Why Hakuba Valley, Japan Is The Real Deal For An International Snow Holiday Destination 

Rouchelle Gilmore | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
Enjoying a sunny chair ride in Hakuba Valley. Credit: Hiroya Nakata

Brought to you by HAKUBAVALLEY

When skiers and snowboarders alike think about an overseas pilgrimage to ski deep powder, Japan springs to mind. ‘The Land of The Rising Sun’ can sometimes be seen as a mythical place where ski-dreams are made. Waist deep powder, face shots, onsens, ramen, is there much more to say? Yes, there is. 

When it comes to taking a ski vacation, HAKUBAVALLEY in Japan is where it’s at. Taking a trip abroad to chase snow and good times are guaranteed when you travel to Japan during the Northern Hemisphere winter. 

HAKUBAVALLEY is known for its variety in terrain, from gentle groomers to more extreme skiing. With five-mile-long cruisers and deep ungroomed powder, there is something for any ability level. 

While exploring HAKUBAVALLEY, you’ll notice there are many terrain options for all snow sliders. Although unlike other areas in Japan, HAKUBAVALLEY is the only Japanese resort to host a Freeride World Tour event. Things can get pretty sendy when you know where to go. 

The area boasts ten resorts, with nine in operation for the 2021/22 season. The season runs from late November to early May, with January and February being the time to go if you want more powder than sun. With an average snowfall of over 33-feet, you’ll be sure to run into some storm riding. But if you want to see more of the Japanese Alps’ panoramic views, then March into April, you should see more sun. 

HAKUBAVALLEY is located in the northwestern Nagano Prefecture region at the base of the Northern Japanese Alps, and the area stands at 9,843-feet tall. Conveniently, you can get to Hakuba in under three hours from Tokyo.

Deep powder turns. Credit: Hiroya Nakata.

Lift Passes 

When it comes to lift passes, HAKUBAVALLEY offers day passes that can be purchased online. Day passes can be used at all nine resorts. HAKUBAVALLEY is also part of the Epic Pass, and depending on which one you have, there are a few options. If you have an Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, or Epic Australia Pass, you can have five consecutive days riding HAKUBAVALLEY. There are no blackout dates.

To get around the valley there is a shuttle bus that will take you to wherever you want to go within the area. The bus stops at each resort and HAKUBAVALLEY Day Pass holders can ride the shuttle bus for free on days when you ski or snowboard.

Things To See And Do 

While most people go on snow holidays for skiing and snowboarding, there is so much more to a holiday in HAKUBAVALLEY. A holiday in Japan will offer cultural experiences which you will not experience anywhere else. HAKUBAVALLEY includes three communities; Omachi City, Hakuba Village, and Otari Village, with each having something unique to offer.

Take some time to check out traditional Japanese sights. Credit: Hiroya Nakata.

Omachi City is the southernmost area of the Valley, home to Omachi Onsenkyo, an area with lots of ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) and onsens. It features two resorts Jigatake, and Kashimayari. There is excellent sightseeing with the Omachi Alpine Museum and Nishina Shinmeigu, this is a shrine and a national treasure. The area is also famous for its sake made from alpine waters.

Hakuba Village is conveniently located in the middle of the Valley, connecting Omachi and Otari. The nightlife is bustling and is known for steep slopes. The sightseeing highlight is the Hakuba Jumping Stadium, which was built for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Hakuba Village is home to four resorts Hakuba Goryu, Hakuba47, Happo-one, and Iwatake.

Otari Village is the northernmost area of the Valley and home to three resorts Tsugaike, Hakuba Norikura, and Hakuba Cortina. This village has a cozy feel with lots of powder and some of the most abundant snowfall in Japan. The sightseeing highlight is the Cortina Wonder Village, where there is Japan’s version of an igloo, sledding, and snowcat rides.

Japanese onsens are a great way to recharge the legs after a big day on the slopes. Credit: HAKUBAVALLEY.

Other sightseeing highlights include: 

  • Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park is the only place in the world to see wild monkeys relax in hot springs. 
  • The traditional Matsumoto Castle, which was completed at the end of the 16th century. It is Japan’s oldest standing castle. 
  • Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City is a Buddhist temple with 1400 years of history.

Travel Considerations 

With the Covid-19 pandemic still limiting some international movement, it is advised for travelers to stay up-to-date with any restrictions which may be in place before traveling. Though it is looking positive, for international travelers to be welcomed in 2021/22 winter.  

Who is ready to refine their chopstick skills, and slash some powder?

Snow Monkeys enjoying their onsen. Credit: HAKUBAVALLEY.

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