A Magical Night Skiing at Mt. Moiwa, Sapporo

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Considering it usually takes us around five hours to drive to the snow from Melbourne in the Australian winter, it’s mind-boggling to me that in Sapporo, the largest city in Hokkaido, Japan, you can literally ski a mountain in only a 30 minute drive.

Mt Moiwa (藻岩山, Moiwayama) is located to the southwest of Sapporo, less than 15 km away, and offers fantastic far-reaching views across the city from the summit. 

On the southwestern side of the mountain is the Mt. Moiwa Ski Resort. To the northeastern side is the Mount Moiwa Ropeway with an observation deck and restaurant for the general non-skiing public to visit all year round.

Amazingly, you can even go night skiing at the Mt. Moiwa Ski Resort to see the glittering city lights and pretty much get the slopes all to yourselves! 

In March 2024, on a ski and sightseeing trip to Rusutsu and Sapporo, that’s exactly what we did – and it was pretty damn magical!

If you want a taste of the Japanese ski culture, without committing to a full on skiing holiday, then a trip to hit the slopes at Mt Moiwa is a great shout. Plus you can easily fit it in after a day of sightseeing in Sapporo.

So here’s our experience and a guide to night skiing at Mt Moiwa accessed from Sapporo.

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Planning Night Skiing at Mt. Moiwa Ski Resort

One thing to note before I get stuck in, is that there is a Mt Moiwa in Niseko, a few hours away. This post focuses on the Sapporo Mt Moiwa Ski Resort. When doing your research just make sure you’re looking at the right one.

There’s also a lot of information online about the tourist Ropeway, which located on other side of the mountain to the ski resort.

Why Go Night Skiing at Mt Moiwa?

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Night skiing under floodlights is a popular activity in Japan, presumably because the Japanese work hard and long hours and so evening skiing is convenient. Plus, why not when you have incredible ski resorts on your doorstep?

Nightfall brings the bonus of cold temperatures, better snow quality and fewer crowds.

In fact, when we went night skiing at Mt Moiwa, we didn’t wait once for a single lift. The place was a ghost town. On most runs, we didn’t see any other people apart from a small race school group in training.

As mentioned, due to its close proximity to the city, you can get a taste of skiing in Japan in less than an hour, with minimal hassle or needing to commit to a full-on skiing holiday.

The views are also outstanding. You really do get expansive views over the illuminated city skyline, and you can even time your trip to watch the sunset.

Evening Lift Tickets:

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Night skiing comes with the bonus of cheaper lift tickets. Mt. Moiwayama Ski Resort has two ticket options for night skiing, which can be purchased from the resort ticket office when you arrive. It’s the building to the left of the car park/lift. 

Ski equipment hire can be organised in the basement from the rental shop.

The lift ticket is paper and so you’re meant to wear it in a transparent pouch in your ski jacket, or on an armband. 

Option 1 – Five Hour Ticket

The first option is a five hour ticket that can be used between 4pm until the closing time of 9pm. The ticket costs ¥2,200.

The five hour ticket gives you an hour and a half or so of daylight and the opportunity to see the sunset, which happens around 5.30-5.45pm in winter.

Option 2 – Three Hour Ticket

The alternative is a three hour ticket valid between 6pm until 9pm, costing ¥1,600. This is what we had opted for as it fitted in nicely after other plans we had in Sapporo.

This meant that by the time we arrived it was already dark and the skyline lit up. It did however feel a little rushed and people seemed to stop skiing before 9pm. Next time, I’d probably make time for the five hour one. 

How to get to Mt. Moiwa Ski Resort

In theory, it’s pretty straightforward to get to Mt. Moiwa from Sapporo considering it’s only 15 km away. So if you have hired a car, you’ll be sweet to drive from Sapporo up the mountain. 

It just gets a little more complicated with catching public transport. Mainly just the second leg of the journey where you have to catch an unscheduled bus up to Mt. Moiwa!

I’ll explain this in more detail below. But here are your transport options to reach Mt. Moiwa Ski Resort:

Accessing Mt. Moiwa Ski Resort By Car

Getting to Mount Moiwa by car is the easiest option if you have a rental car. It should take 30-40 minutes, depending on traffic. 

Due to the Japanese street signage, it’s best to follow a sat-nav if you don’t know the language. Just make sure you enter the ski resort as your final destination (and not the ropeway, which will take you to the other side of the mountain).

Essentially, you need to head south on the Kanko Highway, following the road along the Toyohira River in the direction of Makomanai and turn off west near Sumikawa, to eventually drive up the winding mountain road of Moiwayama Kanko Expy.

There are two free conjoining car parks at Sapporo Mt Moiwa Ski Resort (apparently enough for 450 cars). 

Accessing Sapporo Mt. Moiwa Ski Resort By Public Transport

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From wherever you are in Sapporo, catch the green Namboku subway line south, to the last stop, Makomanai.

Exit the subway and cross at the pedestrian crossing in front of you, slightly to the right.

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Walk towards the clock tower, passing the bike rack on your right. You’ll see various numbered bus stops in front of you.

You need the Jotetsu bus from stand 17, which departs daily up the mountain to the Sapporo Moiwa Ski Area.

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The issue here is there was a timetable posted on stand 17 stating the bus departs every 30 minutes on the hour, concluding at 3.30pm. 3.30pm is probably fine if you are aiming for the early evening five hour ticket, but not the 6-9pm lift ticket!

After that, there seems to be no information about when the bus departs. It does appear to run, but it’s just unscheduled from what we could tell. 

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We waited for about 15 minutes and decided we didn’t have the time to hang around in the cold to see if one would turn up. So we jumped in a taxi from the taxi rank opposite the bus stand, which dropped off right in the resort car park at a cost of around ¥1,800.

When we were leaving the resort after skiing, a public bus to Makomanai station rocked up at the bus stop in the car park, opposite the taxi rank, at 8.55pm.

It saved the day as we were trying to work out how to call a taxi up to the mountain, without speaking any Japanese and with no staff around!

I can’t remember exactly the cost of the bus to Makomanai station, but it was under ¥400 per adult. The price is displayed on the screen at the front of the bus, just before you get off.

Accessing Mt. Moiwa Ski Resort By Taxi

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If you don’t like the thought of waiting around for a bus that might turn up, or taking a subway and a taxi combo, you could look into getting a taxi directly from Sapporo straight to the Mt Moiwa resort.

Taxis in Japan aren’t the cheapest, but you’re looking at a cost of around ¥3,500 for a roughly 30 minute journey.

Hitting the Slopes

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When we arrived, we headed through the carpark and left towards the signs for the ticket office. We headed up the steps into the building but the main ticket offices in front of us were closed. However right by the door to the left there was a smaller shop-come-ticket office instead. This floor also has toilets, vending machines, free storage, benches and lifts where there is a restaurant on the floor above.

Once we were ready, we left our bags and shoes on a box shelf on this ticket office floor. We didn’t feel the need to get a coin locker, as there were mainly families about and most people also left their bags out on the shelves too. 

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The Course

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The main double & single chair lift up the mountain were empty each time we went to catch them!

There are five lifts at Sapporo Mt Moiwa but two of them run together side by side at the start/bottom, which is a little odd considering how quiet it is. One is a single ‘pizza box’ style chair, and the other a double chair.

From there, a double and triple lift heads further up the mountain. Plus there is another joiner triple lift near the south slope ski lodge.

There are ten courses in total at Sapporo Mt Moiwa, and around eight of them are open for night skiing, depending on the conditions. So although there are not a tonne, it’s a lovely size to get acquainted with on an evening. 

Here is the course map borrowed from the resort website:

Mt Moiwa Ski Course Map
Image credit: RINYU KANKO via the Sapporo Mt. Moiwa website

Our Experience of Night Skiing at Mt. Moiwa

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We found that the Usagidaira black course probably had the best views over the twinkling cityscape of Sapporo. It felt like we were much higher than the 500m or so that we were at the top of the run! Though sadly the run itself was icy and mogule-y as hell.

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Views from the top of the Usagidaira black run at the top of Sapporo Mt Moiwa

The Dynamic Course seemed to have the best powder, especially near the trees. Though that was just our experience and it really will depend on the conditions and wind direction when you go!

I personally loved doing a little loop consisting of the long Kanko Course, cutting off to join the Dynamic course from a cat track, and finishing on the Family Course back to the lift.

Although it was a little slower at the start, it was a nice long run at the top of the mountain, offering stunning views from the top of the triple lift, and again further along the course but towards the other side of the mountain.

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Not going to lie, night skiing at Mt Moiwa was a totally different experience from night skiing the west mountain at Rusutsu! For a start, snowboarders are not permitted at Mt Moiwa. At Rusutsu I found all the teenage boarders came out at night in big groups and made the slopes quite stressful!

At Mt Moiwayama, a mixture of quite tasteful western and Japanese music played quietly from speakers. It was actually really nice when you were on the lifts. But once you were off on some of the runs, it was deathly silent.

When I was doing runs on my own in the semi-darkness, I actually found it a little creepy, though it did add a little bit to the adrenaline!

That being said, night skiing at Mt Moiwa generally felt so peaceful and magical, especially along the narrow cat tracks between the snowy trees which dappled the floodlights.

Overall, for the price and how empty the mountain was, it was a truly unique experience that I’m glad we worked into our Sapporo itinerary. 

FAQs for Night Skiing at Mt. Moiwa, Sapporo:

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When does the Sapporo Mt. Moiwa Ski Resort close?

Last lifts are at 9pm which is when your ticket concludes. However we noticed people finished earlier than this. Ski patrol started heading up the mountain to round people up at around 8.45pm.

When is the bus from Mt Moiwa Ski Resort to Makomanai station?

The bus to Makomanai station departs at 9pm from the bus stop opposite the taxi rank in the resort car park. From what we could tell, this appeared to be the last bus of the night.

Can you hire gear to ski Mt Moiwa?

Ski gear can be hired from the rental shop in the basement of the building where you organise your lift tickets. They also have single items for rent should you realise you’ve forgotten something.

If you need to hire gear, make sure to leave extra time, so it doesn’t eat into your skiing time on your ticket.

Is there a restaurant at Mt Moiwa Resort?

M’s Norte Restaurant is located on the second floor of the Mt. Moiwa Ski Resort Lodge (north slope) which serves hot food from 5pm – 7.30pm only. You must order from the vending machine and note that it’s cash only.

Can you snowboard at sapporo Mt. Moiwa?

No, snowboarding is not permitted anywhere at Sapporo Mt. Moiwa, only skiing. Sledding is also permitted for children. Sleds can be hired for ¥500 from the rental shop.

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3 thoughts on “A Magical Night Skiing at Mt. Moiwa, Sapporo”

  1. We just had to cancel our trip to Japan and I’m such bad FOFMO with this post! Although I’m a snowboarder, not a skier – these courses look epic!

  2. Oh my goodness! This is sooo cool to see!

    I am pretty sure I tried skiing for the first time at Mt Moiwa when I went to visit friends who were at Sapporo University. We skied in the day time, but it’s amazing to see it with the city lit up below! I cannot believe how good value it is to night ski there. Amaaazing.


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