Built from scratch as a holiday resort, Tomamu sets the standard for crazy Japanese ski field infrastructure. Despite its baffling array of hotel towers and derelict buildings, it offers some steeper pitches, great tree skiing, and accessible sidecountry. The resort is about an hour south of Furano and picks up very different weather conditions as southerly storms move through. With a base elevation of 540m (about 300m higher than most of the major resorts), these warmer storms bring quality powder to Tomamu while other ski fields might be struggling with wet snow or rain.
Before you even think about skiing off-piste here, you need to sign in with patrol and receive a fetching yellow bib. They’ll also make you wear a helmet if you don’t already have one. The sign-in desk is in the main building next to the ticket office.
Once you’re appropriately attired, the resort has lifts on two mountains: Tomamu Mountain and Tower Mountain. Tomamu Mountain has longer runs. The best terrain here is accessed off the Powder Express quad, which runs from halfway up the mountain to near the peak. The hill gets steeper as you go up, so this gives you access to some good pitches up high and avoids the long flat groomer that takes you back to the bottom of the gondola.
The skiing here is all pretty obvious – if you see something you want to ski on the way up, just traverse around the top of the bowl, drop your line and follow the drainage back to the lifts. Ski patrol usually rope off the area at the bottom of the gulley – it’s best to stay above the ropes here or you can get stuck in the creek. The trees are generally pretty widely spaced, except for a very tight group of saplings under the lift line.
Tomamu’s inbounds avoids a lot of the traversing you experience skiing off-piste in Japan. One exception to this is some of the sidecountry riding on the other side of the peak. It’s possible to traverse off the top of the lifts and ski some short pitches on the far side before you traverse back to the resort and continue down to the bottom station. The run to skiers’ right is a little longer and more sustained than the option to skiers’ left, which involves skiing across the fall line about as much as skiing down.
The other part of the resort is Tower Mountain (above the two pairs of hotel towers). This area is pretty unassuming, but actually offers some really fun tree skiing. These forests are conifers, rather than the deciduous forests you typically find in Hokkaido. The trees look pretty tight, but once you get in there and start riding you’ll soon find some neat glades. Plus, the slope is mellow enough that you can carry a bit of speed and find a way through any tight spots. This area is highly recommended.
For those who enjoy a walk, there’s a groomer that goes to the top of this area just to the skiers’ right of the Tower Express lift. A short hike opens up some fun lines that drop past the skiers’ left of the ski field, including an old groomer that’s no longer lift accessed. The walk seems to deter a lot of potential powder skiers so it’s a good place to find fresh tracks.
Tomamu has plenty of accommodation. In fact, they have so much accommodation that (legend has it) some of the hotel towers aren’t even open. There are two pairs of hotel towers, Hokkaido’s biggest wave pool, and a number of other massive buildings scattered around the resort. That said, Tomamu is only an hour from Furano, and although it’s a fun area, it’s probably better to visit as a day trip than to be here for an extended stay.
They build an ice village here during winter. This sounds cheesy, but it’s actually quite awesome. A cheerful staff member will give you a huge white overcoat when you arrive. A tip for new players: The jackets come in two sizes. Try the larger one first because if you get stuck in the small size its a) hilarious and b) hard to get off. You reach the village itself via a large ice slide. Get someone to scope out the run-out before you take a running start. There’s a skating rink, fires to toast marshmallows over, a bar and even an ice chapel if the scenery puts you in the mood to tie the knot. They have regular weddings, lights embedded in blocks of ice and fireworks. It’s kitsch in all the right ways.
Tomamu’s gigantic wave pool includes a very classy onsen, but it’s quite expensive. There are some nice options near Furano if you’re staying there which are popular with locals and more reasonably priced.