Gold medal-winning powder
The Hakuba Valley is where it all went down during the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics; medals were hotly contested, but at the end of the day, everyone that experienced the kiss of its powder and the excitement of its curves was a winner. And it was all just another chapter of fun in the history of its friendly village community. Once the harsh perpendicular corners of Tokyo’s urban sprawl give way to the undulating curves and wispy clouds of Nagano Prefecture’s mountainous countryside, you know you’re on your way to the Hakuba Valley.
The series of tunnels on the bullet train route flicker in and out, in abrupt intervals like someone adjusting the dial on an old television set, before they come to rest on the outdoor scenery channel again. Soon you’re closer to the Sea of Japan than the Pacific, and are settling in to your new digs nestled in the valley.
Surrounded by the peaks of Chubu Sangaku National Park in the Northern Japanese Alps, it remains a close-knit village community despite a seasonal influx of visitors from far and wide, who come to enjoy what is one of Japan’s most compelling outdoor adventure destinations.
The Hakuba Valley lies on the western – or snowier – side of Japan’s main island, in the path of Siberian weather fronts, and encompasses the three districts of Omachi, Hakuba and Otari. The average snow depths in the region’s resorts is 2.5 metres, and according to the Japan Weather Association, record-breaking snowfalls across parts of Nagano Prefecture in the vicinity of 70 to 80 centimetres were observed in a single night back in February 2014.
It is one of the leading snow resort areas in the Northern Japanese Alps, hosting races during the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, and is renowned for its excellent powder, scenery and facilities. There are eleven resorts all together in the Hakuba Valley: Hakuba Goryu, Hakuba 47, Happo One, Iwatake, Tsugaike Kogen, Norikura, Cortina, Jigatake, Sanosaka, Kashimayari and Yanaba. And no matter how you like to enjoy your snow holiday, you can expect it to be stress-free and tailored to your needs thanks to the variety of options they offer to the visitors of the valley.
One of these fantastic options on offer is the All Area Season Pass. This pass allows guests to access the first ten of the above mentioned ski resorts in Hakuba Valley. This golden ticket is valid from the beginning of the season in late 2015 until the end of each resort’s season, some in March and others in May 2016. You can purchase the All Area Season Pass online; it’s priced at ¥130,000 for adults and ¥70,000 for children under 12. Considering that a one-day pass to ski at one of Hakuba’s resorts can go from ¥3,000 to ¥5,000, this a pretty great deal.
Travelling with the family? No worries – just don’t forget to leave the kids park at your resort once in a while. As fun and addictive as it is, there really is more to Hakuba than snow tubing. Or are you hankering for a slice of backcountry action instead? Just get in touch with one of the local guiding companies, and you’ll be out there before you know it.
As well as on the slopes, there are plenty of options off them; be it a luxury five star hotel, backpackers hostel or an authentic Japanese inn, there is accommodation to suit every taste and budget, not to mention some mouth-watering local delicacies on the restaurant menus. Then of course, there are the village’s natural hot springs – the perfect way to wind down and refresh après-ski, enjoyed by the locals since time immemorial. And for the thirsty, there is of course the Hakuba nightlife scene, filled with skiers and boarders still buzzing with the excitement of another big powder day in the resort.
|Hakuba Valley Ski Field Data||Size(ha)||Chairlifts & Gondolas||Longest Run(m)||Courses||Total Course Length (m)||Snow Park|
|Hakuba 47 Mountain Sports Park||32||6||6,000||23||23||◦|
|Iwatake Snow Field||125||13||3,300||25||17,720||◦|
|Hakuba Norikura Onsen Ski Resort||50||9||2,500||9||8,800||◦|
|Hakuba Cortina Ski Resort||50||7||3,500||16||13,335||×|
|Kashimayari Sports Village||78||8||5,000||22||14,200||◦|
How close is the Hakuba Valley to?
Tokyo: 2 hrs 30 min (train), Osaka: 3 hrs 50 min (train)