Hakuba ski resort
Hakuba is one of Japan’s best known and best loved ski regions, accessible from the capital in a little over three hours by bullet train – an option favoured by hundreds of thousands of Tokyo residents each winter.
Hakuba itself is not one ski area, but rather a mammoth valley home to 10 separate ski resorts of varying size. Each of these resorts is significant in its own right, but when combined, the 10 offer around 150 ski runs and over 100 ski lifts – almost all chairlifts – the largest number for one ski region anywhere on earth. Add to this skiable verticals and a seasonal average snowfall in excess of 10m (32ft), and Hakuba ski resort’s myriad of snow sports attractions becomes evident.
Guests have the choice of staying in Hakuba village itself, or as most prefer, at the base of one of the individual ski areas that are dotted around it. The village is a sprawling affair but, as one would expect for a ski region of this significance, it is equipped with hundreds of accommodation options, restaurants and shops.
Hakuba ski resort is in the Nagano prefecture of central Japan. It is located on Honshu, Japan’s largest island, about one hour from Nagano city.
On the slopes
Nine of Hakuba ski resort’s 11 ski areas are located directly around the Hakuba Valley; the other two, Yanaba and Kashimayari, are a little distance away. The sheer extent of the skiing available combined with the competition between the areas means that there really is something for everyone.
Skiers here will find gentle beginner slopes, long, groomed runs, steep blacks, mogul fields, heli-skiing, many terrain parks and pipes, and hopefully the famous waist-deep powder after one of the resort’s big, fresh snowfalls.
The biggest and best known of the ski areas is Happo-one, directly above the village, which boasts more than 20 lifts and runs up to 8km (5 miles) in length. Adjacent to Happo-one’s slopes, are the smaller Hakuba Goryu and linked Hakuba 47 ski areas, which have 19 lifts between them.
Hakuba 47 has a particularly high standing amongst boarders, and has a reputation for some of the steepest runs in the region (alongside plenty of gentle terrain) and the double black diamond R-3 course for some of the largest moguls of any ski area.
Continuing beyond the valley, visitors will find another large Hakuba resort, Kashimayari, as well as the smaller Yanaba. Experienced skiers will perhaps want to put aside a whole day at the former to enjoy its extensive slopes.
Back across the valley is a smaller area, Minekata, which is unlikely to be worth a special trip – except for beginners who will find a quiet location, or for cross-country skiers who can check out the beautiful trails. The remaining ski centres are linked: Norikura and Cortina with 18 lifts between them, and Hakuba Iwatake and Tsugaike with 16 and 22 lifts respectively.
Due to its huge snowfalls, Hakuba has a long ski season that typically lasts from late November to early May.