Kokusai to Teine Ski Traverse


Posted on Apr 24, 2024
Posted on Apr 24, 2024
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10 hours





Highest point

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Sapporo Kokusai 札幌国際スキー場 to Teine Ski Area 手稲スキー場 is a classic ski traverse across the hills west of Sapporo City. Fully situated within the city limits, this traverse introduces the skier to the vast alpine playground sitting on the Sapporo City dweller's doorstep. The traverse takes in the full gamut of ski-touring terrain. Knife-edge boot-pack ridges, vast alpine snowfields, steep traverses, heady cliff bands, backcountry huts along the way, and some top-shelf ski descents to top it off. Fully public transport accessible, with a final ski descent right into town, this traverse should be on any Sapporo City ski tourer's hit list.

We visited this route on Mar 31, 2024

Skiers: Haidee, Timbah


Route Map

Need to know details


This traverse is located between the popular Sapporo City ski resorts of Sapporo Kokusai Ski Area and Teine Ski Area, to the west of Sapporo City central. While it’s possible to complete the traverse in either direction, it’s arguably better to start from Sapporo Kokusai Ski Area (here, just north of Jozankei Onsen) and heading east back to the city. This will give you more downhill skiing overall. See the “Transport” section below for public transport options to and from the route.

General notes

The low mountains west of Sapporo City offer some incredible terrain for long days of exploring on skis, all within city limits. This relatively popular traverse takes in some of the best of that terrain, hitting several popular local peaks along the way. It’s also fully accessible by public transport, so there’s no need for a vehicle shuttle.

  • Notable peaks
    • Tsuge-yama つげ山 (935m) – popular peak for ski touring and snowshoeing locals.
    • Okuteine-yama 奥手稲山 (949m) – Literally “behind Teine peak”.
    • Utopia ユートピア (984m) – Not marked on official topomaps, but well known to local skiers and snowshoers.
    • Sunday Utopia サンデーユートピア (965m) – Also not marked on maps. Broad platea-like peak with great views east towards the cliff-rimmed Teine-yama summit.
    • Hoshioki-yama 星置山 (961m) – Another unmarked peak, at the start of the kinfe-edge ridge connecting to Teine-yama.
    • Teine-yama 手稲山 (1023m) – The highest point of the route, sitting atop the eponymous Teine Ski Resort.
    • Teine Neopara 手稲ネオパラ (838m) – The peak above the east-facing slope above the Nishino suburb of Sapporo City.

Huts – There are two huts along this route. Helvetia Hut and Okuteine-yama-no-ie.

Helvetia Hütte (full details here)

Helvetia Hütte (ヘルベチアヒュッテ) is a small but very well built hut located about 200m from the main road heading to Sapporo Kokusai ski area. It is maintained by the Hokkaido University Academic Alpine Club, and is available year round on the weekends for the general public. It is steeped in history – while the current hut is a 1985 rebuild, the hut was originally built in 1927 by a Swiss architect as one of the important links in the chain of huts in the Sapporo hills.

Okuteine Yama-no-Ie Hut (full details here)

The amazing Yama-no-Ie Hut tucked below Mt. Okuteine (奥手稲山, 948m) on the outer reaches of Sapporo City, is everything you can expect from a mountain hut managed by largely ambivalent Japanese university students: dingy, messy, and a glowing red-hot potbelly stove kept that way by the intrepid first-year students who hauled the coal up the mountain on their backs. But it’s that charm that makes it worth the trip to this hut in winter via a handful of different routes. The hut is not officially open in summer.

Route details

The Sapporo to Sapporo Kokusai ski area bus will drop you off just outside the main ski area building. Gear up at the bus stop and walk east towards the lower right side of the large parking area. There’s a large diesel power station here at the northeastern corner of the parking area. Don skis here, and start skinning on the slight decline along Route 1 on the southern side of the road for about 2km to the Okuteine-yama trailhead. Most streams along this section should have snow bridges, but there’s one where it’s likely you’ll need to cross using the road bridge. About halfway between Kokusai Ski Area and the Okuteine-yama trailhead is the historic Helvetia Hut (here).

From the Okuteine-yama, it’s about 1.5km of gently ascending snowed-in hiking trail to the turn-off to climb Tsuge-yama. If the weather is good, we heartily recommend making the climb up to the Tsuge-yama peak at this point. Doing so will mean that you’ll be up at treeline for the remainder of the traverse to Teine-yama, with good views most of the way.

If conditions (visibility, wind, snow etc) mean that you’d rather limit the amount of time up high, then continue along the Okuteine-yama trailhead to the Okuteine-yama-no-ie Hut (here). From the hut, head due east to Hoshioki-yama.

The first 10km of the traverse, from Sapporo Kokusai ski area to Hoshioki-yama, is so beautifully mellow that you’ll likely be lulled into the false impression that it’ll continue that way all the way to Teine-yama. Things change dramatically, however, from Hoshioki-yama eastwards. In the distance you’ll see ginormous, impenetrable cliffs and buttresses lining the eastern flanks of Teine-yama. Between those vertical rock walls and Hoshioki-yama is a narrow ridgeline, knife-edge at times.

Depending on the snow conditions, most skiers will likely find themselves having to bootpack at some point along this ridge, clambering up short ledges while pulling themselves up with shrubs and trees as hand-holds. If you’re lucky, you might be able to complete the 1km or so along this ridge by traversing just under the ridgeline, but the slopes are steep and wooded.

This narrow ridge will lead you to a pleasant, compact plateau just below the high Teine-yama cliffs. From here, wrap around the northern side of Teine-yama, below the imposing cliffs, via a steep traverse. Take care here, as sidecountry skiers also use this descending traverse to access the more remote sidecountry zones around the ski area. They won’t be expecting to see climbers on their access tracks.

The steep traverse around the northern flanks of the Teine-yama summit will lead you to the old Teineyama Ropeway station (no longer in use). From here, you can access the ski area. If you’re there before ski area closing time, you can have a hot drink in the upper cafe here.

From the top of the ski area, you’ll decide to either ski down to the Teine Highlands ski center and take the bus back to Sapporo (last bus is around 4:30pm, see the timetable here), or carry on to Teine Neopara peak and ski down into Sapporo City via the Neopara ski tour route descent (see that route here). Our preference is to ski the entire way, even if this means that you’ll have to walk 30 minutes from the exit of the route along suburban streets to Miyanosawa Subway Station. The Neopara descent can offer some great skiing in the right conditions, and the walk through the quiet streets of Nishino suburb is nice.

Route Timing
Up | 8hrs
Down | 2hrs

As a team of skiers with varying levels of confidence and strength, we spent a total of 11 hours from Sapporo Kokusai to Miyanosawa Subway Station (including the 40-minute walk along pavement to the station). Stronger and more confident skiers would likely complete the traverse in around 8 to 9 hours, depending on the snow surface conditions. Skiers may also want to consider an overnight at the Okuteine Hut.

  • Transport: The earliest skiers will get to either Sapporo Kokusai ski area or Teine using public transport will be around 9:30am. This will put some timing pressure on the end of the traverse, as generally, the final public buses leaving the ski areas will be around 5pm (see Transport notes below). If it seems likely that your party may not make it for the final buses from the ski areas, we recommend asking from Kokusai to Teine (west to east), as this allows for a final descent down into the city on skis.


Public transport:

Sapporo Kokusai and Teine Resorts have detailed public transport information on their respective websites. The earliest that public transport will get you to Sapporo Kokusai is 9am. The earliest for Teine ski area is 9:23am.

NOTE: The ski area buses do not allow passengers to wear ski boots on the bus. Either carry a light pair of slippers/shoes for the bus, or wear your ski boot liners on the bus. The buses also require skis to be packed into bags of some sort. Long plastic ski bags are fine.

By car:

Both Sapporo Kokusai and Teine ski area have large public parking areas. There is no fee to park in either parking area. If leaving a vehicle overnight in either of the car parks, talk to a ski area staff member to let them know.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Yoichidake (余市岳) – map no. NK-54-14-14-4
Official Topo Map 2: Teineyama (手稲山) – map no. NK-54-14-14-2

NOTE: The official 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

The main aspect skiers are exposed to on the descent and/or ascent is North. Other aspects that may also be encountered while following the route outlined on this page include: South, East. Therefore, keep an eye on the weather forecast a few days ahead of your trip to monitor wind, snow, and temperature. Also, since this route is in the general vicinity of the Shiribeshi area, consider looking at the Japan Avalanche Network avalanche bulletins (updated Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays at 8am) or the daily Niseko Avalanche Information website. These may give extra insight into avalanche conditions in the greater area around the route.

Snow and
route safety

This is a long day out, so make sure your party is up for the distance. The climb up to Tsuge-yama, and the narrow ridge traverse to/from Teine-yama are a hot-bed of isolated terrain features which may be loaded and have isolated snowpack instabilities. The open plateau from Tsuge-yama to Hoshioki-yama is relatively featureless; in low visibility conditions, it would be difficult to navigate without the help of a GPS. The majority of the route is just at treeline – if high winds are forecast, these higher areas may be very exposed to the wind. Note that the final approach to Teine-yama from the west (traversing under the cliffs) is an area used by sidecountry skiers. Take care when skinning eastwards along the base of the cliffs, as skiers will likely come fast down the traverse, and won’t be expecting to see climbers.

Kokusai to Teine Ski Traverse Difficulty Rating





Vertical Gain



Time ascending















GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy).  More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Kokusai to Teine Traverse
Onsen nearby

On the Sapporo side of the traverse, the closest sento public bath to the Nishino exit from the route is the super local and super traditional Fumi-no-yu 文の湯 (location, 490yen). It’s out of the way though, and will add a solid 30 minutes to the walk east to the Tozai Subway Line from the exit of the traverse. On the other end of the route, if you’ve got a vehicle, consider having a soak in one of the Jozankei Onsen facilities. The large Yu-no-hana in Jozankei 湯の花 定山渓殿 (location, 980yen) is a good choice for bathing and a large restaurant relaxation area.

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other hills around Sapporo together with a local certified guide, get in touch with either Wataru Nara or Yasuko Kikuchi. They’re both Hokkaido born-and-bred Sapporo-based JMGA-certified guides. They both cut their teeth on peaks including those around Sapporo City and have taken part in major international expeditions. In addition, see a full list of English-speaking Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) guides on the HMGA website here

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Route Trip Notes

The only real question mark for me on this traverse was what would be awaiting us on the narrow ridge from Hoshioki-yama to Teine-yama. Yamareco.com reports were scant on details, but from what I’d read, it was possible, if we were willing to boot-pack in places.

The issue was timing. It was unlikely we’d get to Sapporo Kokusai on the bus before 9am. We’d need to be keeping the pressure on during the traverse if we were to make it to the other end before dark, let alone before the last public buses left Teine ski area.

Timbah, Haidee and I met at the first stop on the Sapporo to Sapporo Kokusai bus route, the Keio Plaza Hotel near Sapporo station. To get there, Haidee and I walked from our apartment to Shin-Sapporo Station, and took the JR train to Sapporo Station.

The bus ride to the ski area felt relatively efficient once we were out of the city. When we arrived at Sapporo Kokusai, we were the only ones not to run to the shelter of the main building. The sun was shining, but it was windy. We suited up at the bus stop and got on our way.

Once we were away from the hustle and bustle of the ski area car park, it was quiet and relaxing, skinning downhill through forests of shirakaba white birch.

We made good time along the semi-flat approach to the Okuteine-yama trailhead. About halfway, we passed the old Helvetia Hütte, managed by Hokkaido University. We’d stayed in this hut once before, a number of years ago.

Overhead, the clouds were racing across the sky, suggesting that we were possibly in for some very blustery conditions on the higher portion of the traverse.

For now, we were walking in glorious, warm sunshine.

The Okuteine-yama trailhead was full of cars. The trail heading along the stream in the snow was hard-packed and defined. A mix of ski tracks and snowshoe tracks.


There was a chance that committing to the high portion of the traverse this early on would mean we’d be exposed to strong winds for longer. However, the flat trail was hardly inspiring, so we decided to start climbing sooner rather than later, and head up to the summit of Tsuge-yama.

About 1.5km along the trail, we had the option of carrying along the well-defined but only very gradually ascending trail, or commit to a short but steep climb up to Tsuge-yama, the start of the high ridgeline that would take us all the way to Teine-yama.

We followed snowshoe tracks up to a steep spur, and had to don ski crampons for a few hundred meters – the ridge was wind-buffed and icy.

A party of snowshoers descended past us as we ascended – it looked like they were having an easier time of it than us.

This early crux-like climb was rewarded with a broad plateau-like final approach to the Tsuge-yama summit.

The summit gave us good views across to the low peaks of Jozankei to the southwest.

The diminutive summit of Tsuge-yama would be the first of several peaks we’d summit today.

From Tsuge-yama, we would leave our skins on the whole way to the final descent off Teine-yama. There were some ups and downs along the way, but these just served to give us practice with downhill skiing with skins on.

We made our way across the broad ridgeline and snowfields east of Okuteine-yama-no-ie Hut, gradually getting our first glimpses of Teine-yama’s distinctive peak.

As we crested the summit rim of Hoshioki-yama, we got our first views eastwards to the urban sprawl of Ishikari Bay, Ishikari City, and Sapporo City.

Dropping off Hoshioki-yama to the narrow ridge to Teine-yama proved challenging. We decided to wrap around the summit proper on the northern side of the peak, given the less steep slopes.

Even then, the slopes were steep, and more consequentially, isolated features were very wind-loaded, with thin wind-slab reacting to us skinning across them. In one spot, Timbah, walking ahead of Haidee and me, set off a very minor slide. 

We moved as fast as we could, and made it to the narrow ridge in one piece.

We were on our skis for 100m or so before it became clear that we’d make better time bootpacking. The time of year meant the snowpack was icy on either side of the ridge. The only safe way along the ridge was right on top.

This short ridgeline section from the flat summit of Hoshioki-yama, predictably, took much longer than what we’d done so far.

By the time we were approaching the impressive cliffs of the western flanks of the Teine-yama summit, our shadows were starting to grow long. 

We were now on borrowed time.

We were also now more or less committed to skiing all the way down into Nishino. It was unlikely we’d make it to the Teine ski area bus stop before the last bus for the day left.

It was only once we were below the cliffs that it became apparent how we’d skirt them in order to get to the Teine ski area. It was the first time for all of us to visit this area, so at first glance, this part of the route seemed impossible.

A steep traverse, however, made light work of the final approach to the ski area.

With shadows lengthening even more, we hurried to the main ski area to complete the final few kilometers to the Neopara summit, where we’d complete the descent into Sapporo City on skis.

It was now just after 5pm, and the ski area was deserted. It felt like we were walking around a closed-up theme park after hours.

The sun was threatening to drip below the horizon as we made it to the summit of Teine Neopara.

From here, we’d need to ski mildly breakable crust in the fading twilight to the base of the mountain.

The descent was bearable. Not in any way the powder wonder that it usually is.

Street lights were replacing light from the sky as we finally made it to the base of the mountain, in the quiet suburb of Nishino.

In silence, we switched from ski boots to street shoes for the final 30 minute walk along sidewalks to Miyanosawa subway station. We were tired but satisfied to have knocked off almost 25km of traverse from Sapporo Kokusai ski area to Sapporo City.

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Kokusai to Teine Traverse, or others nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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Kokusai to Teine Ski Traverse Difficulty Rating





Vertical Gain



Time ascending















GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.