Kamui Ski Links is roughly half an hour’s drive from downtown Asahikawa. Like most of the local ski hills, it’s a simple, straightforward affair with cheap ramen and a few lifts that look like they were made from repurposed carnival rides. Thankfully, a recently refurbished gondola is on hand to smoothly whisk you up the mountain, and there’s a range of good sidecountry riding as well as a few sneaky tree runs inbounds. All those locals mean there’s a healthy community of snowbladers, snowscooters, and other unorthodox snow-sliding enthusiasts, and a laid-back, friendly vibe. This place makes for a great option if you’re looking for a mellow alternative to Asahidake or Kurodake.
It’s tempting to give the usual “family friendly” spiel about a place like Kamui Ski Links. At least on paper, it doesn’t offer a lot for strong riders, but would be a fun place for just about anyone to spend a day or two lapping groomers or sampling some fairly cruisy pow runs. And indeed, Kamui Ski Links delivers on that pitch. The groomers are typically immaculate, and there’s some really fun off-piste riding that will get just about anyone smiling.
The main drawcard for the resort is the back bowls. If you get off the gondola and head straight ahead or to your left, you can drop off the back of the ski field into a series of wide open bowls. These face east and hold good snow after a northwesterly storm. If you drop in here, be careful to pick up the traverse track and head to skiers’ left to get back to the lifts. Once you get into the trees, the route is marked with pink tape, but you have to cut left in the open area, so sometimes there’s no tape to follow.
There’s also some sidecountry riding on either side main resort. The riding on skiers’ left is a little more obvious and direct. Plus, you can access it from some of the lower lifts if the wind picks up and they close the gondola. Just head into the trees from the top of the No. 2 lift. You can traverse back to the ski field early on a cat track, or just keep heading down until the terrain flattens out. The only thing to avoid is the gulley to skier's left, but even then you can drop in part way and just traverse out. Out to skiers’ right there are some gladed runs between the No. 5 lift and the groomers off the gondola.
All of this stuff is mellow and accessible for just about anyone. The “family friendly” story goes slightly awry in the trees under the gondola line, where there’s steep, tight tree skiing that you can lap straight off the gondola with no traversing or stuffing around. It can be a little tricky to find your way in – there are a few gullies that cross under the lift line, so if you try to follow the cables down you end up getting funnelled off to the side. The best option is to follow the ridge that heads towards the gondola towers from just below the base of the No. 3 lift. There are a few wee cliffs coming off this ridge towards the gondola line, so check your run in advance and spend a few laps figuring the area out.
Kamui Ski Links doesn’t have accommodation. It doesn’t even have night skiing, which is very unusual for Hokkaido. The best option is to stay in Asahikawa. It’s close by (about 30 minutes drive to downtown), has a range of food and nightlife options, and its own kind of ramen. There are heaps of hotels around the JR station in the middle of town. We usually stay at a small family run ryokan near the middle of town with exceptionally friendly proprietors.
Asahikawa makes a great base to check out Asahidake, Kurodake, Kamui, and even Tokachidake and Furano (both about an hour away). If you’re looking for a day off, it has plenty of shops (including Shugakuso – an excellent backcountry skiing store), restaurants, bars, a microbrewery and even a zoo. It’s a pretty cold place in winter, so it’s only fitting that they have a snow festival in February as well.