From Dog Sledding to Ice Walking! Top 5 Winter Activities in Hokkaido
If you go to Hokkaido during the winter, you don’t have to be limited to skiing and snowboarding, as there are many other activities there that you just can’t experience elsewhere. Below are five of the most recommended winter activities in Hokkaido!
If you want to enjoy nature in the dead of winter, then you should go on a hiking tour wearing showshoes, as that will make it easier for you to walk on the snow. This activity is held in various areas of Hokkaido, including Sapporo and other urban areas. The standard course involves 1 – 2 hours of communing with nature while walking in the forest and on frozen lakes.
The highlights of this hike are the rime (hoarfrost) that is created when moisture in the air adheres to the trees, along with the ice cascades of frozen waterfalls. You might also see wild animals and other creatures!
Sample fee for a 1-day course: 12,000 JPY (incl. tax)
Another highly recommended winter activity is dog sledding, which will let you dash through pure white snowfields while being pulled by dogs. Many tour agencies offer this experience, including Mushing Works in Shikaoi Town and Hokkaido Adventure Tours in Minami-Furano.
Outrider, an agency based in the Engaru district, offers the 1DAY Adventure (19,980 JPY (incl. tax)) that will take you on a 20km round-trip dog sledding tour. You will be provided with a sled and 2 – 4 dogs, and for one day, you will be trained on how to handle and maneuver the dogsled. If you want a deeper experience, how about joining the Winter Safari? It is a dogsled camping tour that lasts 1 – 2 nights.
Every year, drift ice approaches the Okhotsk coast between late January and early March. Water from the Amur River, which flows in the northeast portion of the Eurasian continent, goes to the sea and freezes. It then becomes a lump of ice that drifts southwards while significantly growing in size.
While it is definitely wonderful to gaze at the ice from a ship or viewing spot, actually engaging in an activity is better. One of these activities which has been gaining a lot of attention lately is embarking on an ice walking tour in Shiretoko and Utoro. By wearing a warm dry suit, you can walk on ice, float in the sea while surrounded by drift ice, and explore the mysterious world of drift ice.
Sample fee for an approx. 1.5-hour course:
Junior high school students and older guests: 5,100 JPY
Elementary school students: 2,600 JPY
*All prices are inclusive of tax
3. Ice Walking
Running through fields of fine powder snow is another popular activity in the winter. Aside from dedicated courses in resorts and farms, this activity can also be experienced on frozen lakes, winter golf courses, and other spots.
There are many ways to enjoy riding on a snowmobile, such as 20 to 30-minute courses that anyone can easily join, driving on forest roads and slopes for about an hour, and driving for one whole day together with a guide. Note that you don’t need a driver’s license for this activity. As long as you listen to a simple lecture prior to riding, you will be able to drive the snowmobile on your own. You can even ride together with a guide! Depending on the facility, kids can ride snowmobiles as well.
Sample fee for a 1-hour course: 11,000 JPY
Rafting is usually identified with the summer, but in Hokkaido where the winter views are astoundingly beautiful, winter rafting is also recommended. It is an activity that will let you enjoy the picturesque winter scenery from the top of a gentle river.
If you go on the tour (8,500 JPY) led by NOASC Adventure Tours, you will get to enjoy snow rafting using the embankment of a snow-covered river. If you vigorously slide down the snow, you will slide onto the river. By continuing through the snow-surrounded area, you will be able to experience an extraordinary world.
All the activities featured here will let you soak in Hokkaido’s lush nature. Note, though, that there may be programs and courses that have age restrictions.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.