How-To ‘Hakuba Valley’ ; Japan’s Premier Snow Playground Awaits!

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HAKUBAVALLEY splendor. Photo: Courtesy HV

Brought to you by HAKUBAVALLEY

Friends, there are few things in the snow world more thrilling (or rewarding) than preparing for a shred holiday to HAKUBAVALLEY, Japan.

Think untracked powder snow and world-class terrain. Think unforgettable culture; think outstanding Olympic-level mountain resorts plus local attractions all roosted within rich, pristine geography that’s home to 131 trails, 96 lifts, and a unique (as well as awesome) mountain community.

Dave demonstrating ‘the delightful deep’ at HAKUBAVALLEY. Photo: courtesy Dave Enright

According to Dave Enright, virtually anytime is an excellent time to visit HAKUBAVALLEY. Dave’s the founder, executive director, and chief guide at world-renowned Evergreen Outdoor. His vast knowledge of the Valley is a go-to resource for families or film crews.

To Dave, the waterways, trails, and recreation options make HAKUBAVALLEY a beautiful destination. The easy access to mountains and snow certainly adds to the appeal.

Shin enjoys the snow (and views) of HAKUBAVALLEY. Photo: Tsutomu Endo

And when thinking about Hakuba snow, pro snowboarder Shin Biyajima says it short and sweet; “HAKUBAVALLEY gets dumped on.”

“And the region is special because in the north, there’s wet, heavier coastal snow, but to the south, you find colder dry alpine conditions,” Shin adds.

Bottom line: it’s Ja-POW at its finest, and it’s waiting…

All aboard the good-times train. Photo: courtesy HV

Getting there: you’ll be glad to compile an itinerary to HAKUBAVALLEY that involves Tokyo. Revel in the mega-opolis as your port of entry, and cash in on a few handy benefits like simplified currency exchange, easy domestic transport, and, of course, ‘Black Cat.’

Black Cat specializes in top-tier courier service, porter-ing your heavy gear bags direct from the air terminal to your holiday accommodation at HAKUBAVALLEY; convenient, to put it mildly.

And the icing on the cake; Japan’s geography is so amazingly diverse that HAKUBAVALLEY and its thrilling wildlands are only a short trip from Tokyo’s technological wonders.

It’s a mere three hours by the smooth rails of Japan’s excellent train system, and the transit system itself is easy to understand as well as user-friendly. Or, if happy to dip the toe just a touch deeper, there are bus routes into Hakuba that, in four hours, touch several quiet communities—not to mention cruise past a few features immortalized for their use in well-known shred films (hint: Red Bull Media House and the antics of Mr. Rice).

Whatever the travel mode, you’ll be unpacking the kit at your HAKUBAVALLEY accommodation in no time.

Anytime is the right time to visit HAKUBAVALLEY. Photo: courtesy HV

When to book your adventure: HAKUBAVALLEY is a year-round destination with wide peak seasons. There are attractions aplenty for when the sun shines warm. And when the snow falls, it’s time to head to the mountain resorts to enjoy Japan’s famously DEEP powder snow

With numerous knowledgeable providers located throughout the valley, there’s no shortage of opportunities to make memories; hop on a snow tube or into a hot air balloon, hit the switch on a snow machine or change gears on a downhill bike; strap in or soak it up (insert your favorite Onsen here) but be sure to savor every moment.

On Onsen: translates to hot water spring. These decently large geothermic dipping pools are open to the public and a delightful means for celebrating an epic day of snowy mountain adventure at HAKUBAVALLEY.

Unwind Onsen-style. Photo: courtesy HV

“Japan has a four-season climate,” Shin said. “It gives drastic changes between seasons but, when you’re searching for powder snow, the best months are January to February.”

Freeride World Tour pays a call to HAKUBAVALLEY. Photo: P.M.Fadden

The action-packed events calendar of HAKUBAVALLEY is a trusty resource for planning your visit. It’s easy to navigate and information-forward, which is a massive help in making your HAKUBAVALLEY holiday experience fantastic.

Quick hits: There are Snow Festivals as well as Fire Festivals (and Dave highly recommends the Happo’s Fire Festival) plus traditional holiday celebrations, Freeride World Tour competition, and Wa Daiko, small local drum ceremonies that beat straight soul—which happen to be a personal favorite of Shin’s.

Local chill. Photo: P.M.Fadden

Next up, where to shred: when plotting the location of tomorrow’s pow-turns, the skier or snowboarder is spoiled for choice in HAKUBAVALLEY. And there’s a sweetener on the deal as HAKUBAVALLEY offers several tiers of shuttle service: Valley buses, Individual Resort Buses, or the Evening Shuttle, all of which are singularly focused on delivering you to the White Room or to Bed.

And there’s more happy news, HAKUBAVALLEY hooks in with the Epic Pass Program.

Happen to have an Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, or Epic Australia Pass? You can get one complimentary five-consecutive-day ticket to play at HAKUBAVALLEY this snow season. And on the flip side, if you’re already a season pass holder for HAKUBAVALLEY All-Mountain or a designated HAKUBAVALLEY resort, you can purchase a lift ticket for any Vail Resort in North America or Australia––at half price.

And while on the subject of ‘passes,’ here’s a handy word-to-the-wise: users of the HAKUBAVALLEY lift passes may enjoy the HAKUBAVALLEY Shuttle Bus service free of charge–that saves you 510yen per person, each way.

Hakuba Valley
The resorts of HAKUBAVALLEY.

Now let’s get to know THE RESORTS:

HAKUBA CORTINAPerhaps most commonly identified by its enormous Bavarian-style hotel and base area, Cortina leads to primarily beginner terrain. But, as is the case with some of its neighboring resorts, there’s more here than meets the eye.

Cortina top stations access rope line gateways which drop into truly special, untracked tree and gorge zones. Many a classic snow edit shot in fantastic Japan powder has Cortina to thank for that introduction to HAKUBAVALLEY’s famously deep powder snow.

HAKUBA NORIKURAThis resort offers a unique opportunity to double the terrain at no extra cost by purchasing a ‘combined resort ticket’ with Cortina.

Here again, you’re sure to find challenging terrain while also friendly. Locals call this resort an underrated gem on the Hakuba Valley circuit which, when combined with Cortina, unfurls as one of the the area’s most diverse zones in terms of terrain.

TSUGAIKEThis resort gets great attention for a sprawling, low elevation beginner’s area. In fact, it’s HAKUBAVALLEY’s widest piste and a sure bet for smoothly groomed runs no matter the frequency or ferocity of the storms. But look closer too.

Via easy climbs, Tsugaike terrain also opens truly epic backcountry zones in-between neighboring resorts. On busy days, Tsugaike is your portal to the open, the quiet, and the untracked.

IWATAKEWhat it concedes in elevation, Iwatake gains in singularity. It’s a standalone resort on its own mountain with 360-degree panoramic views and boasting terrain of the more challenging tip with a recently expanded Powder Area. Plus–wink-wink–this particular resort hides many stash spots not usually on the public radar.

HAPPO-ONEMeet the mighty grandfather of HAKUBAVALLEY ski resorts. Happo is the oldest and largest of the valley’s downhill areas. The runs are leg-burners, the terrain commonly hosts World Tour action, and, if all that wasn’t enough, Happo-One set the stage for several Olympic events of the ’98 Nagano Games. (be sure to check out the ski jump facility) This one’s a not-to-miss.

HAKUBA47 – Welcome to the snow park of HAKUBAVALLEY, designed with the freestyler in mind; a neighbor of and connected to Goryu, Hakuba47 is known for its park features and hosts the valley’s sole half-pipe. The snow quality on Hakuba47’s north-facing slopes is second-to-none. Think high-quality dry powder that lasts throughout the season.

Additional draws to ’47’ are the pleasantly laid back atmosphere, tasty eatery options, and the completely awesome fact that Hakuba47 and Goryu may both be enjoyed via the Dual Mountain Pass.

GORYUSpoiler alert: this area is one of the most popular of HAKUBAVALLEY, seeing high visitor numbers and home to the area’s most extensive night skiing course–which runs on renewable energy (very cool). The snow resort consists of three areas of alpine skiing with a snow park that’s open for night riding. One of those three, the stunning Alps Daira, is highly regarded for being consistent ski-able until late April or even into May.

Make no mistake, when it’s going off, get to Goryu.

KASHIMAYARIa blend of beginner to intermediate terrain and home to two base areas, one of which descends towards Lake Nakatsuna. And opening this 21/22 season is Kashimayari’s new six-lane, 150-meter snow tubing course. For those that like to burn the candle at both ends, Kashimayari opens certain days for night skiing and also offers First Tracks on weekends and holidays.

‘Kashi’ is a tremendous link-up spot as well as a family favorite. Enjoy!

JIGATAKEWarm up for a full day on-snow at this family-focused, spacious snow resort––the valley’s southernmost resort. Like its HAKUBAVALLEY neighboring resorts, Jigatake offers wonderful views and woolly tree runs up high. The best way to take in the resplendent views is by snowmobile––tours of varying lengths are available.

And the kiddos love Jigatake for the great sledding and popular Troika, a ski lift designed with children in mind.

troika, hakubavalley
Kids love the Troika at Jigatake. Photo: courtesy HV

Yes, the options of HAKUBAVALLEY are as diverse as they are rewarding. And it’s time to start planning your trip.

In Dave Enright’s opinion, the best method is to jump straight in, immersing yourself in the local community and traditions. You’re bound to encounter surprise––and more than a few spectacular rides along the way.

“A visit to the Japan Alps is unique,” Shin Biyajima adds. “The power of the mountains here is very special.” For the visitor, that simply means HAKUBAVALLEY is not to be missed.”

The forest, the trees, and powder snow in-between. Photo: Hiroya Nakata

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