The best Japan resort for family skiing and snowboarding is….

tomamu
Tomamu. Image supplied.

When contemplating a family ski trip to Japan it’s often a game of compromise. Either stay in a resort town for the modern conveniences, but then become inconvenienced by the need for a bus transfer or long walk to the ski slopes, or stay slopeside to enjoy the ease of ski-in-ski-out access only to miss out on a village atmosphere or multitude of restaurants.

Ponder no more, there is a resort that ticks all the boxes without any compromise whatsoever.  When it comes to having everything in the right place, Hoshino Resort’s TOMAMU is the ticket.

Nestled close to the belly button of Central Hokkaido, this purpose built resort, originally constructed in 1983 is a winter season oasis that might be the best-kept secret in Japan. 

Albert Einstein, once said ’Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life’. The winter life in this corner of Japan is one of absolutely beauty and Hoshino Resorts TOMAMU is a no brainer choice for a family snow trip. In my humble father of four opinion.

The centerpiece revolves around ‘The Tower’ and the exclusive ‘RISONARE Tomamu’, a group of high rise buildings you’d expect to see in the centre of Tokyo or beachside in Surfers Paradise more than the slope side in mountains of Central Hokkaido.

It’s loaded with bells & whistles feeling like all the conveniences are there in arms reach just like any luxury cruise ship, however, this one has docked slope side. There are 20 restaurants covering buffets to luxury dining all interconnected by a walking tunnel network or free bus shuttle.

It’s complete with direct ski-in-ski-out access, an 80 metre indoor pool, an Ice Village complete with a wedding chapel, whiskey bar, and ice rink. An activity centre with snowmobiling, snow rafting, banana boat and cross country skiing.

hoshino resort tomamu – snowmobiling
Photo: Chris Hocking

This is real kid in a candy store type of fun. The snow you ask? Eight to nine metres of feather-light Central Hokkaido powder, arguably some of the world’s best.

Oh and the ski slopes are all but empty. This is a Japanese hidden treasure every family should discover before the word gets out. Oops.

The skiing

The snowfall here averages more than nine metres of light and dry Hokkaido powder each season accessed by one high-speed gondola and five lifts over two mountains.

The resort’s terrain reflects that of a quarter pipe. The lower pistes cater well to the novice skiers and snowboarders while the upper mountain holds more challenge for the intermediate and advanced, with groomed and well-pitched tree runs on offer.

Plenty of runs interlink with cat tracks, so novice and advanced skiers can meet up at the same lift lap after lap on the 670m vertical rise. Some areas are roped off for ‘experts only’ side country, requiring an armband through a signed registry with Patrol. The armbands are distributed daily only to be handed back by 3.30pm ensuring you made it back without incident.

The sleeping

Hoshino Resorts operate ‘The Tower’ often considered the centerpiece of the resort. Rooms are spacious and well appointed with ensuite facilities and gorgeous views. Room rates are very reasonable for long stays, just book well ahead of time as weekends book out early.

Then there’s RISONARE Tomamu, the upmarket Hoshino Resorts brand where the suites are enormous complete with private spa baths, saunas, and living space. The lobby has a library along with the kids play area. Splash out – it’s worth every cent.

Both have ski-in-ski-out access which is great for family members wanting to return early from the slopes.

The surf’s up

hoshino resort tomamu – mina mina beach
3 of the 4 Hocking kids enjoy the wave pool. Pic: Chris Hocking

The Mina Mina Beach indoor complex, complete with an 80 metre wave pool has to be seen to be believed. No sand here to get into the swimmers and lodged in your ski pants later on in the day, it’s all tiled floor with waves sets crashing through every 15 minutes.

You can also rent bathers and inflatable swans amongst other things. There’s also two gender-segregated onsens and a cafe.

The village of ice

ice village tomamu

Connected by the free shuttle or covered walkway, there’s an hour or two of fun for the family at the Ice Village. Complete with sculptures, wedding chapel, whisky bar with ice glasses and an ice rink. Each night in the Ice Village ends with a short fireworks display and the ice slide will have the kids lapping until they can’t lap anymore. 

The ski in ski out restaurant street

hoshino resort tomamu – camaro steak diner steak hotalu st
Photo: Chris Hocking

With around 20 restaurants nestled around the resort, variety is the spice of life at Tomamu. It’s possible to ski through restaurant alley, Hotalu Street, where you’ll find a multitude of eateries including a hamburger and dessert bar, steakhouse, curry restaurant and retail shop. There’s even a cafe serving AllPress coffee for the antipodeans in need of a caffeine fix.

If you’re looking for a view then head to the top floor of the Hoshino towers (you can’t miss them) for a sushi lunch.

When to go

Geographically Tomamu is prone to colder temperatures than some of the other famous Hokkaido resorts like Niseko and Rusutsu. The plus side is rarely will the resort see winter rain or vicious temperature spikes harming the surface conditions.

January can see temperatures down to minus 20C requiring the family to rug up and ski in for hot chocolate. Australians are growing in numbers through the school holiday period and Tomamu is a favorite amongst the Chinese in February around the Chinese New Year.

While restaurants and the lower ski slopes are crowded expect empty runs on the upper mountain in the advanced and expert areas. It seems many tourists are at the resort for a snow selfie for Instagram rather than a charging run through the knee-deep powder.

March can often also see good snowfalls and milder temperatures. 

How to get here

Hoshino Resorts TOMAMU sits ninety minutes coach ride from Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport. Qantas recently announced direct flights from Australia to Sapporo. If time is precious this is the best option. 

If price and baggage allowance are more your thing look into Philippine Airlines who added Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport to its destinations in the 18-19 snow season. They are often $250 cheaper than the direct carriers and offer a whopping 46kg of checked luggage ex Australia.

If price point is all that matters then check out Scoot as they fly direct to Chitose via a layover in Singapore. 

Chris Hocking was a guest of Hoshino Resorts

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