Hakuba (白馬村 Hakuba-mura), is a skiing resort in Nagano Prefecture, in the Chubu district of Japan. The name Hakuba which means white horse was derived by the shape of a horse of snow on the mountain side during spring time. Set in the splendid Japanese Alps, Hakuba is made up of eleven separate resorts with a charming village providing a range of brilliant shops and facilities. It is one of the country’s larger skiing areas and has developed a strong international reputation, partly thanks to the amazing on-site Olympic Ski Jumping Stadium.
During the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, Hakuba gained world wide recognition as it hosted several olympic competitions, including alpine (downhill, super g, and combination) and nordic (ski jump and cross country) events. Today some of the olympic facilities remain in use, such as the Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium. There is also the Hakuba Olympic Village Memorial Hall, a small but interesting museum, located within walking distance of the ski jump.
Set in the splendid Japanese Alps, Hakuba is made up of eleven separate resorts with a charming village providing a range of brilliant shops and facilities. It is one of the country’s larger skiing areas and has developed a strong international reputation, partly thanks to the amazing on-site Olympic Ski Jumping Stadium.
The individual resorts in Hakuba are Cortina, Norikura,Tsugaike Kogen, Iwatake, Happo-One, Hakuba 47, Goryu, Sanosaka, Kashimayari, Jigatake, and Minekata, each with their own individual charm. Happo-One is the most family-friendly, with plenty of activities for children to enjoy.
Hakuba can be reached relatively easily not only from Tokyo, but also from the Nagoya and Kansairegions. While it is possible to do a day trip from Tokyo, Hakuba is best enjoyed overnight. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, there are hot springs (onsen) available around town.
Hakuba Ski Resorts
The Hakuba Valley incorporates 11 ski resorts that offer an expanse of terrain. The Hakuba ski resorts aren’t interconnected via the slopes (except for Hakuba 47 and Goryu, and Cortina and Norikura), but they can be accessed off a common lift ticket and there are free shuttle buses to get around to the different ski areas. The ski resorts from north to south are: Cortina, Norikura, Tsugaike Kogen, Iwatake, Happo-One, Hakuba 47, Goryu, Sanosaka, Kashimayari, Jigatake, and Minekata is on the opposite side of the valley from the town of Hakuba. Check out the Ski Hakuba page for an overview of each of the ski areas to help you decide which resorts you want to go to.
One major advantage of Hakuba is the terrain size on offer with 960 hectares of skiable terrain which equates to 137km of piste and 200+ courses, 135 lifts (5 gondolas) and at least 9 terrain parks.
The Hakuba skiing is varied across the resorts but it’s generally very well suited to beginners and intermediates with many long perfectly groomed runs and fantastic fall-line. Advanced skiers and snowboarders will also love the steep groomers at a few of the resorts, and if you’re into bumps you’ll be in heaven. You can join many of the Japanese who just adore moguls! Freestylers are also well catered for.
Expert riders may get a little frustrated with the uptight approach to tree skiing at many of the Hakuba ski resorts. Some of the resorts are old-school strict whereby off-piste skiing is completely banned and heavily policed, a couple of resorts may tolerate a little bit tree skiing, whilst at the other end of the spectrum, Cortina is a relaxed freeriding powder mecca.
On the plus side if you’re prepared to earn your turns, the Hakuba backcountry skiing and snowboarding can be phenomenal, and powder hounds should consider doing a backcountry tour.
Hakuba covers the full spectrum of lodging from backpacker hostels to luxury accommodation. There are lots of Hakuba hotels, some Japanese style pensions where you can sleep on the floor, and uniquely Hakuba also has self-contained apartments and lodges. Hakuba accommodation is situated in various villages near the ski areas, some of which is ski-in ski-out or only a very short walk to the slopes. Happo and Wadano are the two most popular villages to stay in.
Snow conditions in Hakuba
Hakuba’s high altitude benefits from excellent snow coverage and the season runs from December to April, giving skiers plenty of time to explore all the delights the resort has to offer. Ski resorts in Japan are famed for their legendary powder and consistent mass snowfalls each season. Hakuba averages 11m of snow each winter.
Facilities & Services
Hakuba has lots of infrastructure and facilities. Some of it is archaic and stuck back in the bubble era, but recent years have seen upgrades to many lifts, shops, and other amenities.
Hakuba ski rental shops are abundant in the main villages (Happo, Wadano, Echoland) and the staff speak English. There are lots of restaurants and the nightlife is very vibrant (for a Japanese ski area). Childcare and ski and snowboard lessons are also readily available for children or adults.
Apres ski, restaurants and other activities in Hakuba
There are plenty of amazing restaurants available to choose from in Hakuba, offering some extraordinary Japanese cuisine. One of the top eateries is Hummingbird, where skiers can enjoy fresh food in a wonderfully charming atmosphere.
As well as this, travellers can visit the Olympic ski jumping hill to enjoy breathtaking views of the Japanese Alps, while tobogganing, snow-rating and the excellent hot springs are other great options.