Travel to Japan and Sapporo
There are three main gateway airports in Japan: Narita airport (Tokyo), Kansai airport (Osaka) and Centrea airport (Nagoya). There are connecting flights from all these airports to Chitose airport in Sapporo.
▪ Sapporo Chitose Airport to Sapporo City
I think that the train is the best means of transport in wintertime. JR (Japan railway company) Hokkaido has many kinds of trains from the airport to Sapporo city. Airport shuttle trains operate from 6:30 AM to 8:45 PM every 15 minutes, it takes 38 minutes. The one way ticket costs 1040 yen (about 10 €). It is safe, rapid (mostly on time even in winter) and convenient.
You can also take a bus, available every 10 – 15 minutes, it costs 1000 yen and takes 60 – 70 minutes. If you stay at any of the famous big hotels in Sapporo, bus service door to door is convenient. But buses are often delayed in wintertime.
Car rental is not a good idea in Sapporo in wintertime: traffic jams, accidents, slippery roads, no English road signs.
▪ Hotels to Sapporo Dome (start)
The subway is the best choice from the city to the start of the race. Taxis are expensive. Car parking at the Sapporo Dome is possible only on Friday and Saturday not available on Sunday it costs 200 Yen per hour (the track is open for training on Friday and Saturday 10AM-3PM).
The schedule of Sapporo Ski Marathon changed one day before the famous Sapporo Snow Festival. There are many hotels in Sapporo city but most of them have small rooms and are expensive and there are no waxing facilities.
My recommended Seishonenkaikan Hotel is closed now, I recommend APA HOTEL & RESORT SAPPORO that is located south of Sapporo city. It is conveniently to go to the Sapporo Dome (start area), Takino Snow World(training area) and the City center(shopping and night life). The room charge is about 4500~6000 Japanese Yen per person per night in a single room. There is enough waxing space inside the building and big Spa.
If you want to book this hotel, please contact Minoru at firstname.lastname@example.org at least before September; earlier is better. If you contact the race office about accommodation in Sapporo, they say that the Sheraton Sapporo has rooms for you, but they are very expensive about 150 US$ per person per night.
You can go to the web site for the Ski Marathon to register. This is very easy if you are not from Japan. You can register on the web and they don’t ask for any advance payment. You will pay when you pick up your bib and computer chip on the Saturday before the race in the dome. They have translators available at the site for several languages.
Skiing in Sapporo
The course used for the Sapporo Ski marathon is not a permanent ski trail. It is prepared explicitly for the race. Because of this the course is not useful for practice if you arrive several days before the race, which is recommended. The organizers prepare the trail the week before the race and it is open for practice on the Friday and Saturday before the race. Even on the Friday you may encounter machinery preparing the course and there may be small gaps that are not ready yet.
An excellent place for skiing in Sapporo is the Takino Snow Park. It has well groomed XC trails with a profile that is similar to the Ski Marathon. It is located 10 km from the Makomanai subway station from where it can be reached in 40 minutes by bus number 102. The entry is free; restaurant, cafe and rest-place are available as well as several well-groomed tracks from 5 to 15 km. Web-site www.takinopark.com. With the bounty of snow that is usually available in Sapporo it is a place not to be missed.
Using the subway in Sapporo is easy since stations and procedures are displayed in English as well. Using the buses takes a little more preparation since the signs are only in Japanese and the driver usually knows little English and the system seems different from many other countries. You enter the bus by the back door and you don’t pay until you exit through the front door. The cost depends on the distance you travel. It currently costs 430 yen from Makomanai subway station to the Takino Snow Park. You will see an electronic board at the front of the bus that shows the cost from the bus stop where you entered the bus to the current location. This number will be updated as the bus progresses. When you exit you must pay the driver cash for the trip. The bus also has a changing machine used for coins and 1000 yen bills that is combined with the machine where you deposit the fee. If you need change, then you first use the changing machine and after that you deposit the correct fare.
The start is near the Sapporo Dome and there is no need to bring any warm clothes to the start line. Just ski out to the start and then wait for about 10 minutes. If you are an international skier you have “priority status” and will start at the left side of the elite wave.
The race course (50km), or at least part of it, was used for the Olympics in Sapporo in 1972. It is really a skiers dream (or nightmare if you have not practiced enough). Don’t be misled by the profile that is published for the course. It is anything but flat and straight. Very little of the course if flat and there are numerous downhill’s, that will get the adrenaline up, and long draining uphill’s that will get the heart pumping at its limit. The first 4 km is fairly wide and is also a deceptive uphill. It never seems steep to the eye but you gain 150 meters. After that the course slims down so that it is wide enough for one or two skiers in different sections. Passing may be difficult at times. The first 25 km are extremely hard. After that the hills become a bit gentler which you may or may not notice. After 42 km they give you the last shock, it is a 90 meter climb in less than a kilometer. If possible, save some of your energy. After that you are home free, most of the remainder is downhill, the exception being about a kilometer on the field before you reach the Dome at the finish where you have a very gentle uphill. They set one classical track at the side but because the course is narrow it will be destroyed by the skaters. Unless you can finish in the first 20, don’t expect a classic track that is useful.
The short course (25km) shares the track with the long course for the first 13 km. After that it returns on a track that is partly shared with the long race. Even this course is demanding. The 25 km racers start 20 minutes after the start of the long race which is a nuisance for slow 50 km skiers and fast 25 km skiers since there is a lot of passing before the courses are separated. A wider time separation would be really nice.
The finish is also at the Sapporo Dome. You can go inside right away and change into dry clothing. They have excellent showers at the Dome. In the words of Hannes “ I found they were the best showers in the world: you step out with absolutely dry feet.” Hopefully they have been washed!
The spacing of the feed stations is adequate. The first two are at about 10k and 20k (50km race) and some closer spacing would be nice especially for slower skiers. All the feed stations have bananas, oranges, sport drinks and water and some more options. The course is marked at every kilometer with what seems like Japanese accuracy.
These are demanding courses and anybody completing it is an accomplished skier and should be proud of the fact.
You can enjoy other ski races before and after the Sapporo Ski Marathon but there is no web page about domestic races yet. Please contact Minoru at the above-mentioned email address.
The forecast is available at Accuweather.
The web site for the race is www.shsf.jp/ski/english/
What a fabulous synopsis. Many thanks for you rtime and effort on this. We are planning to visit in 2014, and it looks like i am only a few motnths early in my planning….
Looking forward to the post race showers
Thanks for all the details, the commentary is very helpful. Did you happen to see anywhere in Sapporo that will do you ski waxing for you? Thanks,
Bonjour Dr Minuri,
Je rêve de skier votre marathon et merci pour la générosité des informations.
Je vous ai croisé à Cavalese en 2011 et revu à Obertilliach et Cavalese pour les bonbons de Suomi en 2012.
Bonne saison 2013 et salutations à votre famille
Colette de Québec
Back home from doing the Sapporo Loppet last month, a great experience which we are very grateful to the organisers for. A few points in case helpful for others participating in the future, go and enjoy it!
We worried before about getting skis waxed. We managed to get our waxing done at a stand taking skis for waxing when we went to register on the Saturday at the Dome, we were then able to collect the skis before the race at the Dome on the Sunday. The Nissen Sports in the centre of town also offered waxing (http://www.xc-nissen.com/store/) and had a good selection of cross country gear, as did a stand that was set up at the Dome during registration.
We practiced in the days before at the cross country track next to the Hilton Hotel in Niseko, this was not ideal as the track was very short (less than 1km) and the snow was very soft when we were there. We were told by others that they had found a nice track in Furano between the resort and the town in park that was part forrest. We did not visit the practice area near Sapporo.
We stayed at the Mercure Sapporo (http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-7023-mercure-sapporo/index.shtml) which I would recommend. It was close to the subway station which takes you close to the Dome, it has a good breakfast for before the race, the staff were helpful, lots of restaurants and shops close by including the Nissen Sports mentioned above. They rooms are quite small, but you’re in Japan!
On the race day things are well organised as you would expect. You need a some money for the bag drop. It takes about 5-10 minutes to get from the Dome to the start line. It is worth getting a good start position as the course is very tight and overtaking is extremely difficult until the last few kilometers. There is little post loppet celebration, but it was cold on the day we were there. We had a great time and people were very kind looking after my wife and baby who were waiting patiently. Thank you again to all the volunteers and organisers.
Hi Will – good to see your comments and thx again for your company in Sapporo.
Did the 25km Sapporo race this year and enjoyed it thoroughly. I support the comments about the course – I have done many 42km races but found 25 in Sapporo was plenty long enough – lots of up and down and very heavy traffic for the first 15km or so. I found it particularly difficult that all the local skiers seemed intent on going dead slow down the hills – very hard on the snow plough muscles after a while. All in all though the track was great, the people friendly and the event well organised. I can endorse Will’s reference to Nissen sports – I had skis waxed there the day before the race and they were excellent. The guys in the shop had no english but were very helpful and we managed to communicate. They have a great range of gear but be warned the prices in general in Japan are not low even compared to Aus. Also endorse Takino Park as an excellent training area – It has an extensive and interesting network of tracks and was very quiet the day I was there. The train and bus trip to get there was relatively easy but does require so me care. There seem to be two buses with the same number and only one gos all the way to the Park. Also the all day ticket sold at the station was not accepted on the bus so cash is required. Well worth the effort though. Full marks to all concerned with the Sapporo race – its a great event.
One more thing – I haven’t been able to find any info about photos from the event. Does anyone know whether there were photos taken of competitors and if so where they are available? Thx.
Re – photos:
In the 2014 Journal given out to participants there is a small notation saying the following:
“We are very sorry that we have only the Japanese photo service website. We don’t have an English photo website…You can purchase photos through the Japanese website. Thank you for your understanding.”
Hope this helps Doug.
The information at the beginning of this thread was invaluable for my first trip to the Sapporo Ski Marathon this year (2014). Thank you so much to the person who took the time to put it together. Nissen Sport and subway suggestion especially good.
Additional information that might be helpful:
Air travel: I decided to bypass Tokyo and flew Korean Air from New York to Sapporo with only a two hour layover in Seoul. Very easy as my ski bag was checked all the way through to Sapporo.
Bus/train/taxi from airport: I opted to take a taxi from New Chitose airport to Sapporo as I was alone and carrying a heavy ski bag, and two other bags, full of both xc and back country ski equipment. I arrived at 9:30pm and there were no taxis readily available. No personnel available to assist at arrivals pick up area at this hour of the day. Found a white telephone marked “taxi” on an empty desk in the lower arrivals area. A very helpful and friendly person at the other end of the line said they would send a taxi, which arrived 15 minutes later. Worked very well. No big deal but it might be a good idea to organize transportation ahead of time if you arrive late at night with a lot of luggage. Train from New Chitose airport to Sapporo center runs 6:00am – 11:00pm and would have been more economical. http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/ttable/04.pdf
Sapporo Hotel: Stayed at Jasmac Plaza Hotel
Rooms clean, beds comfortable and staff friendly. On expensive side but worth it. Please note that only 8 out of 153 rooms are non-smoking, so be sure to ask for non-smoking if that is your preference. Hotel has a large onsen where you can also book massage and other spa treatments. Very nice! Hotel popular wedding/conference destination. Breakfast buffet with Western and traditional foods was included in our room price. No waxing facility at hotel.
Restaurants: Plenty of choices within walking distance of hotel.
Subway to the Dome/: Hosui-Susukino subway station three blocks from hotel. 15 minute ride (5 stops) on blue, Toho Line to Fukuzumi. Easy to purchase tickets from machine but I recommend having enough coins to pay for ticket as credit card directions were cumbersome. I purchased one-day passes each day I was there and was able to move around the city very easily. ¥800 /weekday and ¥500/weekend day.
Waxing/xc supplies: Nissen Sport. 15 minute walk from Jasmac Plaza Hotel. Very helpful and friendly staff.
At the race: Give yourself plenty of time to walk from the Dome to the starting line and don’t miss the Miso soup at the finish.
This was my 10th Worldloppet race and my first skate race ever (did the 25k). It is now my favorite, with La Transjurassienne in second, and I want to go back. Challenging race course with friendly and courteous participants who actually adhere to the “left lane fast – right lane slow” signage. Superbly organized.