Your guide to skiing in Japan’s Hakuba Valley

Japan is known for great snow quality, incredible sights and luxury accommodation, and one of its most famous regions, Hakuba, is hard to look past for your next snowcation.

Home to 10 resorts boasting an abundance of powdery snowfall, the picturesque Hakuba Valley is the place to be. This winter wonderland, nestled at the foot of the 3,000-metre Northern Alps in the Nagano Prefecture (300km northwest of Tokyo), caters to all ages and ski levels. Choose from any run you fancy (or dare), from gentle groomed slopes and an 8km-long cruising course, to adrenaline- inducing black runs for the brave of heart.

Skiing in Hakuba Valley
Find awesome skiing in Hakuba Valley

Skiing in Hakuba Valley

Take advantage of the Hakuba Valley Day Pass or Season Pass as both will allow access to a large ski area with 10 ski resorts. Another perk of the common ticket is the ability to choose a resort based on weather conditions or simply your preference on the day; pass holders are entitled to jump on shuttle buses between the ski resorts free of charge. The Hakuba Valley Shuttle Bus connects all resorts and the main accommodation areas.

Hakuba’s 10 resorts

  • Jigatake Snow Resort
  • Kashimayari Snow Resort Family Park
  • White Resort HAKUBA SANOSAKA
  • ABLE Hakuba Goryu Snow Resort
  • Hakuba 47 Winter Sports Park
  • Hakuba Happo-one Snow Resort
  • Hakuba Iwatake Snow Field
  • Tsugaike Mountain Resort
  • Hakuba Norikura Onsen Snow Resort
  • Hakuba Cortina Snow Resort

Happo-One

Hakuba Happo-one Snow Resort is Hakuba Valley’s most famous resort. The Japanese resort gained international prestige after being the lead resort of the Nagano Winter Olympics of 1998. It is also the original base for Hakuba ski accommodation.

Happo-One boasts the highest elevation and the longest vertical runs of any Hakuba resort, plus the most challenging on-piste terrain. The resort has 19 lifts and 220 hectares of terrain. Hosting annual Riesen Slalom events and ski jumping competitions ensure it stays firmly on the map.

Happo One
Happo-One Ski Resort

Iwatake 

Hakuba Iwatake Snow Resort is not to be missed. Beginners and intermediates will love its immaculate corduroy pistes while advanced skiers and snowboarders will delight in the easy access to Japan’s famous powder snow. The resort offer an authentic Japanese ski experience, brilliant terrain and stunning alpine scenery. 10 lifts

Need to give your ski legs a rest? The Hakuba Mountain Harbor offers a haven for weary snow bunnies and, sitting at 1,289 metres, comes with sweeping mountain vistas of the Nothern Alps. Warm up with a steaming mug of coffee and pastry on the outdoor Mountain Harbor Deck and soak up the awe-inspiring alpine views. The cafe is dog-friendly and free to enter. The resort has 10 lifts with plans to add a new gondola for next season.

Family sitting outside at the Hakuba Mountain Harbor cafe on a ski holiday in Japan
Take in the views from at the Hakuba Mountain Harbor cafe © Hiroya Nakata

Southern resorts

In the south of Hakuba Valley at Omachi City, Jiigatake Snow Resort, Kashimayari Sports Village and White Resort HAKUBA SANOSAKA are three small resorts with some major draws. These resorts offer immaculate snow on gentle, quiet runs, together with spectacular views of Lake Aoya and the surrounding mountains. Jiigatake, Kashimayari and SANOSAKA are reminiscent of off-the-beaten-track ski resorts where you can experience true Japanese hospitality. The perfect location to discover the beauty of skiing in Japan away from the crowds. While the terrain is limited for intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders, beginners and families couldn’t ask for more.

Hakuba Sanosaka, Hakuba Valley
Hakuba Sanosaka

Northern resorts

Head north up the valley to find Hakuba Goryu Snow Resort and Hakuba 47 Winter Sports Park. These interconnected ski resorts are particularly suited to beginners and intermediates, offering an excellent variety of terrain and a large terrain park. With wide open pistes and vertical runs almost a kilometre long, these prime Alpine ski courses are a must for skiers and snowboarders looking for Hakuba’s ultimate groomers.

The groomers of Hakuba Valley
Fresh corduroy at Hakuba Valley

On the far north end of Hakuba Valley lie Hakuba Norikura Onsen Ski Resort and Hakuba Cortina Ski Resort. These small resorts receive some of the best snow in the Valley. Cortina is great for tree skiing alongside the services of a unique ski hotel, Hakuba Green Plaza. Here, skiers and boarders can recover from a day on the slopes in hot springs overlooking the ski runs. Norikura is a small, lesser-known resort, that offers great powder runs.

Norikura powder skiing
Norikura powder skiing

Ski school

Maximise your mountain moments with the exclusive guidance of professional English-speaking ski and snowboard instructors, ensuring every carve and turn is as flawless as the Hakuba Valley scenery. The renowned Evergreen International Ski School offers bespoke private sessions and group lessons tailored to both adults and children. Or parents can indulge in uninterrupted slope time knowing children are in expert care in Evergreen’s Yeti Club (3 – 6 years) or Hakuba Heroes (7 – 14 years) ski lessons.

Where to stay in Hakuba

Happo-One

Hakuba’s original accommodation base was Happo Village, located at the foot of the Happo-One Gondola. This quaint Japanese ski village is still the home of most traditional Hakuba hotels or ryokan. Hakuba Hifumi and The Happo (formerly Hakuba Springs) are perhaps the most popular of these. All the services you need for your ski holiday can be found here, and Hakuba Base Camp provides excellent connections with the local area.

Wadano Forest stretches that stretches along the base of Happo-One has a variety of ski-in, ski-out accommodation options. The scenic area has seen vast development in the past 10 years. At the base of Wadano lie some of the region’s most established hotels such as Hakuba Tokyu Hotel and The Mominoki.

Echoland (between Hakuba 47 and Happo-One)

Echoland is home to Hakuba’s main restaurant and apres ski district. While most properties here require a short shuttle to the lifts, its central location makes it appealing for anyone wanting to experience a number of Hakuba’s resorts. Guests will find private chalets designed to cater for larger groups, such as Echo Rocks.

The neighbouring area of Misorano is quieter, but most properties are still within easy walking distance of Echoland’s many attractions. Misorano is becoming increasingly popular thanks to new developments like Hakuba Amber Resort which offers seclusion in an accessible location. 

Hakuba Amber Resort
Hakuba Amber Resort

Outside of these key bases, are a smattering of accommodation options. Sierra Resort Hakuba is an established Japanese hotel that offers outstanding hospitality and services. The highlight is an unbeatable onsen experience in between Iwatake and Tsugaike ski resorts. The beautiful Green Plaza Hotel offers a ski-in, ski-out location at Cortina. It’s perfect for shorter stays or for powder enthusiasts wanting to concentrate their time at the northern end of the valley.  New accommodation is increasingly springing due to the immense draw and untapped potential of these lesser-known resorts.

Cortina Green Plaza Hotel
Cortina Green Plaza Hotel

Located on mainland Japan, Hakuba is easily accessible by bullet train from Tokyo in under four hours. Hakuba’s towering mountains near are near Sea of Japan and provide an exceptional variety of ski terrain and quality of snow.


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