Iwatake Ski Resort
Iwatake is one of the ski resorts of the Hakuba
Valley. Many of the Hakuba ski areas offer amazing views, but Iwatake is a cut above the rest when it comes to spectacular vistas. From the top of Mt Iwatake there are 360 degree panoramas across to Happo One, the dramatic Japanese Alps, and the Hakuba Valley.
Hakuba Iwatake can be characterised as a great ski area for intermediates. Iwatake Ski Resort also has some steep green runs for confident beginners, a popular terrain park, and a smattering of bumps runs and powder lines for experienced riders, although there’s definitely no terrain that’s a sphincter shrinker for experts.
There is a little bit of Iwatake accommodation but the resort is probably only worth visiting for a couple of days. With lots of regular free buses to Iwatake Snow Field from various Hakuba villages, it’s ideal to visit as a day tripper.
Hakuba Iwatake Ski and Snowboard Terrain
Iwatake is a medium sized resort (by Japanese standards) with 15 courses and a short vertical (539 metres) relative to the other main ski resorts in Hakuba. The ski area is divided into a Village Side and a Mountain Side, with the latter having multiple lifts that converge at the summit of Mt Iwatake so you can ski or snowboard off the top onto various aspects.
Iwatake isn’t as pitchy as Happo One
, Hakuba 47
, and finds a nice happy medium between steep and mellow that intermediates really enjoy. For those wanting to snort some powder, there are a few open areas that are quasi off-piste. The “view” zone is probably the best for powder where there are some black pistes as well as some trees, although off-piste skiing is not tolerated so you’ll need to be rather discrete.
One potential drawback of Iwatake is that the top of the ski resort has low altitude relative to the other main Hakuba ski fields. The impact on snow quality is particularly apparent during the margins of the season.
The main lift at Iwatake Ski Resort is a gondola called Noah (what is it with the biblical named gondolas at Hakuba?!). There is a decent quad chair and a triple chair, otherwise the other 11 are pair lifts (that they spell “pear”) – perhaps so Noah’s animals can all travel up the mountain in pairs (or is it pears?). Even during peak times not all the lifts run, and it’s a bit of a museum with various defunct lifts as well.
Where is Iwatake Snow Field?
Although not interconnected via the slopes, Iwatake is situated just to the northwest of Happo One
ski resort and to the south of Tsugaike ski resort
. The base of Iwatake is located only 3.5km northwest of the Hakuba train station, a bus trip that takes about 5 to 10 minutes. There are also free buses from the villages of Happo, Wadano, Echoland, and Tsugaike.
See the getting to Hakuba
page for more travel information.
There’s not really a village directly at the base of the ski resort, but a few minutes’ walk away are the little hamlets of Kirikubo and then Shinden. The Iwatake accommodation
is typically inexpensive and consists of rather simple pensions or minshuku (Japanese inns) that have Japanese style rooms with futons on the tatami flooring. Some establishments include dinner and they may or may not have ensuite bathrooms. There are also a couple of Iwatake hotels offering the option of western beds and western food.
You can look at availability and rates of Iwatake accommodation near the ski resort here
The secluded Hotel Sierra Resort Hakuba
($$$-$$$$) is located half way between the Iwatake and Tsugaike ski areas. This deluxe hotel has spacious modern rooms with configurations of twin, king (which is rather unique in Japan), and suites for up to 4 guests. The hotel offers high levels of service and (English speaking) concierge, and exquisite onsens including private onsen baths. Free shuttle transport is available to the major Hakuba ski areas and a night bus is offered if you want to go to other Hakuba restaurants. Sierra Resort is popular with families, in part due to the sledding area and igloo, and babysitting services are available.
Hotel Hakuba Montbien
is a 5 minute walk from the ski resort. This Iwatake hotel offers either western or Japanese style rooms with ensuite bathroom, and there’s a French restaurant on site as well as an onsen.
The other option is to stay in more mainstream Hakuba accommodation
Facilities and Activities
The ski resort has good facilities including a large cafeteria at the summit serving a range of typical Japanese ski resort fare. It’s called Restaurant Sky Arc, which is where Noah must keep all the pears of animals! The cafeteria also has a ski-osk, or there’s a larger retail shop at the base selling simple ski and snowboard accessories, snacks, drinks and souvenirs. A popular spot for an après snack is the take-away creperie near the base area.
If you haven’t rented your equipment elsewhere (see Hakuba ski rentals
) there is a Spicy Rentals shop at the base, or a dodgy looking ski shop across the road from the ski resort if you’re game.
Although not catering to English speaking guests, Iwatake also has a ski school and child care services.
Activities in the area include the Iwatake No-Yu onsen, snow-shoeing on the trails near the picturesque summit, or cross country skiing on a 3km or 5km course.
Pros and Cons of Iwatake
- Iwatake offers amazing scenery on fine days.
- There is plenty of cruising terrain on offer for high-end beginners and intermediates, as well as some slightly steeper terrain for low-end advanced riders.
- There’s no terrain to really excite experts and at the other end of the spectrum, there are better Hakuba resorts with super mellow terrain for novices.
- Snow quality can be more affected by warm temps due to the lower elevation of the top of the resort compared with the other main Hakuba Valley ski areas.
Pro or Con Depending on Your Perspective
- Iwatake and the associated villages have remained rather traditional, so this is a nice place to come to escape the westernised tourism of Happo. Not as many people speak English, and ski lessons are only for those fluent in Japanese.
- Much of the lodging provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture and is inexpensive, but the nightlife is pretty much absent.
- Tree skiing is prohibited (so there’s the risk of being told off and losing your lift pass), but if you wear a camouflage outfit the upside is that there’s very little competition for the powder and the snow tends to remain untracked for a while.
Tours That May Include Iwatake