“…one of the Hakuba Valley’s pioneering ski resorts…”
Happo-One is one of the Hakuba Valley’s pioneering ski resorts, with roots stretching back to the 1920s. Today it remains at the forefront of the development of snow sports in Japan, and with plenty of excellent-quality powder, is one of the valley’s safest bets for a snow holiday of the highest order.
The riding tradition at Happo-One is intertwined with its Riesen Slalom, a grass-roots competition that has been instrumental in promoting skiing in the Hakuba Valley throughout its almost 70-year history.
Held in early March, it perfectly captures the welcoming, fun-loving spirit of the local community, as riders of all ages, from twelve year-old kids to veterans in their seventies embark on the Riesen Slalom course down the mountain. Some have their eyes on a top place, but for most it’s just about enjoying the incredible run from above the clouds down to the base of the resort. With 800m of vertical extending over 3km, it has a wide variation in terrain and is hugely popular with intermediate riders.
Another major draw card of Happo-One is its Happo Banks snow park. The park is designed innovatively for riders to develop their full arsenal of moves, including gliding, carving, sliding, jumping, twisting and grinding, and has one of the best layouts of terrain in Japan.
It’s the brainchild of veteran rider and pioneering slope designer Hayato ‘Bubbles’ Maruyama, and opens amidst the heavy powder dumps of early February with a big party – where a long list of pro riders make the first tracks and show everyone how it’s done. There’s also an open riding jam and DJs, and the park can be enjoyed right through until early April.
After Happo Banks opens, the excitement heats up at Happo-One again in mid-February for the Happo-One Fire Festival. Its dazzling fireworks display is a show-stopper, lighting up the slopes and night sky with brilliant flashes of colour. Get there early to enjoy some sake on the house after the kagami-biraki sake barrel-opening ceremony, and expect some powerful taiko festival drumming to hit the airwaves.
By the time these events are happening, the slopes around Happo-One have already been buzzing for months with riders enjoying their white wonderland of powder. Some of the most legendary are the downhill runs, inclining between 31º and 35º, and the Skyline Course, a glorious 6 km run inclining between 31º and 16º that includes an ungroomed powder burn.
The Skyline runs into the Sakka Course, which balances out the strong selection of runs for intermediate to experienced riders at Happo-One with a mellower incline between 18º and 10º. It’s the resort’s family-friendly zone, with activities like snow tubing and sledding in its fun kids park, and also has a kids ski school, and childcare facilities.
That is just the beginning of what you can access while at Happo-One, now that they’ve joined other Hakuba Valley resorts in The Mountain Collective. Get their All Area Season Pass, which will give you access to 10 resorts throughout the season.
Accommodation, dining and drinking in the village area below Happo-One is just as good as the riding, offering the classic Japanese après-ski combination of hot springs, hearty local cooking and an ale or three.
Many of the accommodation facilities have their own hot springs in-house, with magnificent views of the surrounding peaks. They are also excellent places to enjoy the local food of Nagano Prefecture, including premium Shinshu Wagyu beef – a tasty finishing touch to the pleasure of a snow holiday at Happo-One.
Hokujo Happo, Hakuba-mura, Kitaazumi-gun
Days 8:00-17:00, Nights 18:00-21:00
Travelling times to Happo-One Tokyo: 2 hrs 40 min (train), Osaka: 4 hrs (train)