Navigating the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan

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All You Need to Know About Sapporo Snow Festival

Nestled in the mountains on the East side of Hokkaido, Japan is the beautiful city of Sapporo, a city that never sleeps and always has something to offer to visitors from near and far. With close to 2 million people living in Sapporo, visitors can expect outdoor adventure experiences and city festivals and entertainment year-round.

Ideally located in the path of consistent weather systems that bring cold air across the Sea of Japan from Siberia, some ski areas receive an average of 14-18 meters of fresh snow annually. That said, during the Winter months in Sapporo, many visitors head to the local ski resorts in Niseko or Rusutsu to experience some of the best powder skiing and snowboarding in the world.

Aside from skiing fresh powder in the latest Nordica Enforcer 93 twin tips, one of the most popular Winter events to attend in Sapporo is the Sapporo Snow Festival. This year marks the 68th year of the Festival and it won’t disappoint. This year’s festival takes place February 6-12, 2017.

Trust us, you won’t be the only one there. Over 2 million people come to Sapporo in February to see the giant snow monuments that grace Odori Park. In years past, visitors have seen everything from castles, celebrities, animals, and even Star Wars’ Darth Vader carved into snow monuments that stand up to 15-20 meters high. Sculptures are lit up daily until 22:00.

Sapporo Snow Festival star wars show at night. Photo by EPA/ Kimimasa Mayama

Where to Start:

This festival has multiple areas of entertainment and activities. Three, to be exact. The Odori Site, Tsudome Site, and Susukino Site. All of which offer different types of entertainment to suit your interests. Whether you’re parched and looking for food and drink after a long day on the mountain, or looking to test out your sledding skills on the sliding hills, you won’t be disenchanted. (see site map below)

Option 1: The Odori Site

The Odori Site offers more than just ice/snow sculptures including ice skating at the J:COM Square, Sake Bar and Food Square, and the HTB Park Air jumping platform. Whether you are into the snow art or would rather be sliding and enjoying smooth Sake and traditional food, this festival is a must see and the Odori Site is a great place to start.

 

Sapporo street food. Photo credit: Japan Info

 

Sapporo ice rink. Photo Credit: Welcome to Sapporo

 

Festival Sculpture. Photo Credit: Onozomi

Option 2: The Tsudome Site

Though, slightly outside the city center, the Tsudome Site has 3 snow slides, snow rafting snow sculptures as well as an ice bar, food stands and colorful lighting for night-time viewing. It is a very family oriented place to be during the day and into the night. It is open daily from 9:00 to 17:00 and officially starts February 1, 2017.

Sapporo Snow Festival slip and slide. Photo © Yasufumi Nishi/JNTO

Option 3: The Susukino Site

Located in Sapporo’s biggest entertainment sector are over one-hundred ice sculptures. While this is a smaller display compared to Odori Park, it is a sight to see. The sculptures are entered into a contest from teams across the globe – a tradition going on 40+ years.

Each year, teams are given a theme and then begin to build their creation. Tourists can participate in the voting and view the awards ceremony on Feb 6th at 11:00. The ice sculptures are lit up daily until 23:00 (until 22:00 on the festival’s final day). Whether you’re just passing through with a warm cup of sake or are legitimately interested in judging the ice art, this site is a must-see.

City walk. Photo by Scott, staff writer of japan-guide.com

Recommendations for Visitors:

Book your hotel and travel in advance. Hotels tend to book up quickly around the holidays and especially for this event.

Dress for brisk, cold, and snowy weather. Especially if you plan to spend the day/night at the Tsudome Site, you’ll want to be sure to pack snow boots, heavy jacket, snow pants, and other outdoor essentials.

If you’re looking to attend the “Big Air” contest in Odori Park, arrive early and expect crowds. If you want to participate, check out their website for information on open entries.

Plan on bringing cash as most places do not take credit cards.

We recommend going on weekday’s in the morning if you prefer to avoid some of the larger crowds. However, please be prepared that weekends are very busy!

How to Get There:

From Shin-Chitose Airport

JR Shin Chitose Airport Station ▶ Transfer at JR Sapporo Station・Subway Namboku Sapporo Station ▶ Subway Toho Line Sakae Station ▶ Shuttle bus (100 yen one way, departures every 5-10 minutes) or 15 minute walk from Sakaemachi Station

From JR Sapporo Station

Subway Namboku Sapporo Station ▶ Subway Toho Line Sakae Station ▶ Shuttle bus (100 yen one way, departures every 5-10 minutes) or 15-minute walk from Sakaemachi Station

More Information:

For further details, see the official English website of the Sapporo Snow Festival.

If you have a chance to visit Japan in Winter or are planning a ski/snowboard trip nearby, take a day or two to experience it! It is truly one-of-a-kind and lives up to its reputation of being one of the best festivals to see in all of Japan.

Park Air 2017 Comp teaser below.

Accommodation near Sapporo

Rad Season is providing you with hotels and Airbnbs at the lowest prices available online. Book your stay near Sapporo using the map below!

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Natalie Stangl

Natalie is an American expat freelance writer and marketer living in Hokkaido, Japan. She is a born and raised Minnesotan with an accent thicker than a pint of Paulaner Beer. She has a serious love for sports, outdoors, and overall health and wellness. While most would shutter at the thought of -27 degree wind-chill, you’ll find her embracing it with a smile on her face. She is an an adaptable, loyal, and fierce woman of “The North”. Aside from her love of sports and outdoors, her partner is an Import professional ice hockey player in Japan and together they have one child, their 7 year old golden retriever, Frenchy.

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