Hakuba ski resorts offer something for all ages and abilities.. If you are just beginning or you are an old Pro - you'll find exactly what you need in Hakuba. Skiers enjoy the best terrain in Japan, with long uninterrupted trails, a nice 1000m vertical descent and can have a crack on the downhill run from the 1998 Winter Olympic games. Cross-country skiers can also cruise the Olympic loops and take in the amazing scenery..Boarders are also well catered for with the resorts providing a stack of parks, jumps, rails, boxes & half-pipes combined with the all mountain powder stashes and tree runs... The choice is endless!
Starting from the southern end of the valley and heading north, you will find the Sun Alpina ski area. Next up is Sanosaka which is a nice place for beginners & kids. Across the valley to the east lies Highland & Minekata, these resorts are now closed, but you can hike the mountain for some runs. Heading back across to the western side are the much loved and linked resorts of Goryu-Toomi , Goryou Iimorii and Hakuba 47, where there are some challenging runs for skiers & boarders. Goryu Iimorii is a great place for beginners as the runs are gentle and wide. Heading North again and you find the massive Olympic ski resort of Happo-One it's situated in the heart of Hakuba and very close to Snowlines lodge. Happo is more of a skiers mountain with some challenging terrain and moguls. It has the greatest vertical in Hakuba and long top to bottom runs. It can take 2-3 days to get your bearings as the resort wraps around the mountain in a cresent type shape. Moving North from Happo you find the beautiful scenery of Iwatake it's a casual relaxed resort very good for beginners and intermediate with some hidden stealthy tree runs for the advanced shredders. Still heading North and another large resort usually less crowded than Happo & 47 is Tsugaike. It has wide open beginners runs, lots of intermediate and some advanced runs. From Tsugaike you can access some very nice BC areas - read our section on Backcountry touring. The most Northern resorts are Norikura and Cortina, they are impressive areas that usually receive more snow then the southern resorts and can be a real hidden powder stash. They rate highly amongst skiers and boarders alike, due to the steep terrain, tree runs and liberal ski policy or "self responsibilty code". Cortina has become quite popular in the last 3-4 years as many use the BC gates to access terrain beyond the resort.
Guiding & Backcountry
Hakuba is well known for great ski resorts and powder snow, but for those who have returned to Hakuba a few times, it becomes obvious the real jewel in the Hakuba crown is the huge and exceptional terrain that can be found off the sides & backcountry of the resorts...but read on as it's not as simple as just deciding to head out yonder..
Firstly, it needs to be understood that the Hakuba alpine backcountry is not a place for inexperience, first timers wanting to "see what it's like" or "ride big lines" as seen in the movies. Snow packs change by the hour and local knowledge is paramount, every year in Hakuba experienced skiers & boarders die in avalanches it's a real danger that you need to be aware of.
Secondly, you need to have the education, correct equipment and physical preparation to get there & then survive the ride down. There is a fine line between a great day skinning up remote hills, back bowls and untouched powder to finding yourself in a dangerous position due to a poor decision.
However, it's true that our best days have been with licensed guides who operate in Hakuba's backcountry. Local guides are consummate professionals who know the terrain and the hazards. We recommend our guests use their services, to be blunt, there is too much hassle on our part of getting a body back to your family when you have been selfish. I would even suggest if you are serious about spending time in these areas with friends, you should be looking at an avalanche course as a pre-requisite. See our links page for details on where to get a guide or complete an AST course.