Sapporo is perfect for backcountry skiing! Days in the snowcapped mountains, nights basking in neon city lights

Mark and Rory have been friends for about 30 years. Originally from Canada, the pair of skiers spent their youth going head to head in mogul competitions around the world. The childhood rivals are now close friends who came to Sapporo together, where they spent their days capturing their backcountry ski adventures on film, and their nights touring local bars to wash back the city’s Japanese cuisine.

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Professional skier Mark Abma

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Professional skier Rory Wayne Bushfield

The deep, dry snow is sooooo lovely!!

Mark: Sapporo is a truly unique city—it’s got a downtown packed with offices, stores and restaurants serving a global array of food, but lots of great places to ski are just a short drive away.

So, if you come to Sapporo, your vacation doesn’t begin and end on the slopes. How many other places have both incredible powder and amazing nightlife?! I’ve been to other winter resorts in Hokkaido, but there were so many other overseas tourists that I didn’t feel like I really experienced Japan, you know? I like how in Sapporo, you’re sharing the slopes with people who actually live here.

Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort really surprised me. You get there and you’re surrounded by thick, beautiful forests, even though less than an hour before you were in the heart of a big city. It’s cold and gets lots of powdery, dry snow, and I loved backcountry skiing through the trees.

Rory: Sapporo is amazing because it’s compact and filled with all the conveniences of city life. Even if you stay right in downtown, you can still be on the slopes in less than an hour! In Canada, that would be a seven-hour trip!

I went to two places this time. Kokusai and Teine. Kokusai was wonderful—the powder snow flew up in my wake as I jetted down the mountain, and the temperature was perfect. Teine is also very close to downtown Sapporo, and the incredible scenery was the perfect match to incredible skiing. It was awesome to have a 1,000 m mountain right inside the city. It’s where they had the 1972 Winter Olympics, so even pro skiers are sure to be satisfied. I’ll definitely be coming here again next time I’m in town.

So much variety in our hotel options!

Mark: We spend our first night at OMO3, a hotel in Susukino, a nightlife district in the heart of Sapporo. Even though it was right in the middle of busy downtown Sapporo, it was clearly set up with skiing in mind. They had a wax bar to get your equipment ready, complete with options no matter the weather or snow quality of the day. I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else in the world! And they posted updates on conditions at all six of the city’s ski areas in the lobby, so you could really play it by ear and choose whatever spot you felt like.

Rory: I really liked the Royal Park Canvas, a hotel next to Odori Park. They had a ton of records in the lobby that you could just take back to your room and listen to! I’ve never seen that before! I grabbed a Jimmy Hendrix record that sounded great on my room’s stereo. It was such a peaceful way to end a day on the slopes!

Mark: Yurakusoan, a traditional Japanese-style inn in the Jozankei hot springs village of southern Sapporo was also spectacular. It isn’t far from Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort, and I loved looking out at the snowy scenery as I relaxed in the natural waters of the outdoor bath after a day of skiing.

Rory: I think only Sapporo has so many different kinds of places you can stay, whether in the heart of the city, or places with hot springs, there were so many fun things to do that added some really nice color to our trip!

Sapporo is a great place for nightlife after a day on the slopes!

Mark: Bar hopping in the evenings was a blast! The staff at OMO3 in the Susukino neighborhood of Sapporo were really knowledgeable about places to check out in the area, which they said has over 3,500 bars and restaurants! The area, itself, isn’t actually all that big, so there were lots of places we could go without venturing too far from the hotel. Rory and I had sushi, sukiyaki, shabu-shabu and some other traditional food, then toured the izakayas and bars of the city. The city really came alive at night!

Rory: We came for skiing, but the evenings we spent in Sapporo trying Japanese food ended up being a really fun part of our trip. We had sukiyaki, which is a traditional dish where thin slices of meat are cooked in a pot then dipped in raw egg. I’d never had it before, but I’m completely obsessed with it now! At the end of the meal, we cooked udon noodles in the pot, and that was really good, too!

We also went for sushi. Everything the chef made was delicious, and I really enjoyed talking to them during the meal. I love sake, so I drank a lot—it really goes with Japanese food, you know?

The premium service makes Sapporo a snow resort city

Mark: The hospitality in Sapporo is fantastic. Even restaurants that look pretty ordinary at first glance have food that looks and tastes amazing. I was impressed by every meal, and everyone was so kind and welcoming!

I’m so jealous of people that get to live here—it has everything you could want—skiing and all the fun of a city.

The quality of the snow in Hokkaido is incredible, but that said, I really can’t recommend the Sapporo enough if you’re coming to the area.

Rory: I agree with Mark. Everyone in Sapporo was calm and friendly, from the slopes to the city, everyone we met was great!

Our trip was packed—I couldn’t believe that we had such great skiing and such awesome nightlife all in one day. I can’t wait to do it all again exactly the same way next time I visit!

Internationally renowned Finnish snowboarders Eero Ettala and HP Parviainen travel to Sapporo for the JAPOW experience of a lifetime.

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.