The slopes are only the beginning of the fun— Sapporo is perfect for a solo vacation

Mike is an American pro snowboarder and entrepreneur. Under international sports brand Goldwin, he launched his own apparel label, 241 at age 18. Since its main office is in Tokyo, he visits twice a year, and is familiar with Japanese culture. He’s usually in town for business, but this time he visited Sapporo for a vacation.

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Professional snowboarder Mike Basich

Snowboarding with the locals

Mike: I’ve been to Sapporo twice, but this is the first time that it was for pleasure instead of business, so I was excited to do some snowboarding and explore the city.

I stayed in a hotel in the neighborhood of Susukino for the first night. The area is right in the heart of the city, so there’s tons of places to eat and drink—super convenient. Though it gets below freezing here in the winter, the city is a lot warmer than the slopes, so I was pretty comfortable walking around town.

From my hotel it was less than an hour by taxi to Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort. The slopes are surrounded by forest—it’s hard to believe you’re still in Sapporo with such a dramatic change in scenery. I wanted to make the most of the fresh snow that had fallen the night before, so I took the gondola up to the top first thing in the morning and had a great time on the 2.2 km run.

During the day, I was joined by local skiers who wanted to chat, ski together for a while or take photos. They were all super friendly, and getting to know people who actually live here is something I’ll always remember about my trip.

It felt great gliding down the light, powdery snow against a backdrop of trees that felt like it came straight out of a painting. And getting up the mountain in the roomy gondola was super comfortable, too, so I was able to think about snowboarding and nothing else.

Downtown Sapporo has all the best Japanese eats

Mike: I’ve tried all kinds of Japanese food, and there’s a lot that I like, but what I had in Sapporo was really a step above. After all, most of the produce and seafood comes from the vast expanses of Hokkaido, so the very best of it finds its way to the island’s biggest city, Sapporo. That’s why there are so many amazing restaurants here, and even the cheap places have great food—it’s the place to experience Japanese cuisine.

There’s a lot you should try, but for me, it’s got to be wagyu beef sukiyaki. The beef is simmered in a soy based sauce, then dipped in raw egg. Wagyu is premium beef that just melts in your mouth. The unforgettable flavor was like nothing I had ever had before.

Of course, you can’t come to Hokkaido and not try some local sushi. Fishing happens all across the prefecture, but the freshest catches all make their way to Sapporo. You’ve just got to hit up a counter sushi spot. Tuna is a favorite of mine—I love the way the fat melts in your mouth. During dinner, I told the chef I could handle really spicy wasabi, so he gave me a piece of squid heaped with Hokkaido-grown yama-wasabi, which was lighter in color and slightly grainier in texture than what I’m used to. I put it in my mouth, and my nose was instantly on fire—for a second, the shock stopped my breath short. I was fine, though, of course, and the chef watched on and laughed, and I started laughing, too. Trying new foods is always great, and experiences like this are what I find particularly exciting!

Another of my discoveries on this trip was ume-shu (plum wine), which has a sweet flavor that goes well with sukiyaki or sushi. It’s great on the rocks!

Casually shopping around the city

Mike: On my last day, I went shopping for souvenirs for my family. Sapporo’s pretty easy to navigate, so I felt fine walking around on my own. First, I went to a toy store to get stuff for the kids, and I found some really cute stuffed animals.

Next on my list was some tea for my wife. She loves tea, so I stopped by a little tea shop. The elderly couple who ran the place went out of their way to help me find a delicious green tea for her, and I also picked up a teapot and a storage tin, which was wrapped in beautiful Japanese paper.

I was walking through the Tanukikoji shopping arcade on my way back to the hotel when a knife shop caught my eye. Everything there was made using traditional Japanese techniques, which was really cool, so I just had to buy a souvenir for myself, too. I’m looking forward to using it when I have to cut wood in the mountains back home in California. The staff at the shop was super friendly and helpful.

I had a great time exploring the city by myself, but I can’t wait to come back with my family for some great snowboarding and delicious food. But then again, the summer might be nice, too. Now that I’ve been here, I already can’t wait to come back!

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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.