May.
Take the Sounkyo Kurodake Ropeway up to its top station to access the resort and take in sweeping views from the observation platform. The whole ski resort consists of just one 1,100 meter-long, two-person chairlift, but is known for its abundant, high-quality snowfall. The upper section of the slope is aimed at mid-level skiers and the lower section is great for beginners.
Sounkyo Onsen is located at the foot of the mountain and is the largest hot spring zone in the Daisetsuzan area. Some onsen inns in the area open their facilities to non-staying guests, so be sure to try one out even if you are on a daytrip. Warming up in hot springs while gazing out onto the snowy, mountain landscape is one of the perks of winter travel.