Resort Write-Up: Teine Highlands

Some of Hokkaido’s best skiing is, believe it or not, right next to Sapporo. Teine has excellent lift accessed terrain, wicked side country, great infrastructure, and incredible views. With great options for beginners and intermediates, as well as genuinely rad terrain for strong riders, this place has somehow managed to fly under the radar.

This is no Niseko. Teine is a real local’s ski hill, with an authentic (if slightly retro) Japanese vibe. It can get quite a few visitors on weekends, but even then the off-piste takes ages to track out. A weekday powder day here is mind-blowing, and since Teine is right next to Ishikari Bay and directly in the path of northwesterly weather, powder days are in plentiful supply.

 It does seem like an unneccesary number of telecoms towers. © The Powder Project Pty Ltd

It does seem like an unneccesary number of telecoms towers. © The Powder Project Pty Ltd

The skiing

Teine is split into two parts: The Olympia zone is lower on the mountain and has heaps of mellow terrain catering to beginners and intermediates, including tree skiing. The groomers are immaculate and the lift infrastructure is great so even though it can get quite busy (most of the locals seem to ski here) you never end up waiting long for a lift.

The Highland zone on the upper part of the mountain is what sets Teine apart. It’s steep. You could pick up the top part of Teine, drop it down in British Columbia, Canada, and (apart from the incredible array of telecommunications towers on the summit) no one would suspect a thing. If you’re still thinking that Hokkaido has great snow and no terrain, you’ve run out of excuses.

The good skiing in the Highland zone is accessed from a high speed hooded quad which runs from the Highland base area to the summit. There is some excellent fall line tree skiing directly under the lift, and a range of good (but slightly shorter) options on the skiers’ right, including some fun little natural jumps on the far end of the basin. The area right under the lift does get skied, but the skiers’ right doesn’t see much traffic. There are also a range of good groomers here if you’re looking to get your carve on.

 I am not, typically, looking to get my carve on. © The Powder Project Pty Ltd

I am not, typically, looking to get my carve on. © The Powder Project Pty Ltd

As you exit the lift, there’s a backcountry gate ahead and to your right. The resort generously grooms a track so that you can walk a few hundred metres to the top of an old gondola station without having to wade through soft snow. From here there are a range of steep open gullies to the skiers’ left which drop to a traverse track that takes you back to the lifts. The ridges between the gullies have a variety of tree lines and some really fun skiing. Be careful about skiing directly down from the gondola station: There’s a big set of bluffs directly below it and although there are a few sneaky lines through (or some pretty big cliff drops for those so inclined) they cop a lot of wind and need a lot of snow to come into condition.

You can also head back to the skiers’ right from the walking track and drop into the trees near the lift from a higher entry point. There’s some great skiing in here, but again be careful to avoid the bluffs under the gondola station.

If there’s one weakness at Teine, it’s that the northerly winds which bring so much snow occasionally shut the main quad chair down, which limits the options pretty substantially. This only seems to happen in a pretty serious storm, in which case it’s probably best to save your energy for the following (probably epic) day or head to Kokusai, which is a little more sheltered. The good news is that most of the terrain is on shady aspects, so fresh snow tends to hold up pretty well.

 Faceshot incoming. Windscreen-wiper goggle conditions. © The Powder Project Pty Ltd

Faceshot incoming. Windscreen-wiper goggle conditions. © The Powder Project Pty Ltd

The evenings

There’s no accommodation at Teine itself, but it’s only a few minutes back to Sapporo – you can get to the mountain using public transport. Sapporo is a big city with a huge range of accommodation options. We stay in Japanese style rooms near the centre of town. There are a huge range of shopping and nightlife options around, including the Susukino district with an overwhelming array of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs all within walking distance. Sapporo holds an annual snow festival in early February which sees the centre of the city filled with snow and ice sculptures, live music, jibbing comps, food vendors and crowds of enthusiastic visitors. It’s well worth a look if you’re in Hokkaido at the time.