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Skiing the Japanese Alps in Hakuba

Hakuba Valley, in the heart of the Northern Japanese Alps, was the first stop on our Japanese adventure. The pristine champagne snow conditions, outstanding natural beauty, relaxed atmosphere, diverse nightlife, and plethora of hot springs all make the Hakuba Valley one of immense popularity among adventure and outdoor enthusiasts. It’s not overly touristy, which is lovely and surprising given that it is one of Japan’s premier alpine resort destinations, and it’s not just for skiiers and boarders – there’s plenty to do in Hakuba year round (and the alpine views alone are worth the trip!).

Ty and I spent one wonderful week in Hakuba for five days of snowboarding adventures. With 11 ski resorts, and over 898 hectares of skiable area, we were completely spoiled for choice and had a hard time deciding on which resorts to visit! Here’s a little rundown of the four we did manage to get to:

1// Happo One

Happo One is the biggest, most central and most popular ski resort in the Hakuba Valley. The premier events of the 1998 Olympics were held at Happo One and lots of Olympic signs are proudly displayed around the resort – you can even race down the Men’s and Women’s downhill runs if you wish! It’s quite steep, so probably not as great for beginners or early intermediate skiers and riders, but the views are incredible. Ty and I had a great day at Happo One but I feel like we only just scratched the surface in terrain to cover.

2// Hakuba Iwatake

The 360 degree view from the top of the Gondola was just breathtaking. We paused while riding down the mountain on more than a few occasions, just so we could sit and gaze out at the tremendous beauty of the Alps all around us. Iwatake had many open runs, and was very quiet (no crowds) and is one of the smaller resorts so can easily be covered in a day. It has a great selection of beginner, intermediate and expert runs so is a great choice for people of all skiing/boarding abilities.

3// Hakuba 47

Through word of mouth, Hakuba 47 is reportedly the best resort for snowboarding but Ty and I felt all the resorts we visited were equally as amazing. Hakuba 47 has the area’s best park so if you are into tricks and all that, this resort would be a must! We stuck to the runs and spent a good day on the mountain, enjoying the views, carving our way through all the powdery snow and having a warm, hearty lunch at the summit.

4// Hakuba Goryu 

While we enjoyed the intermediate and advanced runs, Hakuba Goryu is definitely the pick of the bunch for beginners. It has a fantastic and extremely wide beginner’s run, as well as a huge plaza full of rental shops, restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops at its base. We spent all day riding Goryu and had a yummy lunch in the Plaza, followed by the most delicious ice cream cones!

  

Getting There

(Image via SkiJapan.com)

From Tokyo, travelling to Hakuba is extremely easy with multiple options to get you there. Bullet train from Tokyo to Hakuba Station takes approximately a 1.5 hours, bus from Tokyo takes approximately 5 hours or you can travel by car. We booked our bus transfers with Liquid Snow Tours and I can’t recommend them enough – everything was made so easy for us! Once in the valley, free shuttle buses run all day to and from the various resorts. It took no more than 15 minutes to reach any of the four resorts we visited during our time boarding the Japanese Alps. Perfection!

Have you ever visited Japan in winter? Are you into winter sports? Do you prefer skiing or snowboarding? Would you like to learn one day? Tell me everything!

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