High Activity

IMAGES FROM: JNTO

The biggest draw of Hakuba Valley in Japan’s Nagano prefecture is the sheer volume of powder dry snow that falls here in a single season – as much as 14 metres. In the winter, over 960 hectares of mountainous terrain become skiable, offering visitors an impressive selection of skiing and snowboarding options. The valley’s green season attractions – mountain trails, scenic walks, watersports, and climbing – are less famous, but definitely worth exploring.

 

 

WINTER SPORTS

There are 9 to 15 ski resorts in Hakuba, depending on how the borders of the area are drawn, and over a hundred hotels catering to winter sports travellers. You won’t be able to ski directly from one resort to another, but all resorts and slopes are accessible via Hakuba village.

Expert skiers will be thrilled by the steep alpine slopes (with vertical drops as long as 2,000m). The peaks at Hakuba reach heights of 3,000m above sea level, and the view at Tsugaike, the highest resort, is breathtaking.

It’s impossible to think of Hakuba without the Happo-One resort also coming to mind. Happo-One was where multiple events of the 1998 Winter Olympics were hosted, and its longest run is over 8 kilometres long. Many of the Olympic facilities remain open, along with recent updates, and Happo-One is home to Hakuba’s most popular slope, the Rissen Slalom run.

Floodlights are installed on many slopes, so you’ll get a chance to enjoy night skiing. And, although plenty are perfectly groomed, runs are frequently left half ungroomed, which means that more adventurous skiers can try out deep, freshly fallen powder.

Mogul runs are extremely popular in Japan, and Hakuba has its fair share. Hakuba 47, a resort on the south side of the valley, has some of the best, challenging mogul fields in the area, and is alway covered in fresh, dry snow, thanks to the north-facing orientation of its slopes.

Beginners will also find plenty of space to hone their skills. Iwatake, with its two halfpipes, terrain park and gentle slopes, is an easy introductory site for skiers and snowboarders alike. Aokiko, another beginner-friendly resort in the valley, features a long, gentle run that stretches past a forest and ends near Aokiko lake.

 

 

For après-ski options, Hakuba village offers plenty of charming izakaya (casual bars serving Japanese snacks), as well as onsen to ease muscle aches after hours on the slopes. The numerous resorts and hotels also run some excellent restaurants, where you can get anything from French fine dining to do-it-yourself pizza and soba.

 

 

GREEN SEASON

During Hakuba’s green season, in summer and autumn, the valley’s numerous mountain biking and hiking trails reappear from under the snow. Ski lifts are still in operation, but slowed down, to allow visitors to take in the summer view. Take a bike up the mountains on one of the many gondolas, and enjoy an exhilarating downhill ride over jumps, gullies and steep terrain.

 

 

Trekkers should try the Hakuba Daisekkei Nature Trail at least once. The Daisekkei is a massive snow field that remains blanketed in white all year round, and it’s amazing to see the contrast between the great expanse of snow and the alpine greenery surrounding it in the summer. Mountaineers can keep going past the end of the Nature Trail and up the Climbing Trail, towards the summits of Mt. Yukigura and Mt. Norikura.

Water sports are another popular summer activity in Hakuba – the valley’s numerous lakes and rivers are ideal for canoeing, canyoning, rafting and wakeboarding. Many reliable water sports tour operators and outdoor centres have set up shop in Hakuba, so it’ll be easy to get equipment rentals and join day tours or beginners’ courses.

 

GETTING THERE

Hakuba is an hour away from Nagano Station and Matsumoto Station by bus, and both stations are less than 2 hours’ shinkansen ride from Tokyo Station. Alternatively, a direct bus from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo will take you to Hakuba in 4 hours.

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