Yes, you read correctly, one of the most internationally renowned ski resorts in Japan is not a ski resort at all. Hakuba is a village located in a mountainous region of Nagano colloquially known as Hakuba Valley which comprises an impressive 9 ski resorts – none of which are called Hakuba!
And now is an important time to make this distinction. With most Hakuba accommodation having been built up around the biggest resort in the valley, most tourists don’t even know about, let alone ski at, most resorts. The idea that there are empty slopes covered in immaculately groomed, untouched powder, just minutes away from the scores of visitors that Hakuba attracts these days is quite bizarre… and exciting given the potential for epic skiing which is just waiting to be discovered!
While getting around Hakuba Valley used to be hard work without car hire, and the lift ticket system was less than user friendly, all that has changed with the introduction of an IC Chip Hakuba Valley All Mountain Lift Pass which can also be used to ride the shuttle bus free of charge to any of the valley’s 9 resorts.
So if Hakuba is not a ski resort, then what is? The 9 ski resorts which are currently available on Hakuba Valley’s all mountain lift pass are:
Happo One: The largest and most renowned of them all, home of 1998 Winter Olympic slalom and ski jumping, Happo One is a must but should never be the one and only.
Goryu / Hakuba 47: 2 resorts that interconnect, Goryu is a favourite particularly among beginners and intermediates while Hakuba 47 offers a Winter Sports Park, complete with big kickers and a half pipe it is beloved by thrill seekers and is a great option for non-powder days.
Cortina: Long known for its sensational powder tree skiing Cortina is a little gem that you don’t want to miss!
Iwatake: Those in the know may just head straight here. Iwatake tends to offer exceptional snow conditions, quiet pistes, excellent beginner and intermediate runs and sublime tree skiing. If you are not sold that is fine, we will keep on enjoying it to ourselves 🙂
Tsugaike Kogen: Locals flock here for the terrain park, quiet runs and access to deep backcountry powder. Another amazing resort to add to the list!
Norikura: Quiet, albeit shorter slopes in an old school Japanese ski resort.
Jiigatake and Kashimayari: Ticket exchange is required even with the new IC Chip Hakuba Valley All Mountain Lift pass at these lesser known resorts, but for families and beginners looking to have some nice easy runs to themselves, it is more than worth it!
So if contemplating a ski trip to Japan, now is the time to get ‘off the beaten track’ in one of the most famous ski areas in the country! You can choose from accommodation in the popular areas of Wadano no Mori, Happo Village or Echoland where you will be surrounded by excellent restaurants and a host of great services; or if you are more sold on the quieter resorts and want a uniquely Japanese experience, why not opt for accommodation at the slopes of one of the lesser known resorts described above. With so many choices it is worth getting recommendations from a company which can provide objective, helpful advice tailored to your group such as Japan Ski Experience. Booking your Hakuba accommodation with these local experts will also provide you with the chance to pre-order lift passes, which will be delivered to your accommodation before you arrive.