Sapporo is a snowboarder’s paradise: JAPOW and the nightlife are both perfect!

Pro snowboarders HP and Eero Ettala are longtime friends from Finland who have both been in numerous competitions. It’s HP’s second visit to Sapporo, while Eero was in Toyota Big Air in Odori Park a total of nine times up until 2013. This time, they came together to experience the phenomenon known as JAPOW—Japanese powder.

©Maurizio Marassi
  • FIN

Professional snowboarder Eero Ettala

  • FIN

Professional snowboarder HP Parviainen

Both the quality and volume of snow were shocking!

HP: I grew up in Seinäjoki, a town about 370 km north of Helsinki. I started skiing at age 5, and snowboarding at 11. I’m used to practicing at a small ski slope in my hometown, so shredding down the wide runs in Hokkaido felt fantastic.

Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort has a really dynamic run that’s 2.2 km and even has 30 degree slopes with a gondola that takes you to the top. The incredible powder was surprising, but it wasn’t just that—it was also the sheer volume of it! There was so much that sometimes my board sank all the way in, and it felt amazing boarding in all that fresh snow. I also had a great time doing jumps along the edge of the slope.

©Aaron Rolph
©Maurizio Marassi

All the broad leaf and pine trees in the mountains made everything feel that much more special. The snow clinging to the branches made for such fantastic scenery. I felt a sense of tranquility gliding among the trees, and I think that’s what I loved the most.

Eero: HP and I made a little jump that was really fun. The powder was truly incredible. I know that winter sports enthusiasts from around the world love the Japanese powder, JAPOW, and and i totally understand why!Both the quality and the amount of it were mind-boggling!

What really thrilled me was Sapporo Teine Ski Resort. It’s not far from downtown, right near where people actually live. They even have night skiing, so we were on the slopes from 9 AM to nearly 7 PM. Being able to enjoy that incredible powder into the night was what I found really exhilarating. There are lots of places to go boarding at night in Finland, but you’d never get such great powder and so much of it!

The lighting at night cast shadows that made it easier to see the ups and downs of the slopes thanks to the contrast. Since it was easier to understand the conditions as you flew down the mountain, you were really free to play on the slopes however you wanted. It was so much fun that I just kept going as the sun went down. I think if I hadn’t had dinner reservations, I never would have stopped!

Watching the chef prepare Japanese food was amazing!

HP: While I was in Sapporo, I wanted to do more than just snowboard, I was also looking forward to trying some authentic Japanese food. I don’t need anything too fancy, I just wanted to experience something traditional through local cuisine. Sapporo is the biggest city on the northern island of Hokkaido, so there were tons of places, and the most difficult part was narrowing down the choices.

©Aaron Rolph
©Aaron Rolph

I also tried yakitori, a Japanese take on grilled chicken where small pieces of meat are grilled over charcoal. One of the things that sets it apart is that there are more options in terms of parts of the bird; you can try everything from thigh and breast to rarer things like liver, heart or even intestine! It was a little intimidating, but everything I had was really good, and I really enjoyed all the different flavors and textures!

Another interesting part of the experience was watching the chef grilling the chicken. The skillful, rhythmic movements as they rotated the skewers to cook everything perfectly on the long grill was really cool. I couldn’t see their face because of the smoke from the grill, but just from the movements, I knew they were a pro. When you go out for yakitori or sushi, you’ve got to sit at the counter and see it for yourself—the chefs are incredibly impressive!

Taste some local culture with “Genghis Khan” barbecue mutton

Eero: I loved the Hokkaido-style barbecue mutton, known as Genghis Khan. They grilled the lamb right at the table and flavored it with some kind of fruity marinade. There are tons of places in Sapporo that serve it, each with their own unique twist on the dish. We went to a place that served different cuts of lamb, and it was my first time trying some of them. This bit of culinary culture doesn’t have a counterpart in Finland—I even tried tongue for the first time! I thought it was kind of strange to eat tongue, but I guess it’s pretty popular in Japan so I pushed past my nerves and gave it a try. Now I know why it’s so popular—it’s delicious!

I can’t wait to come back to Sapporo with the whole family!

HP: I’ve been to Hokkaido many times, but for anybody who is looking for great snowboarding and some city fun, Sapporo is the best place to go! It’s the largest city on the island, and really the only place that has ample amounts of both slopes and city excitement.

The people were friendly and the city was super clean. For me, it feels like a big city, yet it doesn’t have that fast-paced frantic vibe. It feels more like a resort town where you can really relax. There are great hot springs, and as I walked around town I saw children out playing in the snow. Makes me want to bring my son with me next time!

Eero: Sapporo is a big city with a lot of winter resorts only a stone’s throw away. The city has a vibrant, lively atmosphere, filled with great restaurants that made me feel incredibly welcome everywhere I went.

I really can’t believe how many places there were to go snowboarding so close to the city, and each one of them offers something a little different, so my trip was filled with variety. Finland doesn’t have this kind of powder, so I’m leaving very pleased with my trip. I want to come back again with my wife and kids since none of them have been to Japan yet. If you’re coming to the country for the first time, I can’t recommend Sapporo enough—you get Japanese culture, gorgeous scenery, amazing hospitality and delicious food!

Over 30 years of friendship, Canadian skiers Mark and Rory have competed against each other all over the world. They come to Sapporo for a trip of limitless snow and nightlife adventures.

Enni is an Olympic medalist who has been to nearly all the world`s snow destinations. Alongside her photographer partner, she explores Sapporo for the first time, mixing the days of snowboarding with culinary delights and onsen relaxation.

Hailing from Italy and the UK, Mauri and Aaron are a pair of photographers and writers, as well as international skiers always looking for their next adventure. In Sapporo, they go deep into in the ski slopes and enjoy Japanese culture in the city.

Mike is a fashion entrepreneur and pro snowboarder who often comes to Japan for business. But this time he came to Sapporo solo to play in the expansive backcountry areas and enjoy the city life.