Guides + Tips Winter in Japan

Sapporo Travel Guide: Bankei Ski Area in March

After finally mastering my snowboarding skills in early February this year, I embarked on a mission to explore as many ski areas in Korea as possible before the snow began to melt away. However, I soon realized that the ski season in Korea after January couldn’t provide the optimal snow conditions for an exhilarating experience. Even in Gangwon-do, the northeast region of the country boasting a cluster of ski resorts, the snowfall was scarce. This prompted me to shift my focus to Hokkaido, Japan, where the snowy season lasts much longer. And thus began my snowboarding trip to Japan.

The trip was planned for the first week of March and was filled with various exciting experiences, although there were a few unfortunate events that altered our original plans. Despite these mishaps, Tun and I made the most of our time in Sapporo. We indulged in delectable cuisines, went on a thrilling shopping spree for second-hand snowboarding gear, and had a fantastic time snowboarding at Bankei Ski Area.

I have already created comprehensive guides on where and what to eat in the famous Nijo Market and where to find used snow sports equipment in Sapporo. In this article, I will share my firsthand experience at Bankei Ski Area and provide you with all the information you need to plan your visit to this resort in March.

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    What is the weather like in Sapporo during March?

    In March, Sapporo experiences milder daytime temperatures compared to the freezing conditions of winter. However, the nights can still be quite chilly. On average, the temperature ranges from -6 to -10 degrees Celsius during this month. While you can enjoy relatively warmer days, it is advisable to prepare for the cold nights by dressing in layers and ensuring you have appropriate winter clothing to stay comfortable during your visit.

    How much snowfall can you expect in Sapporo during March?

    March in Sapporo sees a significant decrease in snowfall compared to the months of January and February, which are known for constant and heavy snowfall. However, this doesn’t mean that your ski experience in March will be lacking in fun. Thanks to the accumulation of snow over several weeks, there are still substantial amounts of snow in various parts of Sapporo, including the bustling Susukino neighborhood, where you can find tall piles of snow along the roads. In areas farther from the city center, such as Bankei Ski Resort, you’ll encounter buildings and roofs covered in thick layers of powdery snow.

    However, if you have grand expectations of seeing a pristine, snow-blanketed landscape at the ski area (as I did), you may be slightly disappointed (as I was). While March is still considered part of the ski season in Japan, it is not the prime time to witness trees covered in snow and ice. This may be the case in some ski resorts in other parts of the country, but not at Bankei Ski Resort. The panoramic views you’ll encounter during your visit in March will mostly consist of white mountains adorned with dry and sparse forests, resembling the appearance of a dry scalp beneath thinning hair.

    Why Choose Bankei Ski Resort?

    After conducting thorough research, we found that Bankei Ski Area perfectly suited our needs for several reasons:

    Prime Location near Sapporo City Center:

    While not the closest ski resort to the city center (according to a quick search on Google Maps, Mt. Moiwa Ski Resort appears to be closer), Bankei Ski Area stood out for us as snowboarding enthusiasts. Unlike Mt. Moiwa Ski Resort, which does not allow snowboarders, Bankei Ski Resort welcomes snowboarders with open arms.

    Night Skiing Hours:

    In addition to its proximity to the city and snowboarding-friendly policy, Bankei Ski Resort offers the unique opportunity for night skiing. This option is not commonly available at most Japanese ski resorts after the peak winter season (January to February). We particularly enjoy snowboarding under the cover of darkness, as it tends to be less crowded and provides a different and exciting experience.

    Convenient Transportation:

    Bankei Ski Resort ensures easy access from the city center through direct bus services. Recognizing the importance of reducing individual car usage, the resort operates Bankei buses that transport visitors to and from three different train stations: Hassamu Minami Station, Maruyama Koen Station, and Makomanai Station. This convenient transportation option not only enhances the experience for resort visitors but also encourages sustainable travel practices.

    How to Reach Bankei Ski Resort from Downtown Sapporo

    If you’re staying in popular downtown areas of Sapporo, such as Susukino, Odori, or Sapporo Station, the most convenient way to reach Bankei Ski Area is by taking the Bankei Bus from Maruyama Koen Station on the Tozai Line.

    Bankei Bus Time Table Posted at Maruyama Koen Station 

    Once you arrive at Maruyama Koen Station, head towards exit 2. At the end of the passageway, you’ll find signs and escalators leading up to the bus terminal waiting room. Look for Platform 4, as this is where the bus departs for Bankei Ski Area. The bus ride to the resort takes less than 15 minutes.

    Bus Stop at Bankei Ski Area  

    When you’re ready to return to downtown after a day of skiing, you can head back to the same bus stop. Alternatively, if you’re feeling tired, you can request a taxi at the information counter.

    The Bankei Bus operates year-round, but please note that the timetable is subject to change. You can find more information about the bus schedule for both winter and summer months, as well as the price list, by referring to the resort’s official website.

    Lift Prices/Package Prices at Bankei Ski Resort

    Bankei Ski Resort offers a range of lift ticket options and package deals to cater to different preferences and needs. It’s important to note that prices may vary each year, so it’s recommended to visit the official page or contact the resort directly for the most up-to-date information.

    During our last visit in March, as I had already brought my own snow wear, I opted for the “Empty-hand Pack B.” This package is recommended for those who do not own ski or snowboarding equipment yet. At that time, the option was priced at 9,800 yen and included a 7-hour lift pass, a pair of boots, and a snowboard. Regardless of the plan you choose, you can conveniently make the necessary arrangements at the ticket office located on the first floor of the center lodge, situated at the base of the slopes.

    Equipment Quality – Are the Snow Gear in Good Condition?

    Please note that my observations and experiences are specific to snowboarding equipment at Bankei Ski Resort, so I apologize to our skier readers for the limited information.

    At Bankei Ski Resort in Sapporo, there is a dedicated area called the “Salomon Station” that provides a comprehensive selection of skiing and snowboarding gear. During my visit, I rented a pair of snowboard boots equipped with a convenient boa closure system, which was exactly what I had been hoping for. These boots were well-maintained and in excellent condition. The snowboard itself was a standard Salomon board with standard Salomon bindings, but it also met my expectations in terms of quality.

    The rental shop staff at Bankei Ski Resort are knowledgeable and can assist you in selecting the appropriate equipment based on your specific needs. Additionally, it’s worth noting that they are proficient in English, making communication easier for international visitors.

    Crowd Levels in March

    March is generally a less crowded time to visit Bankei Ski Area compared to the peak winter season in January and February. This is particularly noticeable on weekdays when the slopes are often less busy. During our visit on a Thursday, we had the delightful experience of having the slopes and lifts all to ourselves, allowing us to fully enjoy our time on the mountain. However, it’s important to note that weekends and holidays may still see increased visitor numbers, so it’s wise to plan your trip accordingly.

    Description of the Slopes

    Sapporo Bankei Ski Resort offers a diverse range of slopes catering to skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. With a total of 17 courses, there is something for everyone, from gentle runs perfect for beginners and families to more challenging terrain designed for intermediate and advanced riders. The resort is even home to black runs that have hosted international competitions, providing a thrilling experience for expert skiers.

    As someone still relatively new to snowboarding, I spent most of my time exploring the beginner courses, specifically Center A, Center B, and Center C. These slopes provided an enjoyable experience for me, as I was able to practice and showcase the snowboarding skills I had developed over the years. Along these trails, you’ll find exciting bumpy ramps and hills that add an extra element of fun to your ride. Additionally, there’s a section where you can test your skills on a variety of moguls.

    However, it’s important to note that while these slopes are categorized as part of the beginner course, they do feature maximum slope grades of up to 18%, which can be quite steep and challenging for those who are new to skiing or snowboarding. If you’re a first-timer or seeking a more gentle slope, I would recommend starting off on trails like Kinoko, Kurumi, or Orange Connection, which offer a friendlier terrain to help you build confidence and ease into the experience.

    Additional Facilities at Sapporo Bankei Ski Resort:

    In addition to its 17 slopes and essential amenities such as equipment and snowwear rental shops, Sapporo Bankei Ski Area offers a range of other facilities to enhance your overall experience:

    Ski School:

    Bankei Ski Area boasts a dedicated ski school designed to help skiers and snowboarders of all levels improve their skills. Certified instructors are available to provide private or group lessons, ensuring personalized guidance. English-speaking instructors are also on hand to assist international visitors. Upon completing your lesson bookings, the friendly welcome team will be ready to assist you at the center lodge.

    Snow Land:

    Snow Land is a delightful mini amusement area that welcomes everyone, especially kids! This snow park offers a variety of activities, including sledding and snow-tubing, creating an enjoyable experience for families and those who are new to snowy mountains.

    Dining Options:

    If you’re in need of a break from the slopes, Bankei Ski Area offers cozy cafés and restaurants where you can relax and savor a warm meal or hot beverage. Two main areas cater to your dining needs: the Panke dining space located at the center lodge, and BANKEIEN situated near the west lift station. These venues provide a welcoming atmosphere to unwind and refuel before or after your skiing or snowboarding adventures.

    Additional Tips to Keep in Mind:

    If you are a first-timer or new to ski resorts in Japan, especially if you have only skied in Korea before, these tips will be particularly useful:

    Ski or Snowboard Requirement: When riding the lifts at Bankei Ski Resort, it is mandatory to be equipped with skis or a snowboard. This requirement not only guarantees a seamless and enjoyable ride but also prioritizes the safety of all slope users by preventing any equipment from accidentally falling and causing potential hazards.

    Chairlift Safety Bar: Please note that chairlifts at Bankei Ski Resort do not have safety bars installed. Therefore, it is important to maintain a secure grip on the chair and follow the instructions provided by the resort staff to ensure a safe ascent and descent.

    Beginner Trail Courses: Even on the trail courses designed for beginners, it’s important to be aware that there are no safety barriers in place. Exercise caution and stay within your comfort level while navigating these trails, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience.

    By keeping these tips in mind, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable skiing or snowboarding experience at Bankei Ski Resort, especially if you are new to skiing in Japan or transitioning from skiing in Korea.

    And that concludes the comprehensive guide to help you plan your trip to Sapporo Bankei Ski Area. Whether your visit is scheduled for March or any other time, you now have a clear idea of what to expect. I wish you a fantastic time at the resort!

    Access Map:

    Quick Info About Sapporo Bankei Ski Resort:

    Address: 410 Bankei, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 064-0945
    Ski Season: Mid-December to Early April
    Hours: 9:00AM-10:00PM

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