A Beginner’s Guide to Skiing Hakuba
Full disclosure: John manages Hakuba.com, a site we think is fantastic for skiiers and snowboarders headed to Hakuba. Read on for this awesome guide for first-timers.
Have you decided to take your first ski trip in Japan this season but don’t know where to start? Then you’ve come to the right place. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about skiing Hakuba.
Where Is Hakuba?
Deep in the Northern Japanese Alps, the Hakuba Valley is surrounded on all sides by stunning mountains. Happo Village, the heart of Hakuba skiing, sits one hour north of Nagano station by bus and roughly 3 hours from Tokyo.
Three Ways to Access Hakuba from Tokyo
- Option 1
- Take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Nagano Station and then take the bus to Hakuba Bus Terminal.
Time: 3 hours
- Option 2
- Take the JR Azusa Line from Shinjuku to Hakuba Station. While it may not be as luxurious as the Shinkansen, this scenic train ride ends at Hakuba Station saving you the trouble of transferring to a bus.
Time: 4 Hours
- Option 3
- Take an express bus from Shinjuku Station directly to Hakuba Bus Terminal.
Time: 5 Hours
Where to Stay?
The three best areas to stay are Echoland, Happo Village, and Wadano as they are close to the slopes, nightlife, and food options. Here are three different options for every price point.
Budget in Echoland
The Lab sits walking distance to the restaurants and nightlife areas of Echoland and Happo Village and is quite close to several resorts. The Lab also has one of the best hotel bars in all of Hakuba, providing a great opportunity to mingle with like-minded travelers.
Mid-Range in Happo Village
The Austrian themed Marillen Hotel is one of the few true ski-in-ski out hotels in the Hakuba Valley. You can literally ski from the front door down to the chair lift to start your day on the slopes. It’s great! The Marillen is also home to a great Austrian restaurant, Bernd Keller’s which serves authentic Austrian food.
All out Luxury in Wadano Woods
If you are looking for world class luxury, Hakuba can accommodate that as well. The One Happo Chalet boasts jaw dropping amenities like a full training room, private onsen, floor to ceiling wine room, and fully automated smart house technology. Forbes has even named it the most luxurious ski chalet in all of Asia.
You can get all your rental gear at Rhythm Sports. They have several locations throughout Hakuba and have very knowledgeable and friendly English speaking staff.
Basic Board/Ski Rental Package: Approximately ¥4,000 per day
Tickets for individual resorts must be purchased at the respective resorts. If you’re interested in purchasing an “All Valley Pass” which allows access to all resorts for one day for ¥6,000, you can do so here.
Where to Ski?
Blessed with a wide variety of runs and terrains, the Hakuba Valley offers something for every level of their 9 epic resorts to choose from.
Tsugaike Kogen is your best bet due to the gentle, wide slopes. With plenty of space to find your balance on the 1,200m wide run, Kane-No-Naru-Oka is a great option for new skiers.
Iwatake is a great option for intermediates to test their skills. Riders can take an easy run all the way from the top of the mountain to the base, or chose to follow one of the runs that branches off on the decent.
Happo-One hosted several different events during the 1998 Winter Olympics and is better suited for intermediates and advanced skiers as it includes steep runs, high vertical drops, powder runs, and a terrain park.
If you’d like to have a lesson before you take to the slopes, Evergreen International School offers private and group lessons. The instructors are fully certified and are all English speakers. It’s a great way to build your skills and confidence.
For more information on the Hakuba Valley, as well as resort information, trail maps, snow forecasts and daily snow reports, visit www.hakuba.com.