Skiing The Hakuba Valley
The Hakuba Valley is arguably one of the best ski and boarding areas in Japan with something for everyone and every ability. It has plenty of steep back country for the powder hounds, great piste for those less adventurous and excellent multilingual ski schools and areas to learn for those just starting out.
The Hakuba Valley is not just one ski resort but eleven! No one area in Japan can boast the same variance in terrain that the Hakuba Valley has on offer! Each resort offers a unique experience, you truly have not experienced Hakuba until you have ridden them all!
The Hakuba Valley is the only area in Japan fully covered by the Epic Pass!
Hakuba Cortina Resort at the bottom of the Hakuba Valley is one giant powder bowl. Famous throughout the world for deep tree riding in a wide range of terrain - Bring your snorkel! Cortina also has some excellent piste runs for the intermediates, one extremely long cat track and at the bottom of the mountain has some excellent runs for beginners. A must do on those ''Powder Days'' it is one of Japan's best for unimaginable amounts of powder!
Hakuba 47, Goryu and Imori
Three resorts in one! Just on the outskirts of Hakuba Town is the ski haven of Hakuba 47, Goryu and Imori, collectively they make the 2nd largest ski area in the valley. They are all connected at the top and share the one lift pass.
The bottom side of Goryu is perfect for beginners while the top area has some tremendous piste and powder for those more intermediate and advanced. The connecting run at the top also is fantastic for beginners.
Head down to Imori for some great beginners terrain at the bottom with some dramatic intermediate and advanced terrain at the top.
Hakuba 47 is for the more adventurous amongst us. 47 has some thrilling tree riding, the largest terrain park and half pipe in the valley and some exiting piste for all levels. The mountain is a personal favourite and considered a must do!
Happo One - pronounced On ay is the closest resort to the town of Hakuba. It was made famous for holding the downhill, slalom and ski jumping events of the 1998 Winter Olympics. It boasts being one of the largest resorts in Japan, perfect for all abilities. A great resort to choose most days especially if you want to be a speed demon! Also check out the "Corona Bar'' at the top of the gondola with an open fire pit and simply stunning panoramic views of the whole valley and occasionally live music too!
Iwatake is a good solid medium sized resort that has plenty of terrain for the intermediates and enough to keep the advanced and beginners more than happy. It is at a lower altitude than most of its cousins in the valley and it is more sheltered which makes it the place to be on those really windy days. Iwatake also has an excellent terrain park for those trying to show off some skill. Iwatake does not have the same profile as it's bigger cousins so it tends to be less crowded and more relaxed as well.
At the top of the gondola check out the bakery cafe with a deck that has arguably the best view of the whole valley. Down the bottom of the hill is the famous Hakuba Brew Pub with craft beers brewed onsite and a tasty ramen restaurant located adjacent to the gondola station.
Tsugaike Kogen is a beginners paradise with the whole bottom of the mountain dedicated to those just starting out. It will leave you gobsmacked just how wide the beginners area is. You can also purchase a just ''beginners only area'' lift ticket. Further up the mountain there is plenty of intermediate piste and tree riding up for grabs. It also has a foot onsen at the base of the gondola to soak those tired feet on the way out!
Tsugaike is definitely well worth a visit!
Sano what, where? Sanosaka is a little known resort at the south end of the valley that is truly a hidden gem for those trying to have the whole mountain to themselves.
The mountain is smaller than the others in the valley but has some deserted piste for the beginners or intermediates. It is perfect for those bluebird days with breathtaking views of the Hakuba Lake District. A great little lesser known resort.
It has the 'Chairlift Bar' at the base of the mountain using old chairlifts for seating. A great place to re-energize with a toastie, hot chocolate or something stronger!
It is rumoured the resort will expand and connect to the neighbouring Kashimayari in the coming years, watch this space!
Affectionately just known as just ''Kashi'' it is the neighbour to the smaller Sanosaka at the southern end of the valley. On a bluebird day everywhere you look the views are just spectacular. On one side the majestic ragged peaks of Goryu dake and Kashimayari dake and on the other side the spectacular valley view of the lakes district and the peaks of the adjacent mountain range.
Let's get back to the snow! Kashi is another seriously underrated resort rarely visited by foreigners which gives it an amazing Japanese vibe with deserted slopes. It has mostly beginner and intermediate terrain with some small sections to keep advanced riders entertained on and off piste. Well worth a visit if you are feeling like getting off the beaten track a bit.
Norikura is the smaller sister resort to the popular Cortina resort. You can choose to ski both resorts on the one lift pass or just Norikura independently. Norikura does not have the same abundant tree riding that Cortina boasts but on powder days you can get a few powder turns that will float anyone's boat. Norikura has a good amount of terrain that will keep beginners to advanced riders more than happy.
Jigatake although just outside the Hakuba valley just recently became part of the Hakuba Valley Pass. Again it is a lesser known resort which means you have the place to yourself. It has no advanced terrain just beginner and intermediate piste which is perfect for the family. Kiddies will especially love an area of the mountain just for them. Jigatake also has some spectacular views.