Sapporo: Beautiful, Fun, and Often Overlooked
Why Should You Visit Sapporo and Chitose?
This was an area that until I was told about the snow festival I had almost completely overlooked and thought it would just be in the middle of nowhere without much to do. However, when I arrived Sapporo was huge and Chitose had beautiful nature parks. I was even told during the warm months they have scenic train routes to see flowers.
For now, I am going to focus on the ice festivals in Sapporo and Chitose and the skiing in Tiene.
Sapporo in Winter
The skiing in Tiene was absolutely amazing. The snow was a soft powder, so if you're new to skiing you can fall often and it will not hurt. They had three different slopes to accommodate for anyone ranging from absolute beginners to experts.
One great benefit of Tiene is that they also had some key tools for the new and inexperienced skier such as ski classes and rental gear. You can view more information on rental prices here.
Another major bonus is that unlike some other skiing areas in Sapporo this skiing location is easily accessible by public transport. There is a bus that leaves from right in front of Tiene station that will take you directly there.
Tiene also offers night skiing for those who are more intermediate to advanced. Below are some of the main reasons you should ski in Tiene.
1. Ski Classes
They offer classes throughout the day, but you may want to book ahead to ensure you can get a spot.
2. Ski and snowboard gear rentals
Tiene has all the gear you can need. They will ask for your height, weight, and skill level to make sure you get a ski or snowboard that works for you.
3. Outerwear rentals
You can rent any outwear you might need. They have gloves, ski jackets, and even ski pants. It's great if you don't have the time or space in your bags to pack all the outwear you'll need for skiing.
4. Good public transport
There's good public transport to and from the resort so you won't have to rent a car or pay for a taxi.
5. Night skiing and all night lift tickets
This ski resort has discounted options for night skiing included discounted lift tickets for the whole night. You can view more information on ski times and lift ticket prices here.
Skiing in TieneClick thumbnail to view full-size
Sapporo Snow Festival Tsudome
First I will cover the Sapporo Snow Festival. While Odori Park definitely has the biggest and most detailed snow sculptures, I would highly recommend going to Tsudome first during the day.
When I went, it was a good escape from the huge crowds in Odori Park and they had games like the snowball toss, a place to get buried in the snow as a snow angel, and a snow slide all for free. You could also pay a small fee to get pulled around on a snow raft. I believe the fee was around 600 yen.
If you need to escape from the cold, there was also a children's play area complete with mazes and bounce houses. It's a definite must visit for the festival.
When you go, make sure to bring a hat and gloves as you need these to use the ice slide.
TsudomeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Ice sculptures in Susukino
If you want to see some artfully crafted ice sculptures, you can go to Station avenue or the Susukino location. There you may be greeted with a hot beverage and a snack for while you stroll along and view the ice sculptures.
You can stroll along the street and see sculptures of anything from dragons and mermaids to ice sculptures made to look like mugs of Sapporo beer. As always there will also be plenty of street foods and photo opportunities.
If you get there early on in the festival, you may even be able to see some sculptors molding out some sculptures that are still a work in progress.
If you are done seeing the sculptures or just need to escape from the cold for a minute, you can also take a walk down ramen street and try the specialty of the area the buttered corn ramen or some rich and delicious miso ramen. You can even eat where anthony Bourdain ate. It's the first shop down ramen street.
Ice sculpturesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Odori Park: Snow Sculpture, food booths, and light shows
Odori Park had the most going on of all the locations at the snow festival. It was the most crowded, but by night also the most entertaining.
They had snow sculptures ranging in size from the size of a small person to being about 10 times the size of one person. In 2018 they had sculptures of Final Fantasy, Nara Temple, and even Hatsune Miku.
All around there were food booths, hot beverages, and even alcohol for sale. In Japan there's no law against drinking in public so you can grab a drink and walk around and enjoy the multiple festival locations.
Once night hits, you can gather around and see multiple lights shows. My personal favorite was the one from Nara Temple, but the one for Final Fantasy was interesting as well.
Odori ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
Onsen near Teine station
There is an onsen that is about a 10 minute bus ride or a 26 minute walk from Tiene Station. The facilities were both inexpensive and beautiful. They had small baths you could sit in that were bright pink, deep red, and a jet black. There was an outdoor bath, a carbonation bath, and much more.
You can also get spa treatments there and there was a free shuttle that went directly back to the station. I highly recommend this place for anyone looking for an amazing onsen. You can view more information about the facilities here.
Bonus: Lake Shikotsu
There is another ice festival that I didn't get to visit. It happens in Chitose near lake Shikotsu. It's a beautiful lake and the town surrounding that lake is known for its onsens. You can view more information on the festival here.
Unfortunately, the buses stop fairly early so for a full experience you may want to take a taxi or rent a car to get to and from the festival. I would not recommend staying at a hotel in the area if you have an early flight as there isn't much in the way of public transport and the bus doesn't start to run very early.