Hakuba 3.5 out of 5 based on 26 reviews
  • Recommend
    77%
  • Would Revisit
    73%

Hakuba Japan
Hakuba Japan
The dramatic Japanese Alps
The dramatic Japanese Alps
Hakuba Japan
Hakuba Japan
Hakuba is made up of multiple ski areas
Hakuba is made up of multiple ski areas
The Japanese Alps
The Japanese Alps
One of the Villages of Hakuba Valley
One of the Villages of Hakuba Valley
Happo is the most popular of the villages
Happo is the most popular of the villages
Happo has a great range of restaurants
Happo has a great range of restaurants
Lots of little Japanese izakayas and restaurants
Lots of little Japanese izakayas and restaurants
Hakuba has group lessons in English (which is rare in Japan)
Hakuba has group lessons in English (which is rare in Japan)
Hakuba Japan
Hakuba Japan
Nagano is close by for cultural sightseeing trips
Nagano is close by for cultural sightseeing trips
Such as visiting the Zenkoji temple
Such as visiting the Zenkoji temple
Hakuba has lots of groomed runs
Hakuba has lots of groomed runs
Happo One is the most popular of the Hakuba ski resorts
Happo One is the most popular of the Hakuba ski resorts
Hakuba has some great backcountry skiing
Hakuba has some great backcountry skiing
The prohibition on off-piste skiing is relaxing a little at Happo-One
The prohibition on off-piste skiing is relaxing a little at Happo-One
Hakuba Cortina allows tree skiing
Hakuba Cortina allows tree skiing
The Hakuba snow can get deep!
The Hakuba snow can get deep!
Hakuba Japan
Hakuba Japan

Hakuba

Hakuba Japan

Hakuba in the Japanese Alps near Nagano is a valley with a large number of ski resorts. Each Hakuba ski resort alone may not offer a huge amount of terrain variety, but it’s the combination of the different Hakuba ski areas and villages that makes the valley pretty special. Hakuba Japan is very popular with international tourists because it ticks lots of boxes that other Japan ski resorts can’t (see pros below).

Summary of Pros and Cons of Hakuba Japan

Pros
  • The alpine scenery of the Hakuba Valley is amazing with rugged towering peaks over 3,000m.
  • Hakuba Japan 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 backcountry skiing and split-boarding opportunities are immense and include both high alpine and treed terrain.
  • Like the other Nagano ski resorts, Hakuba scores more bluebird days than some northern Honshu and Hokkaido ski resorts.
  • The region scores plenty of snow.
  • There is a range of Hakuba accommodation including deluxe options and self-contained lodging; a rarity at Japan ski resorts.
  • With the exception of upscale accommodation and apartments, the Hakuba accommodation tends to provide very good value for money, especially relative to ski resorts such as Niseko, Kiroro and Rusutsu.
  • 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.
  • Echoland and Happo offer some decent nightlife (which is very rare for a Japan ski resort).
Cons
  • 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 and tracked out snow, but nothing like you’d see at high profile ski resorts in Europe or North America.
  • Some of the Hakuba ski resorts are starting to allow off-piste and tree skiing in designated areas, but the areas are so small that they chowder up quickly.
  • 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. There are extensive shuttle services to get around, but the Hakuba buses can be a bit painful to negotiate.
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. If westernised isn’t for you, there are also Hakuba villages that are rather “Japanese” and where less English is spoken.
  • The Hakuba Valley ski resorts can be accessed for 5 consecutive days using the Epic Pass (and Epic Local Pass and Epic Australia Pass), but this just makes Hakuba even busier.
  • There are lots of cheap accommodation options, so there are various patches around Hakuba that attract drunk bogan Australians.

Hakuba Ski Resorts

The Hakuba Valley area incorporates 11 ski resorts that combined, offer expansive terrain. The Hakuba ski resorts aren’t interconnected via the slopes (except for Hakuba 47 and Goryu, and Cortina and Norikura), but 9 of the ski areas can be accessed off a common lift ticket and there are shuttle buses to get around. The Hakuba ski resorts from north to south are: Cortina, Norikura, Tsugaike Kogen, Iwatake, Happo-One, Hakuba 47, Goryu, Sanosaka, Kashimayari, Jigatake, and Minekata is on the opposite side of the valley from the town of Hakuba. Check out the Ski Hakuba page to help you decide which resorts you might want to go to.

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 reasonably well catered for.

Expert riders and powder hounds may get a little frustrated with the old-school approach to tree skiing at many of the Hakuba ski resorts, although it’s slowly changing. A few of the resorts allow tree skiing in small designated areas, whilst at the other end of the spectrum, Cortina is a relaxed freeriding powder mecca.

The sidecountry can be pretty good and 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 Snow

Hakuba is blessed with plenty of snow; an average of 11-13 metres of powder per season. Hakuba offers lots of powder days and plenty of opportunities 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 City (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 then bus or local train, or a direct bus from the airport to Hakuba. See the Hakuba travel page for more information.

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, Madarao Kogen, Nozawa Onsen and Myoko Kogen (in Niigata) and it’s easy enough to get an Inter-Resort Shuttle.

Hakuba Accommodation

Hakuba covers the full spectrum of lodging from backpacker hostels to deluxe accommodation. There are lots of Hakuba hotels, some Japanese style inns where you can sleep on the floor, and self-contained apartments and houses. Hakuba accommodation 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, Wadano and Echoland are the most popular villages to stay in.

You can look for accommodation availability, check rates and make a booking here:

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, Goryu) and the staff speak English. Childcare and ski and snowboard lessons in English are also readily available for children or adults at some of the Hakuba ski resorts.

There are lots of restaurants and the nightlife is rather vibrant (for a Japanese ski area) in Echoland and Happo. 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 pubs. Or if you want to stay in a very quiet Japanese village with negligible nightlife, there are options in Hakuba for that too.

Activities

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.

Tours That May Include Hakuba

Safari (Road Trip) Tours
Alps to Coast Tour DETAILS
HAKUBA & MYOKO BC TOUR
9 Nights | Option of 1 Day Cat Skiing | Deluxe Option
From price based on a twin share room for group tour (price displayed is per person).
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 2,835
Ability: Advanced to Expert
This backcountry tour includes the HAKUBA region with its steep alpine terrain and the MYOKO area which receives big snow falls. Choose from either a side country tour (lift accessed backcountry) or ski touring/skinning backcountry. Option to include a day of cat skiing & option for deluxe accommodation.
More
See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit Hakuba here
Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours
Hakuba Backcountry Powder DETAILS
HAKUBA BACKCOUNTRY TOUR
9 Nights | 8 Days Guided Skiing / Riding
From price based on a twin share room for group tour (price displayed is per person).
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 2,835
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Most people who visit Hakuba only ever drool at the possible backcountry endless lines from a distance. Explore the steep & deep backcountry terrain of Hakuba with either a lift accessed side country tour or go deep in the backcountry via skinning/split board.
More
See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit Hakuba here
Backcountry Skiing Tours
Hakuba Guided Day Tours DETAILS
GUIDED DAY TOURS from HAKUBA
For PRIVATE & MIXED GROUPS of up to 5 people
From price based on a group touring (price displayed is per person).
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 162
Ability: Intermediate to Expert
If you are in the HAKUBA area you can't go past a day or more of guided skiing or snowboarding in the backcountry or sidecountry. Tours are for PRIVATE or MIXED GROUPS of up to 5 guests. So get a group together or join a group as a solo traveler, couple or small group.
More
Myoko Guided Day Tours DETAILS
GUIDED DAY TOURS from MYOKO
For PRIVATE & MIXED GROUPS of up to 5 people
From price based on group tour per person.
Base/invoice currency is in JPY inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
Price p/p
USD 162
Ability: Intermediate to Expert
If you are in the MYOKO area, you can't go past a day or more of guided skiing or snowboarding. The area (& also other nearby resorts) is huge & some of the best skiing is outside of the resort boundaries which should only be accessed with a guide. Bring your own group (of up to 5) or join a group as a solo/small group
More
See all Backcountry Skiing tours that visit Hakuba here