Resort Scorecard

Snowsure


Beginners


Intermediate


Advanced


Snowboarders


Après Ski


Families


Base elevation: 760 metres

Top elevation: 1,831 metres

Number of lifts: 143 (total Hakuba Valley)

Number of runs: over 250 (total Hakuba Valley)

Access: Hakuba is 165 miles from Tokyo. There are direct coach transfers to Hakuba from Narita Airport, or alternatively you can catch the shinkansen (bullet-train) train to Nagano City, from which it is just a one hour transfer.

Hakuba, ‘White Horse’, is the catch-all name for an endless skier’s wonderland spanning Japan’s highest mountains on Honshu island. Ski adventurers, we defy you to get bored! The Hakuba Valley lift pass provides access to not just one but 11 individual ski areas; and though there’s liberal snowfall, the mountains of Hakuba also enjoy a good number of clear, sunny days: win, win.

Hakuba is foreigner-friendly and family-friendly, and the accommodation options are as varied as the skiing - whether staying in vibrant Hakuba Happo Village, hiding away amongst the trees in pretty Wadano, or hunkering down elsewhere in a mountain cabin.

Direct flights land in Tokyo, Hakuba's closest international airport. You could combine Hakuba with other resorts in the Japanese Northern Alps, and also easily build in time to experience Tokyo, Kyoto and Takayama.

Skiing in Hakuba

From Cortina in the north to Jigatake in the south, skiing in Hakuba encompasses a mind-boggling catchment area, with over 200 pistes, numerous terrain parks, and backcountry for days. Generally speaking, you’ll need to take the free shuttle bus or a taxi between zones. Hakuba’s a haven for cruising, with well-groomed pistes and good fall line opportunities. That said, the steepest mountains in Japan also offer some of the most challenging piste and backcountry skiing in the country. The powder is plentiful and fluffy, and though perfectionists might prefer the drier snow of Hokkaido, you can’t beat the combo of dry, sunny days and powdery pistes. Popular areas such as Happo One and Goryu / Hakuba 47 can get busy, but you can normally make fresh tracks further out – in Cortina and Norikura for example. Night skiing is offered from December to the end of March in four of the resorts.

The sheer scale of Hakuba makes it great for beginners – there’s no need to ever get bored of treading the same old tracks. We’d head to Minetaka and the Sakka area of Happo One first, before exploring the top of Goryu Mountain in the during following days. You can test yourself a little more in Iwatake, and escape the crowds in Norikura.

Long, uninterrupted skiing days are the norm, with most of the mountains geared up for intermediates. Heavenly sweepers part the forest of popular Happo One, where you’ll also have fun racing down the Olympic Women’s Downhill course, or taking a stab at the powder off-piste. Iwatake is known for well-groomed, scenic runs; and Tsugaike has appealing, gentle backcountry skiing.

Big old mountains mean challenging steeps; try Hakuba 47 - which connects conveniently with Goryu (home of the moguls) – and the runs from the top of Adam Gondola on Happo One. While there, we recommend getting up high for the powder fields of Reisen Grat, and following in the footsteps of Olympians at Kurobishi Olympic Downhill. Smaller Cortina, further out, is worth the schlep for deep powder, jagged terrain, and good tree and backcountry skiing serviced by efficient lifts. There are several terrain parks dotted about the valley.

In Japan, powder often proves a challenge even on groomed runs, and there are deeper stashes to be found across Hakuba. You should make for Cortina and get up high if you want to be free to tackle it, though, as most of the other mountains have a very conservative attitude towards off-piste and tree skiing, and are patrolled religiously. It all boils down to safety: there’s a world of backcountry and heli-skiing to be enjoyed as long as you’re with a reputable guide. We’re particularly fond of the mellow backcountry in Tsugaike.

The valley offers great variety for boarders, from Hakuba 47’s exhilarating terrain park and half pipe to the cylindrical, sweeping powder bowls atop Cortina. Long and winding slopes make cruising easy – especially on Happo One - and all of the resorts are accessible if you’re new to the board. A word or two of warning, though: keep your eyes peeled for moguls, and observe the rules regarding off-pisting as Hakuba’s officials don’t go easy on deviants!

Hakuba is a great choice as there is simply so much variety: children will be kept entertained at the ski school, or by qualified child-minders; Mum and Dad can cruise the upper mountain runs or tackle the powder; and teenagers can join them, or head to one of the terrain parks. If you need to recharge or reconnect, we can arrange a variety of tours, and the accommodation gives you plenty of options: take your pick from facility-packed hotels, private chalets or a small, peaceful ryokans.

While the village at the base of Happo is the main hub, each of the areas has its own personality and is well connected by shuttle. The general trend is an early evening onsen (a traditional hot spring bath) before dinner and drinks, so bars tend to open later than you may be accustomed to; we say make the most of onsen time - your muscles will thank you. At dinner time, you’ll find everything from international staples - Italian, Indian, American - to relaxed izakayas serving tapas-style Japanese; you might need to book if you have your heart set on a particular place. Dining in nearby Hakuba town proper is great fun and much more immersive – be prepared to point to your pick! The bars are lively, but dancing until the wee hours is the preserve of Echoland’s bars and clubs.

The sheer scale of Hakuba makes it great for beginners – there’s no need to ever get bored of treading the same old tracks. We’d head to Minetaka and the Sakka area of Happo One first, before exploring the top of Goryu Mountain in the during following days. You can test yourself a little more in Iwatake, and escape the crowds in Norikura.

Long, uninterrupted skiing days are the norm, with most of the mountains geared up for intermediates. Heavenly sweepers part the forest of popular Happo One, where you’ll also have fun racing down the Olympic Women’s Downhill course, or taking a stab at the powder off-piste. Iwatake is known for well-groomed, scenic runs; and Tsugaike has appealing, gentle backcountry skiing.

Big old mountains mean challenging steeps; try Hakuba 47 - which connects conveniently with Goryu (home of the moguls) – and the runs from the top of Adam Gondola on Happo One. While there, we recommend getting up high for the powder fields of Reisen Grat, and following in the footsteps of Olympians at Kurobishi Olympic Downhill. Smaller Cortina, further out, is worth the schlep for deep powder, jagged terrain, and good tree and backcountry skiing serviced by efficient lifts. There are several terrain parks dotted about the valley.

In Japan, powder often proves a challenge even on groomed runs, and there are deeper stashes to be found across Hakuba. You should make for Cortina and get up high if you want to be free to tackle it, though, as most of the other mountains have a very conservative attitude towards off-piste and tree skiing, and are patrolled religiously. It all boils down to safety: there’s a world of backcountry and heli-skiing to be enjoyed as long as you’re with a reputable guide. We’re particularly fond of the mellow backcountry in Tsugaike.

The valley offers great variety for boarders, from Hakuba 47’s exhilarating terrain park and half pipe to the cylindrical, sweeping powder bowls atop Cortina. Long and winding slopes make cruising easy – especially on Happo One - and all of the resorts are accessible if you’re new to the board. A word or two of warning, though: keep your eyes peeled for moguls, and observe the rules regarding off-pisting as Hakuba’s officials don’t go easy on deviants!

Hakuba is a great choice as there is simply so much variety: children will be kept entertained at the ski school, or by qualified child-minders; Mum and Dad can cruise the upper mountain runs or tackle the powder; and teenagers can join them, or head to one of the terrain parks. If you need to recharge or reconnect, we can arrange a variety of tours, and the accommodation gives you plenty of options: take your pick from facility-packed hotels, private chalets or a small, peaceful ryokans.

While the village at the base of Happo is the main hub, each of the areas has its own personality and is well connected by shuttle. The general trend is an early evening onsen (a traditional hot spring bath) before dinner and drinks, so bars tend to open later than you may be accustomed to; we say make the most of onsen time - your muscles will thank you. At dinner time, you’ll find everything from international staples - Italian, Indian, American - to relaxed izakayas serving tapas-style Japanese; you might need to book if you have your heart set on a particular place. Dining in nearby Hakuba town proper is great fun and much more immersive – be prepared to point to your pick! The bars are lively, but dancing until the wee hours is the preserve of Echoland’s bars and clubs.

Getting There

A direct shared or private transfer from Tokyo Narita Airport minimises hassle, and will take around five to six hours.

However, if you arrive during the day, a combination of trains and buses is your quickest option. From the airport, you can take the Narita Express into Tokyo city (one hour), and then catch the Asama Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagano (90 mins). Once you’re in Nagano, a bus, train or taxi to Hakuba will take around an hour. Buses will likely drop you off at Happo Information Centre, so you may need a taxi or hotel shuttle from there.

Bizarrely, the trip takes longer doing it direct by coach from the airport, about 5-6 hours, but it provides the advantage of not having to lug your bags on and off trains and buses. There is even a direct transfer for those arriving later in the day, called the Nagano Snow Shuttle bus, which drops in Hakuba as well as Nozawa Onsen.

Alternatively, jump on a train to Shinjuku in Tokyo from the airport and, from there, you can catch a shuttle bus to Hakuba. This journey will take five to six hours.

Resort Scorecard

Snowsure


Beginners


Intermediate


Advanced


Snowboarders


Après Ski


Families


Base elevation: 760 metres

Top elevation: 1,831 metres

Number of lifts: 143 (total Hakuba Valley)

Number of runs: over 250 (total Hakuba Valley)

Access: Hakuba is 165 miles from Tokyo. There are direct coach transfers to Hakuba from Narita Airport, or alternatively you can catch the shinkansen (bullet-train) train to Nagano City, from which it is just a one hour transfer.