Hakuba in the Japanese Alps near Nagano is a valley with a large number of ski resorts. The “Hakuba ski resort” is very popular with international tourists because it offers many aspects of a ski holiday that other Japan ski resorts can’t. Hakuba ticks lots of boxes:
- Hakuba caters well to English speaking guests whilst still providing a Japanese cultural experience and a great village vibe.
- A range of Hakuba accommodation including luxury options and self-contained lodging; a rarity at Japan ski resorts.
- The main Hakuba ski resort, Happo One, is great for families, and child care and kids’ group ski lessons are conducted by English speaking staff.
- There are also many other pros to a Hakuba ski holiday (see bottom of this page).
Hakuba Ski Resorts
The Hakuba Valley incorporates 11 ski resorts that offer an expanse of terrain. The Hakuba ski resorts aren’t interconnected via the slopes (except for Hakuba 47 and Goryu, and Cortina and Norikura), but they can be accessed off a common lift ticket and there are free shuttle buses to get around to the different ski areas. The ski resorts from north to south are: Cortina
, Norikura, Tsugaike Kogen
, Hakuba 47
, Sanosaka, Kashimayari, Jigatake, and Minekata is on the opposite side of the valley from the town of Hakuba. Check out the Ski Hakuba
page for an overview of each of the ski areas to help you decide which resorts you want to go to.
One major advantage of Hakuba is the terrain size on offer with 960 hectares of skiable terrain which equates to 137km of piste and 200+ courses, 135 lifts (5 gondolas) and at least 9 terrain parks.
The Hakuba skiing
is varied across the resorts but it’s generally very well suited to beginners and intermediates with many long perfectly groomed runs and fantastic fall-line. Advanced skiers and snowboarders will also love the steep groomers at a few of the resorts, and if you’re into bumps you’ll be in heaven. You can join many of the Japanese who just adore moguls! Freestylers are also well catered for.
Expert riders and powder hounds may get a little frustrated with the uptight approach to tree skiing at many of the Hakuba ski resorts. Some of the resorts are old-school strict whereby off-piste skiing is completely banned and heavily policed, a couple of resorts may tolerate a little bit tree skiing, whilst at the other end of the spectrum, Cortina
is a relaxed freeriding powder mecca.
On the plus side if you’re prepared to earn your turns, the Hakuba backcountry skiing and snowboarding can be phenomenal, and powder hounds should consider doing a backcountry tour.
Hakuba is blessed with plenty of snow; an average of 11 metres of powder per season. Hakuba offers lots of powder days and plenty of opportunity to sample the famous Japow! The Hakuba snow isn’t quite as dry as Hokkaido powder but it’s still very good.
Where is Hakuba?
The town of Hakuba is located 44km west of Nagano (about one hour drive) in the Nagano Prefecture. Hakuba is located on the island of Honshu (the main island of Japan), about 270km northwest of Tokyo.
Hakuba is easily accessed from Tokyo or the Tokyo International Airport (Narita) via bullet train and bus, or a direct transfer. See the Hakuba travel page for more information.
Hakuba covers the full spectrum of lodging from backpacker hostels to luxury accommodation. There are lots of Hakuba hotels
, some Japanese style pensions where you can sleep on the floor, and uniquely Hakuba also has self-contained apartments and lodges.
is situated in various villages near the ski areas, some of which is ski-in ski-out or only a very short walk to the slopes. Happo and Wadano are the two most popular villages to stay in.
You can look for accommodation availability and make a booking here:
Other Nagano Ski Resorts
There are various other Nagano ski resorts
nearby, so Hakuba can easily be combined with other ski areas on your Japan ski holiday. Nearby ski resorts include Shiga Kogen
, Myoko Kogen
, Madarao Kogen
and Nozawa Onsen
Facilities & Services
Hakuba has lots of infrastructure and facilities. Some of it is archaic and stuck back in the bubble era, but recent years have seen upgrades to many lifts, shops, and other amenities.
Hakuba ski rental
shops are abundant in the main villages (Happo, Wadano, Echoland) and the staff speak English. There are lots of restaurants and the nightlife is very vibrant (for a Japanese ski area). Childcare and ski and snowboard lessons are also readily available for children or adults.
Summary of Pros and Cons of Hakuba Japan
- The alpine scenery at Hakuba is amazing with rugged towering peaks over 3,000m.
- The Hakuba Valley provides a huge range of piste terrain for beginner to advanced skiers and snowboarders, especially if you’re prepared to catch a bus each day to sample various resorts.
- The Hakuba Valley also has great backcountry with opportunities to hike/skin up from the top of some of the ski resorts.
- Happo (the main village) has a great vibe and the wide range of restaurants is a highlight. Hakuba restaurants include western style dining as well as plenty of opportunities to sample the fabulous Japanese food. Hakuba is also renowned for the many izakayas (little Japanese bars) where you can get a good feed, and there are also some good nightlife options. Or if you want to stay in a very quiet Japanese village with negligible nightlife, there are options for that too.
- Hakuba has family friendly facilities for those that don’t speak fluent Japanese.
- There is a wide range of accommodation options including lots of ski-in ski-out lodging.
- Hakuba Japan has a good range of non-skiing activities that provide a great insight into traditional Japanese culture, both locally and in surrounding areas. Soak in an onsen, dress up in a kimono, visit Japanese temples or castles, taste sake and wasabi, or visit the famous Japanese snow monkeys.
- Like the other Nagano ski resorts, Hakuba scores more bluebird days than some northern Honshu and Hokkaido ski resorts such as Niseko.
- Hakuba is on the Mountain Collective pass, which is great news if you plan to go skiing in North America (or Thredbo Australia or Valle Nevado Chile). Pass holders get 2 days at each of Whistler, Aspen Snowmass, Mammoth Mountain, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Jackson Hole, Alta, Snowbird, Banff, and Sun Valley, and an additional day at one resort, plus mega discounts on skiing at these resorts after that.
- Hakuba has a lot going for it so it attracts lots of Japanese and international visitors. The crowds during peak times can result in lift queues, tracked out snow, and challenges getting into some restaurants.
- The ski areas and villages are very spread out, but unlike places such as Shiga Kogen or Niseko, most of the Hakuba ski areas are not inter-connected via the slopes and lifts.
- Off-piste, tree skiing and side-country opportunities are somewhat limited.
Pro or Con Depending on Your Perspective
- The main villages of Hakuba are reasonably “westernised” so it is an easy place to travel to, and you’ll be able to freely converse in English whilst still experiencing a bit of Japanese culture (especially compared to places such as Niseko). If westernised isn’t for you, there are also Hakuba villages you can stay that are rather “Japanese” and where less English is spoken.
Tours That May Include Hakuba