Kiroro Ski Resort is one of the best ski resorts in Hokkaido, and it’s easy to see why. Great runs, English-friendly, brilliant snow, and yet it manages to avoid the crowds of the nearby, more popular Niseko.
The resort also has the advantage of being close to Sapporo, making it easy to get to. This guide will give you some of the best ways on how to get to Kiroro ski resort.
Directly from the airport
Buses run directly from the airport from December to March, with 6 buses a day in each direction.
Check this page for times, and to book online.
If you want to go by train as much as possible, or there isn’t a suitable bus, then take the train from the airport to Sapporo. Trains are every 15 minutes and cost 1070JPY. Then, to get from Sapporo to Kiroro, read below.
By Hokkaido Access Network bus from Sapporo
Buses run from Sapporo bus station to Kiroro, stopping at various hotels along the way. The buses are well-timed for day trips – they leave Sapporo in the morning, and drive back in the evening. Buses run daily through winter. Check this page for exact times and to book online.
The buses are quite expensive, at 3500JPY each way. I haven’t taken this bus yet so I don’t know what it’s like – if you have, please leave your comments below.
By Chuo Bus from Sapporo or Otaru bus stations
Chuo bus, the main bus company in the Sapporo region, is my preferred way to get to Kiroro. The buses are comfortable, and there was plenty of space when I took it. The buses are actually full-size coaches, and there’s plenty of space for ski equipment.
The buses run both from Sapporo bus station and Otaru bus station, next to their respective train stations. They leave at 08:10 from both bus stations. If you have a choice between the two, I’d recommend making your way to Otaru, as it’s the closer of the two to Kiroro.
It’s possible to just turn up at the bus station and buy a ticket on the day. However, to avoid disappointment, I recommend booking online here. (There’s an English button in the top right.)
However, they have one big disadvantage – the buses only run on holidays and weekends. They run daily over the New Year Period, and Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Check the above link for dates. If the Chuo bus is running, I recommend you take this service. If not, you can use the (much more expensive) Hokkaido Access Network from Sapporo otherwise.
From Otaru, a ticket costs 930JPY each way, and 1540JPY from Sapporo. Buy a ticket at vending machines at the bus station, or you can use your Kitaca card.
Reservation is supposedly required, though I’ve used the buses without a reservation myself. Call Kiroro Resort General Information on 0135-34-7111 by 6pm the day before to make a reservation.
By Kiroro resort bus from Otaru Chikko station
Unfortunately, as of the 2016-17 season, the free bus from Otaru Chikko station no longer appears to be running 🙁
If the Chuo bus isn’t running when you need it, you could take the resort-run free bus. This bus runs daily from the taxi rank outside Otaru-Chikko station, including weekdays. The bus leaves Otaru-Chikko at 08:30, 10:00, 13:00, 15:05 and 18:25, and the return bus leaves Kiroro at 12:10, 14:15 and 17:30. The bus is free of charge both ways.
However, I only recommend the resort bus on days the Chuo bus isn’t running. Why?
- The bus is first-come first-served, with no reservation system. The service is popular and there is a realistic chance that you will be left behind.
- The bus is small and quite uncomfortable. The seats are tiny, with no legroom.
If you do decide to take the resort bus, do arrive at least 15 minutes early and form a queue at the taxi rank. Similarly, on your return, arrive early at the resort hotel (where the bus will drop you off and pick you up from) to be sure of getting a seat.
For more information on times, fares and pickup points, see the company’s website.
Car rental in Japan is not expensive if you book in advance. Driving is quite a feasible way of getting around, and there is plenty of parking at ski resorts.
The main problem is the amount of snow and ice on the road. The Japanese do a good job of clearing their roads, especially in the cities, but the volume of snow that falls means that dangerous road conditions are inevitable, especially outside of the cities on the mountain roads. If you are not used to driving on snow and ice, I wouldn’t make this a time to start.
Another thing to consider is making sure you hire a car that is big enough for your ski equipment! Japanese Kei-cars (the boxy little cars you see everywhere with the yellow reg plates) may be tempting because they’re the cheapest (sometimes less than 4000JPY/day), but make sure you can get everything in it, occupants included, before you drive away.
To book your car, I use ToCoo! to organise car hire. Prices are as good as you’ll find anywhere, and the whole website is in English.
Taxi obviously isn’t the cheapest option, but it’s feasible if you have no other way.
The nearest town to Kiroro is Otaru, a 28km drive away. Taxis cost around 600JPY per 1.5km, so expect a charge of around 10000JPY if by the meter. You’ll find taxis waiting outside Otaru station.