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Hakuba


This phenomenal snowbound valley in the spectacular Japanese Alps offers some of the steepest, expansive and panoramic terrain in Japan.

Hakuba is the catch-all name for an endless skier's wonderland spanning Japan's highest mountains. Ski adventurers, we defy you to get bored! The Hakuba Valley lift pass provides access to not just one but ten individual ski areas and although there’s liberal snowfall, the mountains of Hakuba also enjoy a good number of clear, sunny days: win, win. Hakuba is foreigner-friendly and the accommodation options are as varied as the skiing – whether staying in vibrant Happo Village, hiding away amongst the trees in pretty Wadano, or hunkering down elsewhere in a mountain cabin.

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

Hakuba encompasses a mind-boggling catchment area, with over 200 pistes, numerous terrain parks, and backcountry for days. The powder is plentiful and fluffy and it'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. 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.

Off Piste

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.

Advanced

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.

Intermediate

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.

Beginners

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.

Snowboarders

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!

Après Ski

While the village at the base of Happo is the main hub, each of the areas have their own personality and are 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.

Family Suitability

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.

RESORT SCORECARD

Snowsure:  

Beginners:  

Intermediate:  

Advanced:  

Snowboarders:  

Après Ski:  

Families:  

Season:  December - April

Base elevation:  760 metres

Top elevation:  1,831 metres

Vertical drop:  1,071 metres

Number of lifts:  143 (Hakuba Valley)

Number of runs:  over 250 (Hakuba Valley)

Longest run:  over 8 kilometres

Access:  Hakuba is only 165 miles from Tokyo. There are direct transfers to Hakuba from Narita and Haneda Airport, either by shared taxi, scheduled coach and - for more luxury and convenience - private. Alternatively you can catch the shinkansen (bullet-train) from Tokyo to Nagano City, from where it's just a one-hour transfer.

Suggested Itineraries featuring Hakuba

These itineraries will give you a starting point for what your ski holiday to Japan could entail. They cover routes that we've found work particularly well, sometimes combing ski resorts and including opportunity to experience Japan beyond the slopes. Treat them as inspiration only, as each trip can be tailored to suit your preferences and budget.

The Japanese Alps Explorer

Tokyo - Nozawa Onsen - Hakuba - Kyoto

Duration: two weeks

Bullet-trains, snow monkeys, atmospheric villages, shrines, geisha and vibrant neon cities. Oh...and some of Japan's best skiing.

from £2,498 per person, including flights

Read More

Ski The Best Of Both Islands

Niseko - Hakuba - Tokyo

Duration: two weeks

Hokkaido's best ski resort, plus Honshu's best ski resort ... with the enthralling capital thrown in for high jinx before you return home.

from £2,544 per person, including flights

Read More

Hakuba, With A Side Of Japan

Kyoto - Hakuba - Tokyo

Duration: 11 days

For those with limited time, but still want to pack a Japanese powder punch. The Hakuba valley in a cultural sandwich, so to speak.

from £2,120 per person, including flights

Read More

Prices are indicative only and include accommodation (low season), lift passes, transfers and – because we are ATOL-bonded – your flights from the UK. Different Snow can also include ski hire, backcountry and off-piste tours, rail passes, private transfers, English-speaking guides, cultural excursions and activities.

Accommodation

Choosing where to hole up in Hakuba can seem like a challenge. The main hub is Happo Village – a good choice if you wish to have the bulk of restaurants and the bars within striking distance. Staying in nearby Lower Wadano means you can bed down amongst the trees but won’t sacrifice convenience; while Upper Wadano is the place for ski-in, ski-out access.

We can offer many options in Hakuba - the following is a hand-picked selection of a few of our trusted favourites.

Tokyu Hotel

The largest and most exclusive hotel in Hakuba, in a great location in Wadano.

Comfortable, (verging on the luxurious), central and plenty of facilities. The hotel is located in the wooded Wadano area, and it’s only a short walk to the Happo ski runs - there are complimentary ski shuttles to Hakuba 47 / Goryu, as well as into Happo village itself.

When you’ve locked your kit away for the night, you can enjoy a dip in the indoor-outdoor onsen, treat tired limbs to a massage, or spend time with family in the restaurants and pleasant communal areas. There are also karaoke rooms if you’re feeling brave (or suitably tipsy). 

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 8 minutes' walk

Restaurants & Bars: 2 minutes' walk

Village centre: 12 minutes' walk

Phoenix Hotel

East meets West in our favourite hotel in Hakuba. Stylish & comfortable.

The Phoenix is a 15-room boutique hotel that just couldn’t be cosier. They have both Japanese and Western rooms, to achieve a variety of budgets (a few Japanese-style rooms are cheaper, though without en-suite), and it's all very tasteful; rich, earthy colours, and mellow lighting. Mimi's restaurants can make a claim to be the best in Hakuba and the location is second-to-none.

You’ll enjoy peaceful forest walks, easy access to the slopes thanks to the complimentary shuttle. The hotel has a steam sauna, Japanese baths and massage service, as well as a characterful pocket-size bar which opens at four – no doubt music to your ears if you like to start the evening with a post-ski tipple.

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 4 minutes' walk

Village centre: 10 minutes' walk

Ski lifts: 10 minutes' walk

Shuttle bus: 1 minutes' walk

La Neige Higashikan

The grand old dame hotel of Hakuba - classical elegance and impeccable service.

From the outside La Neige Higashikan might just resemble the house of your dreams, perfectly framed by the snow-dusted branches of Wadano forest. Inside it’s just the same – effortlessly managing to be supremely luxurious yet homely at the same time, and to say the staff are obliging would be an understatement.

There are 22 peaceful rooms within the main house – most with lovely views, sumptuous décor and jet tubs or Jacuzzis. There’s a decadent French/Italian restaurant with a vast wine cellar, and you’re not too far out of the village if you want to explore other, more Japanese, options.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 4 minutes' walk

Restaurants & Bars: 5 minutes' walk

Village centre: 12 minutes' walk

Villa Hakuba

Splendid hotel rooms and apartments right next to the Sakka lifts.

What a difference a renovation makes! It may be a bit of an ugly concrete duckling externally, but it all improves markedly once inside – it’s modern, well-designed and provides perfectly comfortable rooms and apartments, of which there are only 28 in total. And then there is the detached cabin, possibly the most romantic place to stay in Hakuba.

Service is friendly, as most of the staff are usually Australian and the attached ‘Rabbit Hole’ is a funky café / burger restaurant / bar and favourite hang-out for many. Directly at the base of Sakka lift, this is a wonderful little property with ski-in, ski-out access.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 20 metres

Restaurants & Bars: 5 metres

Shuttle bus: 1 minutes' walk

Village centre: 5 minutes' drive

Mominoki Hotel

Centrally located, with plenty of facilities including one of the best onsens in Hakuba.

Mominoki Hotel is centrally located just a few minutes walk to the nearest ski lift. It's a cosy and comfortable option - a 'solid choice', so to speak. They have a range of rooms...and you get what you pay for as you move up throughh the categories. We enjoy the warm ambiance of the hotel in its entirety, first realised in the grand lobby entrance and fireside lounge & bar.

One of the most popular hotels in Hakuba, they have an excellent indoor and outdoor natural onsen and a variety of restaurants & bars. The hotel also has an English style pub, just a short walk away.

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 1 minutes' walk

Ski lifts: 5 minutes' walk

Shuttle bus: 1 minutes' walk

Hifumi Ryokan

The best traditional ryokan in Happo Village, warmth and authenticity assured.

A traditional ryokan is hard to beat but it’s also nice to have an English-speaking host - Mr Maruyama's traditional inn is in the within the hubbub of Happo Village. You’ll be relaxed in no time thanks to simple Japanese décor, dashes of greenery, traditional architecture, and a peaceful onsen whose pure alkaline waters are sure to cleanse away aches and pains.

Deluxe rooms, which sleep up to four people, have private rotenburo (open air hot springs). Your hosts run a shuttle service to the ski lifts and serve lovely Japanese dinners well worth staying in for one night at least.  

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 1 minutes' walk

Ski lifts: 6 minutes' walk

Shuttle bus: 2 minutes' walk

Double Black Hotel

The friendliest place to stay in Hakuba is a timber lodge within the Wadano forest.

There are 22 Western style rooms (double, twin or triple) - all en-suites, and there is a communal onsen downstairs, as well as an atmospheric dining room and lounge bar with vaulted ceiling, where you can chose from a drinks menu as long as your arm and enjoy delicious Japanese fusion tapas well into the evening. Breakfasts are good, too, with a choice of cooked western or continental, and probably the valley’s best coffee.

In our view, Double Black has an unbeatable communal ambience. and they provide a ski shuttle to take you to Happo village and the ski mountains beyond.

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 3 minutes' walk

Ski lifts: 10 minutes' walk

Hakuba Luna Hotel

A cosy and affordable little hotel that is almost ski-in, ski-out.

Neat and homely Hakuba Luna Hotel lies within the Wadano forest - Happo’s ski lifts are just a minute down the hill, and shuttle buses heading to resorts across the valley stop just across the road. In the evening, you can wander to local restaurants in Wadano, walk for fifteen minutes into Happo village or catch the shuttle.

There’s a choice of rooms sleeping up to five people in king, single and bunk beds, most with en suites and some with shared facilities.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 15 metres

Village centre: 5 minutes' drive

Restaurants & Bars: 4 minutes' walk

De Laile

A super-convenient budget option, nestled amongst the trees of Wadano.

A family-run, small (ish) hotel backing on to the Happo Sakka lift. The main boast of the De Laile is the pleasant onsen hot spring, perfect for relaxing in after an energetic day on the slopes. Rooms are compact but comfortable, WiFi is available in lobby, the lounge area is relaxing and restaurant enjoys a good reputation.

The property is kept spotlessly clean and the stay here is comfortable, but without too many frills. They have twin rooms and also a few Japanese / Western Rooms – Western beds, but with a tatami flooring area also. These rooms can sleep up to four people. All the rooms have a TV and en suite bathrooms and the De Laile has free-to-use laundry machines and a drinks vending machine.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 25 metres

Restaurants & Bars: 5 minutes' walk

Phoenix One

4-bedroom chalet

Hakuba’s best ski chalet is also, quite probably, Asia’s ultimate ski chalet.

Polished western red cedar, black and stainless steel dominate the interior of Phoenix One – the slickest in the valley. Located within Wadano forest, 10 minutes from the ski lifts, Phoenix One sleeps 10 in three kings and one room with two sets of bunk beds – ideal for children and teenagers. No expense has been spared, from the high-spec Miele kitchen and Bang & Olufsen audio and visual systems to the foosball table and PlayStation.

Luxurious perks are everywhere: warm your boots on the automated boot warmer before hitting the slopes, or stay in and work out in the well-stocked private gym before pampering yourself in the sauna and Japanese style onsen. A seven-seater van is also provided should you prefer to drive. If you need anything (and we doubt you will), your hosts are on-hand via intercom.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 9 minutes' walk

Restaurants & Bars: 3 minutes' walk

Village centre: 10 minutes' walk

Hakuba Mountain Lodge

5-bedroom chalet

The sexiest place to stay in Hakuba, as featured in interiors magazines across Asia.

Perches on a hill in peaceful Gory, this chalet was designed by – and for - Saigon-based designer Nikki Hunt, before being sold on for others to enjoy; and boy will you enjoy yourself. The palate is neutrals and blacks – with plenty of design nods to Japan; the lighting is soft, the furniture is fashionable, and the finish quality is supreme.

In addition to atmospheric lounge and dining areas, there’s an impressive kitchen, a decadent traditional bath house, and a cinema. All five bedrooms have en suite bathrooms, so there’ll be no competition once you're off the slopes.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 8 minutes' walk

Restaurants & Bars: 10 minutes' walk

AGS Chalet

2-bedroom chalet

A stand-alone chalet, with trendy furnishings plus a 4WD vehicle for your exclusive use.

A very unique, upmarket chalet with all the trimmings you’d expect from a romantic ski getaway. This really is a one-of-a-kind property, featuring quality original furnishings and high-end accessories. It’s been commented previously “if Ralph Lauren did ski chalets, then.....”. This romantic deluxe ski chalet has views of both the Happo and Hakuba 47 ski mountains and comes with its own 4WD vehicle, offering the freedom to venture to several of the ski hills of the Valley.

IThere is an extra bed in the basement, meaning that this chalet can sleep up to five people. The kitchen open-plan and well equipped - spacious and communal, just what you need. The bathrooms have a pleasant warm, rustic feeling with many thoughtful touches, the lounge features rich, soft dark leather sofas – comfy, homely yet always quite stylish.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 10 minutes' walk

Shuttle bus: 10 minutes' walk

Koharu Resort Suites

1 and 2-bedroom apartments

Plush apartments, close to the slopes. Better than staying in a hotel!

In a prime location in the upper reaches of Wadano are these smart, modern studio, one and two bedroom apartments.

Luxuries such as heated bamboo floors and large TVs, as well as conveniences including drying rooms, fully fitted kitchens and washer-dryer, mean you’ll want for nothing. Service is excellent and the ski slopes are on your doorstep.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 20 metres

Restaurants & Bars: 1 minutes' walk

Shuttle bus: 1 minutes' walk

Mountain Apartments

3, 4 and 5-bedroom apartments

The homeliest apartments in Hakuba are also the most lavish.

The three apartments behind the traditional white façade of the building are all modern and unique...and you can ski right to the door. There’s a 3, a 4 (which is, essentially, the three bedroom apartment with a studio apartment attached) and a 5 bedroom apartment, all designed in a contemporary urban style with luxuries such as soft sheepskin rugs, underfloor heating, plasma TVs, and top of the range kitchen appliances.

Location-wise, you’ll be in Wadano – the leafiest of the central villages - with restaurants and bars a short walk away and even more choice in nearby Happo; the shuttle bus stop is a minute from the apartments – also a bonus if you’d like to explore the valley’s skiing. 

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 25 metres

Restaurants & Bars: 2 minutes' walk

Village centre: 5 minutes' drive

Sky Park Happo

2, 3 and 4-bedroom apartments

Luxury, with ski-in/ski-out convenience. Woodland seclusion and plenty of space.

Sky Park consists of a 2 (Tsuki), 3 (Hoshi) and 4 (Kaze) bedroom apartments - sleeping a maximum of five, seven and ten people respectively – as well as a standalone chalet (Yuki) with 4 bedrooms sleeping nine. Minimalist design with clean lines and high end fittings characterises the interiors, and all apartments have kitchens and private washing facilities. 

Yuki chalet - a striking silver structure balanced over a gully, with uninterrupted views of the snow-drenched mountains – offers more living space and private ski storage. 

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 15 metres

Restaurants & Bars: 5 minutes' walk

Shuttle bus: 1 minutes' walk

Village centre: 5 minutes' drive

Phoenix Cocoon

3-bedroom chalet

A stunning self-contained chalet, state-of-the-art and all rather exquisite. If it's available, we grab it!

A spacious chalet that can comfortably sleep eight guests. It has a wonderful layout with one master bedroom (with en suite), a second bedroom with queen size bed and a third bedroom comprising of single beds, plus a bunk bed. Hydropic under-floor heating stretches throughout the property, and the kitchens / bathrooms have been fitted with Miele appliances.

This house is nestled in the forest close to the Phoenix Hotel and guests have access to all of the amenities of the four-star hotel. The chalet comes with a 7 seater 4WD van.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 8 minutes' walk

Restaurants & Bars: 5 minutes' walk

Villa Hakuba

2, 3 and 4-bedroom apartments

Splendid hotel rooms and apartments right next to the Sakka lifts.

What a difference a renovation makes! It may be a bit of an ugly concrete duckling externally, but it all improves markedly once inside – it’s modern, well-designed and provides perfectly comfortable rooms and apartments, of which there are only 28 in total. And then there is the detached cabin, possibly the most romantic place to stay in Hakuba.

Service is friendly, as most of the staff are usually Australian and the attached ‘Rabbit Hole’ is a funky café / burger restaurant / bar and favourite hang-out for many. Directly at the base of Sakka lift, this is a wonderful little property with ski-in, ski-out access.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 20 metres

Restaurants & Bars: 5 metres

Shuttle bus: 1 minutes' walk

Village centre: 5 minutes' drive

Mountain Side

3-bedroom apartments

A small complex of luxury, ultra-chic apartments with stunning views and ski-in, ski-out access. 

Hakuba's newest and, therefore, most exciting apartments. Completed for the 2017 season they feature lavish amenities, high-end furnishing and an eco-friendly, innovative design.

These are 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom apartments with high ceilings; open plan living & dining; contemporary kitchen equipped with brand appliances and countertops; wall-to-wall windows and balcony; rich hardwood flooring; sleek gas fireplace; ensuite facilities with high pressure shower heads and designer towels; plush, high-quality beds; 100% wool carpet in bedrooms; modern lighting, heating and insulation; and full entertainment system.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 1 minutes' walk

Restaurants & Bars: 3 minutes' walk

Village centre: 15 minutes' walk

Winterstorm

2-bedroom apartments

A small complex of modern and stylish apartments, spacious and well positioned.

With a sleek, industrial style these apartments are the latest in up-market self-contained Hakuba accommodation. Each fully furnished apartment is 90 m2 (i.e. very spacious) and has two bedrooms, both with en suites; comfortable spacious living areas and well equipped kitchens ensuring you can cook up a storm.

One of the many things we love about Winterstorm are the showers - they are amazing - and the fact that it just across the road from our favourite coffee and food hangout, the new Rabbit Hole Cafe. Daily supermarket shuttles are provided. 

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 2 minutes' walk

Ski lifts: 2 minutes' walk

Village centre: 5 minutes' drive

Phoenix Chalets

2 and 3-bedroom apartments

Fully-equipped apartments offering total comfort next to the Phoenix Hotel. 

Nestled in the forest are these brand new chalets - adjacent to the excellent Phoenix Hotel (you can share the facilities, not least its excellent restaurant) - offering more space, with large living areas and inviting modern bathrooms. Each is two storeys, the 2-bedroom apartments with two bathrooms and have bedding combinations for up to six persons and the 3-bedroom apartments with three bathrooms are able to sleep up to eight persons.

Modern western luxury interiors & furnishings, built in wardrobes, hydronic floor heating throughout and fully equipped western kitchen. Dining setting with spacious lounge area, large flat screen LCD TV, DVD player & Bose sound dock, WiFi and laundry. Walk to the slopes, or use the hotels' complimentary ski shuttle service.

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 2 minutes' walk

Ski lifts: 10 minutes' walk

Village centre: 10 minutes' walk

Shuttle bus: 1 minutes' walk

Hakuba Grand Apartments

1 and 2-bedroom apartments

Nestled in the Wadano trees behind the main road are these brand new, modern apartments.

These new apartments are spacious and designed to provide comfort and luxury. Ideal for families and larger groups traveling together, these are comfortable with superior furnishings and fittings and the ever-so-helpful staff on the front desk are a major selling point also.

With its location close to Kokusai lift and a snowball's throw from some of the best onsens and restaurants of Wadano, the Hakuba Grand Apartments are a wonderful addition to the accommodation scene.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 2 minutes' walk

Restaurants & Bars: 2 minutes' walk

Village centre: 15 minutes' walk

Activities

The backcountry skiing in the region is an absolute joy - none better that on Happo One mountain itself. Wonderful back-bowls, deep open powder fields and pretty gladed runs lower down. But as always local knowledge counts for much and safety is everything. We know one or two reputable local operators who we use for guided tours and we advise you to stick with these; on our last visit it appeared that anyone with a pair of fat skis and a shovel is setting up as a backcountry guide in the Hakuba Valley and we're worried that a few may be cowboys.

Though there’s enough skiing to keep you going forever, a visit to Hakuba needn’t be all ski. The surrounding area is alive with Japanese magic, from the imposing Matsumoto Castle to the playful snow monkeys of Jigokudani Valley and the ancient Zenkoji Buddhist temple.

Group off-piste & backcountry tours

Join a tour with a small group of like-minded enthusiasts - and smash the powder like a local.

For those who already have the experience and know-how, join with others and seek the powder. There are options that stick to the lifts to get more vertical in your day, whereas backcountry enthusiasts will head out on either the Kitsune or Kamoshika tours into Hakuba’s steeper terrain. It really doesn’t get much better than this in all Japan, or the world!  The guides we use are certified avalanche professionals and seasoned off-piste / backcountry guides.

Private off-piste & backcountry tours

Book a private guide for a day or two, no-one regrets it! The very best powder skiing in Japan.

Off-piste and backcountry touring, with your own private guide. Head off in search of the best powder in the valley, with the freedom and flexibility to find it wherever it is. Here they average 12+ metres of somewhat dry powder each year, and no other mountain range in Japan has comparably steep terrain. Book a day out with our experienced and locally savvy backcountry guides. 

Snow Monkeys & Zenkoji Temple

Full day off the slopes to see the famous snow monkeys...and more.

The essential day tour, and an ideal rest day off the ski mountain. Head down to Jigokudani and spend some time with the onsen-bathing snow monkeys. The ultimate photo opportunity. This is followed by a visit to the Hokusai museum in Obuse and a 240 year old saké brewery. Finally, you spend time at Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City.

Crow Castle & Matsumoto City

Head to Japan's oldest still standing castle and explore in this picture-perfect city.

Matsumoto can be done as part of an organised excursion, or you could just as easily head off on the train and do it yourself - we can provide all the required directions and touring notes. The ‘Crow Castle’ is the most beautiful and facinating hirajiro in Japan. It is built on the plains rather than on a hill and it is unique for having both a secondary donjon and a turret. Matsumoto, beyond the castle, is well worth a good look around. We suggest paying particular attention to Nakamachi-dori, a street lined by several beautifully preserved buildings, including a number of warehouses (characteristic of former merchant districts) with massive, white painted walls.

Ski Concierge

Hakuba Valley can get complicated, with 11 resorts in a single valley the logistics can be challenging. This is where our local know-how will prove invaluable. We've skied all the mountains, we've explored the region and we've had a cheeky beer in most of the villages, therefore we know the lay of the land. Different Snow can include transfers from Tokyo and Kyoto, equipment hire, ski school, guiding, backcountry tours, activities, excursions and onsen visits. The price you pay will be at best be cheaper, at worst be the same, as what you would pay locally. In Hakuba, it is wise to have everything booked in advance – it is a popular resort and availability often is a problem.

Lift Passes

The Hakuba Valley All Mountain Ski Lift Pass covers most of the resorts – Happo One, Hakuba 47, Goryu, Sanosaka, Iwatake, Tsugaike, Norikura, Cortina, Minekata, Jigatake and Kashimayari. Due to the size of the valley and number of different resorts included, there are a number of conditions attached to their use:

  • One resort per day – it is not possible to exchange a ticket to another ski resort on the same day, so you can only ski one resort unless you use two coupons.
  • Night skiing is not included.
  • A 1,000 Yen deposit is required at the ticket window of most ski resorts, as you exchange your lift pass coupon for the IC Chip for the day. This is refunded at the end of each day.

Equipment Hire

There is one rental company better than all the rest in Hakuba and we are fortunate enough to enjoy excellent rates. It is invariably better to pre-book, thus guaranteeing availability of the best kit and reducing the palaver once you are there. They'll even pick you up from your accommodation when you arrive (we'll give you the number to call) and allow you to then simply leave it at your accommodation when you leave. And service is all English speaking. They also offer unlimited equipment changeover, swapping out piste-skis for fatter powder-specilaist kit when the conditions warrant.

If you want to try 'the other side', you can swap your ski gear in for snowboarding (or vice versa) during your rental period.

Lessons

We can organise ski lessons – either group or private – in several of the resorts. However, most will want to focus on Happo One, for this is where your accommodations most likely will be and the mountain itself offers the most terrain – easy slopes to learn the basics, steeper slopes to practice carving, moguls, deep powder just off-piste and a well-maintained snow-park. Therefore, we'll focus on the best ski school working in Happo.

Native English-speaking instructors are the norm and they offer both group and private lessons (max eight persons). The school is the ideal ski-in ski-out set-up with an office, meeting area, public toilets, rest area, day-care room and cafe.

Travel Insurance

Winter sports travel insurance is an important part of your holiday booking and we strongly recommend that you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy to cover all your winter sports holiday requirements. We're happy to be able to offer our customers a 10% discount on all policies from Ski Club Travel Insurance.

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