Hakuba Cortina Ski Resort
Cortina Hakuba stands out from the other Hakuba ski
areas as the best resort for powder hounds. Firstly the off-piste policy at Hakuba Cortina is very relaxed, unlike at the restrictive nearby resorts where you have to be very sneaky or risk losing your lift pass. The tree skiing is loads of fun, the terrain is steeper than at the other Hakuba ski resorts, and Cortina receives more snow. The only downside for powder hounds is that the “secret” of Cortina is out and it’s not quite the powder skiing mecca it once was, but it’s still pretty impressive.
Powder hunters flock from Happo to Cortina Hakuba for day trips, but a multi-day stay at the very striking Green Plaza Hotel
also has many benefits including the convenience of ski-in ski-out accommodation, family friendliness, and a chance to get away from the somewhat westernised hub-bub of Hakuba.
Cortina is also a major drawcard for the real powder hounds (ie the ones with four legs) because next door to the Green Plaza Hotel is Paw Paws, a hotel for the pampered pooches of Japan. And they are pampered! If you think the Japanese love Hello Kitty, wait until you see how much they adore their dogs.
Ski and Snowboard Terrain
The Cortina ski area is reasonably small with only 124 acres (50 hectares) of terrain (which is probably measured as the piste terrain), 503 metres of vertical, 7 lifts and 17 trails. Cortina is interlinked with the Hakuba Norikura Ski Resort (which can be accessed via a combined lift ticket), and in recent years they purchased two little lifts from Norikura which opened up the terrain a little, although it still feels rather small.
With the exception of the former Norikura terrain, the Cortina terrain is enclosed within one bowl. The grooming is exceptional on the highway-wide beginner run through the middle of the resort, the intermediate runs, and the advanced runs which are rather pitchy for a Japanese ski resort. A couple of “ultimate courses” are even steeper and one of the Hiedayama courses has an average pitch of 36 degrees and a maximum of 42.
The real treats for freeriders are in the off-piste zones (aka self-responsibility areas) and the tree skiing is an absolute ripper! There are a myriad of fantastic lines off ridgelines that drop into well spaced trees with moderate to steep gradients. The sidecountry provides even more delights for powder hounds, and the nearby backcountry is also great for stormy days.
Where is Cortina Japan?
Cortina (aka Koruchina Ski Resort) is the most northern of the Hakuba Valley ski resorts
and is only about 14 km from the town of Hakuba and 16km from Happo One ski resort, a drive that takes 20 to 30 minutes. The closest town is Otari which is about 6km away and has the associated JR Minami Otari Train Station (Oito line).
There are public buses connecting Hakuba Cortina with Happo (the main tourist hub of Hakuba), and the Green Plaza Hotel also provides transfers from Happo or the local train station.
Hakuba Cortina Hotel
At the base of the Hakuba Cortina ski resort there is one hotel, the massive Green Plaza Hotel
. The hotel looks incredibly striking, particularly in the afternoon when the sun hits the bright red roof. The external architecture is sort of Tudor gothic style whilst the interior comes complete with gold adorned glass elevators and a mix of European and Japanese kitsch! The upscale hotel has 257 rooms that have western beds as well as an area with tatami (woven-straw) flooring for futons. Room types suit singles through to small families & groups.
Various folks stay at more central Hakuba accommodation
and commute to Cortina for day trips.
Most of the Cortina ski resort facilities are housed within the Green Plaza Hotel. These include a few restaurants, ski school, equipment rentals, lockers, a small ski shop, a souvenir and convenience store, and the most amazing onsen. The hotel also has massage services, a huge games arcade, and a karaoke bar if you love singing in front of your friends.
Adjacent to the hotel is a large kids’ area with play equipment, a jumping castle, tubing, tobogganing, mini snowmobiles, and child care facilities.
- Cortina is a great to visit for 3 – 5 days as an adjunct to staying at Happo or other nearby ski resorts such as Nozawa Onsen or Myoko Kogen. Alternatively we highly recommend it for a day trip from Happo.
- Hakuba Cortina gets better and more snow than the other Hakuba ski resorts.
- The ski resort has impressive terrain for advanced riders, superb tree skiing that is reasonably steep, easily accessed sidecountry, and some fun high gradient groomers.
- Koruchina is interconnected with Hakuba Norikura; a practically deserted ski resort with good groomed runs for upper-end beginners to intermediate riders.
- The Hakuba Cortina hotel is conveniently ski in ski out and provides very good value for money for the quality of the accommodation.
- Cortina Japan is very family friendly (unless you’re wanting group ski lessons in English – as to be expected you have to pay a premium for private lessons).
- The onsen is fabulous, especially the semi-outdoor “peak-a-boo” area where you can peer across the ski resort.
- The size of the terrain (particularly on-piste) is reasonably small with only enough variety for a maximum of 3-4 days (which is typical of lots of Japan ski resorts).
- As is common with many Japanese ski resorts, there’s negligible nightlife and a resort feel. Even though the hotel is large, there’s the potential if you stay there for many days that you could get a bit of cabin fever in the evenings. However you can get a night bus to Tsuigake and visit the various restaurants and izakayas there in the cute little main street.
Pro or Con Depending on Your Perspective
- Cortina Hakuba is a favourite of powder hounds due to the lack of prohibition on off-piste skiing, so on some days (especially in January) the off-piste areas can score some traffic whilst at other times it’s a very uncrowded ski resort.
- There is no village at Cortina (as is common with a lot of Japan ski resorts), but unlike Happo/Hakuba there aren’t many westerners that stay at Cortina and not many staff speak English, which can be rather refreshing. You’ll get to absorb plenty of modern Japanese resort culture.
Tours that may include Cortina