Visit a snow village that is reconstructed from the ground up every year. Photo by circusline/ CC BY 2.0

Winter in Hokkaido is made famous by its unbeatable powdery slopes, whitewashed mountainous landscape and the sheer abundance of activities available. And if you think this sounds just like every other popular winter destination you’ve been to, you might just be in for a pleasant discovery. 

Take a look at the winter experiences you may never have expected the accessible region to offer. With the season peaking January to March, it’s time to get cracking on planning that wintry holiday!

Visit an ephemeral ice village
One season it’s there and the next it’s gone — that’s the nature of Japan‘s only ice village. Each year, the locals undertake the feat of building an entire village of ice and snow on Lake Shikaribetsu. The elaborate buildings include an ice chapel, an ice concert hall where live performances are held by bands and dancers, and an ice bar; you can even stay in igloos overnight. If the environment gets too cold for you, warm yourself in an outdoor hot bath where you can admire the surrounding mountains. Be sure to visit the village before it melts away in spring.

Cruise through the ice on the Sea of Okhotsk. Photo by Matt / CC BY 2.0

Sail into the icy sea
Come winter, the multitude of drift ice that appears transforms the sea into an otherworldly visage. Delve into the beauteous landscape on an icebreaker cruise, where your ship crushes all the ice in your path. On your journey, look out for sightings of animals such as spotted seals and Steller’s sea eagles from amongst the ice floes. Shiretoko National Park can also be admired from your vantage point on the Sea of Okhotsk.

Take charge of your own dogsled as you ride through the snow. Photo by ryanne lai / CC BY 2.0

Drive a dogsled
Who says you have to travel to Europe to enjoy this experience? Guide a team of Alaskan huskies and traverse through open expanses of ancient snowfields, zoom past conifer trees and even zip along a river on a backcountry trail. Children aged six and above are also welcome to try the activity and can ride in the snowmobile with the guide if they prefer to sit. Your day out with the dogs will even be photographed and videoed so you can take the memory home with you. If hanging out with the huskies isn’t enough, you can also give reindeer sledding a go. 

Enjoy snow activities in relative peace away from the crowds. Photo by Michael Holler / CC BY 2.0

Get dibs to an exclusive mountain
Hokkaido is already a well-known destination for those looking to break out their winter sports gear, which means that its slopes are unsurprisingly crowded during the season. If you find jostling with the crowds unsettling, how about partaking in snow activities at an exclusive mountain instead? The former ski resort accepts a maximum of only 12 guests each day, meaning that you (almost) get full-reign of the pristine slopes, and can ski and snowboard to your heart’s content.  

Swish through the snow on an inflatable boat. Image by Hokkaido Treasure Island.

“Boat” through a snowfield
Always had the impression that banana boats are only used for water activities? This experience is sure to change your mind. Hop onboard an inflatable boat with three others as a snowmobile linked to your boat powers through a snowy field. Try and keep your balance as you slip and slide on the powdery landscape with glee. The activity is a great option for the little ones or for those who aren’t keen on skiing or snowboarding.

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