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While the tranquil, quiet mountain valley of Hakuba is popular with hikers and nature enthusiasts all year round, in December it transforms into a world-class ski destination. The following is the ultimate guide to skiing Hakuba for the 2018/19 season.
Tsugaike Kogen remains popular with beginners and intermediates alike thanks to gentle, wide slopes. With plenty of space to find your balance on the 1,200m wide run, Kane-no-naru-oka is a great option for new skiers. After finishing up on the slopes, the restaurants and izakayas (Japanese pubs) on the charming main street at the foothill of Tsugaike Kogen are great places to get food and drink.
Insider tip: During March and April, a heli-ski operation runs from the top of Tsugaike Kogen higher into the national park for approximately ¥15,000 per run; the spectacular scenic flight is something you certainly won’t forget. With a highly controlled path marked out by patrollers, this is perfect for intermediate riders.
Cortina has become synonymous with backcountry powder snow. Unlike other resorts in the area, the ski patrol allows riders to go off-piste and ride waist deep in soft powder while navigating between perfectly spaced trees. Although Cortina is a small resort, it’s connected to Norikura – a resort that has more options for on-piste terrain.
Insider Tip: Cortina is one of the most liberal resorts for off-piste and tree skiing in Hakuba; it also gets the most snow. GO HERE ON A POWDER DAY. You can basically ski any of the trees, and most on the front side of the resort funnel back down to the base centre. Cortina generally gets twice the snow of other Hakuba resorts. It is not to be missed.
Offering skiers with varying abilities a chance to test their skills, Iwatake, just 10 minutes from Hakuba station, may be the best option for families. Once beginners build confidence, they can take an easy run from the top of the mountain all the way to the base; there are also more challenging intermediate routes that branch off from this run. With high speed runs, powder skiing and a terrain park, advanced skiers have plenty to keep them busy too.
Insider tip: One of the best ramen shops in town is located at the base of the ski resort. Come out from the gondola entrance and cross the road to a wooden shack with skis and snowboards out the front. The ramen here is to die for, and so “insider” we can’t share the name (but you won’t miss it).
Happo-One’s the largest resort in the valley with the highest run at 2,696m and spreading to 4 base areas, providing everything advanced skiers could want: steep runs, high vertical drops, powder runs and a terrain park. There are opportunities for beginners, but the resort is much better suited for intermediate and advanced level skiers. Happo Village, at the foot of Happo-One, has various restaurants, hot springs, and shops.
Insider tip: On a clear sky day, head to the Corona Terrace at the top of the Gondola; stop for a drink or snack with magical views right up the Hakuba Valley.
Next to Happo-One, these two interconnected resorts are suitable for the whole family, and accessible with the same lift ticket. 70% of the Hakuba 47 and 65% of the Goryu runs are appropriate for beginners or intermediates. For advanced skiers, Goryu has 3 black trails but backcountry skiing is prohibited. Hakuba 47, on the other hand, allows backcountry skiing after registering for the Double Black Diamond Club. The Hakuba 47 and Goryu resorts are adjacent to Goryu Village and Echoland Village respectively.
Insider tip: Those who want to ski off-piste and through the trees at Hakuba 47 should sign up to the Double Black Diamond Club on arrival. While it doesn’t cost anything, you receive a bib that permits you to ski off-piste zones prohibited for other skiers. On powder day this is some of the best tree skiing in the valley. Just remember to return your bib by 3pm.
This was originally published on Insidejapantours.com.
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