Famous throughout Japan as the location of the old soap opera Kita no Kuni Kara (From the Northern Country), which followed the dramas of a Tokyo family adapting to life in Hokkaidō, FURANO is the focus of many a salaryman's dreams about escaping the rat race. Its ski resort (Web: www.princehotels.co.jp/ski/furano ) on the slopes of Mount Kitanomine, often used for World Cup races, is also becoming popular with Antipodean skiers and snowboarders seeking to escape the crowded foreigner scene at Niseko. Furano's slopes are challenging but not as varied or as long as those at Niseko; off-piste skiing is banned.
However, the town can be used as a base for the area's plentiful ski resorts and the local tourist office is trying hard to make sure that the essential Japanese character and charm of the area isn't lost or overlooked by visiting gaijin. Lift passes start at ¥1500 for a night ticket (5–9pm) rising to ¥4000 for a one-day ticket. If you're looking to go off-piste or try backcountry skiing with qualified English-speaking guides, this can be arranged through Backcountry Powder Tracks (Tel:0167/22-5655, Web: www.b-powdertracks.com ).