Overall Rating

Hakkoda

Hakkoda3/518
Hakkoda3 out of 5 based on 18 reviews
  • Recommend
    89%
  • Would Revisit
    89%
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Hakkoda - Reviews

Hakkoda - Reviews

Lift Served Backcountry Skiing

Reed Koch07/01/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    51-70
  • Month Visited:
    January

Lift Served Backcountry Skiing

Reed Koch07/01/2018
Here’s a review of what I found in two days at Hakkoda. It really isn’t a resort like any in the west and if you come to it with expectation that it will be, say, just like Alta but with fewer lifts and even more powder, you’ll be disappointed. Hakkoda is a lift served family backcountry resort for adventuresome Japanese families. There is a short lift at the base with a few traditional intermediate runs and then there is the cable car that takes you up into the alpine. The two patrolled “runs”that come down are really just roads and one is low intermediate and one is high intermediate. Neither is groomed. The rest is one really large back country area with 8 peaks in it. By backcountry I mean no patrol, no markers, no road that will get you back to the base. To ski it on your own means planning your route as you would a backcountry route and not as you would a slack country that sits next to the resort and generally goes back to the base in some reasonable way. For example the top of the gondola is often a blizzard so you’ll need some good navigational skills and gear to get where you’re going. Think Whitewater British Columbia back in the 90’s when no one other than children skied inbounds and you needed your avalanche gear and most importantly a local to show you where to go so you wouldn’t end up lost frozen to death in the middle of nowhere. Your other option, and probably the only realistic option, is to either hire a private guide which the hotel will do for you or go along on one of the group trips of 10 to 20. Simon, who was mentioned quite favorably as a guide in several previous posts, is no longer an option as he passed away several years ago from cancer. But the Japanese guides speak a few words of english and are knowledgable too. Just maybe more relaxed about how many runs you’ll get in.

So what do I mean by family backcountry? Well besides the fact that you’ll see a lot of japanese families on the guided trips it’s not like backcountry you would find in the west. There are no skinning routs that zig zag up a steep hill only to end climbing up a couloir named “The Stairmaster” like at Whistler and there are no runs named “Brain Damage” like at Crystal. You put on your skins not to go up some slope but to traverse gently up and out from the top of the gondola to the route down. And the route down is one or maybe two moderately long slopes before traversing out to a pickup point. There are certainly steep pitches but there is also a lot of traversing at the top and runout at the bottom. If you are being guided the program is 2 runs a day. On in the morning. Then lunch. Then one in the afternoon. My family would love it.

The clientele is interesting. You’ll notice that the locals are well dressed for backcountry but don’t really have the light weight gear used where there is a lot more “up” involved. With no hours of climbing up involved people tend to have heavier ski boot compatible touring bindings and gortex rather than ultra light tech bindings and softshells. But everyone is touring and few people spend their days on the two official runs/roads.

Personally, I loved it. A rippin’ blizzard is always fun to be in and that’s pretty much always what the top was. The powder was excellent. We woke up to 45cm the second morning and it dumped all day. And while we did not get in lots of long pitches the pitches we did get in were plenty steep and full of thigh deep over the head blower powder. Plus the food at the base lodge was excellent if pretty much japanese only. It seemed like the kind of place that if you got to know you could have great pitches of untracked powder all day long and otherwise it was fun to have a relaxing taste of it provided by the guides.

lots of snow

ziggy29/01/2017
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    18-35
  • Month Visited:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    1

lots of snow

ziggy29/01/2017
Wicked place to ride. Got lucky and had clear sky's the one day. Both ways down are wicked to ride off track. Loads of powder, had fresh tracks all day. Lots of people though. Ended up touring the back bowls that were fantastic.

Hakkoda

Adam Hill09/03/2016
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    51-70
  • Month Visited:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    4

Hakkoda

Adam Hill09/03/2016
Hakkoda had been on my radar for some time and I finally skied there for four days at the end of February, 2016. It was part of an 'annual Japanese ski trip' I have organised with mates every year since 2005.

Unfortunately a lot of rain fell on the first night we arrived. Not to be deterred, as we had skied a lot in Australia, we booked a half day with guides from the ski school the next morning.

Regrettably it was a waste of money as conditions were miserable and we returned to the Hakkoda Resort Hotel after only one run and feeling somewhat disappointed.

Thankfully that afternoon, the rain turned to snow and despair turned to joy when we woke the next morning to 30 centimetres of fresh powder at the base.

The mood around the resort improved dramatically too and judging how quickly others gulped down breakfast and cleared out, we knew we'd better get a move on for 'fresh tracks'.

Lesson number 1 at Hakkoda: If it has been dumping overnight and the first Ropeway (cable car)leaves at 9 am - get to the Ropeway station as quickly as you can !

We arrived at 8.45am and the queue was down the stairs and nearly out the doors !

We managed to hop on the third Ropeway to the station perched at the top of the mountain. On arrival though, we were greeted with 50 km wind and blinding snow coming at us on a horizontal level!

With no back country guides and visibility almost non-existent, we thought it wise to follow others who disappeared down the "Direct Course" outlined by orange poles.

Lesson Number 2 at Hakkoda : Book guides like Simon's Tours, at least 8 months before your trip, so you know where to ski off-piste safely. (I tried to book in July last year but he was already booked out!)

I was envious that Simon's private tour group moved so quickly and skied so much more than we did. Having a guide with inside knowledge, especially in heavily snowing conditions, was worth every dollar they spent.

All up, it snowed almost 70cm during our stay and while we did our best to explore as much as we could on our own and without taking major risks - I felt we barely scratched the surface of Hakkoda.

For this reason we will be back and no doubt better prepared.

We also noted that more of the back country areas open up on March 1 and April 1, so if you can delay your trip, it's probably worth it.

Surpassed my powdery expectations- guide recommended

Matt10/03/2014
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    18-35
  • Month Visited:
    March
  • Admin Rating
    3

Surpassed my powdery expectations- guide recommended

Matt10/03/2014
Fantastic trip! I came early March just after a huge 5 foot storm. I highly recommend taking a tour with Simon Bernard. He'll make the experience well worth it providing confidence in the back country if you're new to riding out of bounds like me, plus he knows where the good stuff is. The best ride of my life was here when he took our small group off the back side. I've spent a lot of time in Tahoe and Utah and nothing compares to Hakkoda.

I stayed at Hakkoda Resort Hotel. Very convenient. Just a 3 minute walk to the gondola. Food was great and the rooms are large compared to traditional Japanese hotels.

This place is hard to get to which probably helps with reducing the crowds. The bus from Aomori is a good option of you have time. You will probably need to arrive a day early and leave a day late for this option. If you have an international drivers license and are comfortable on the snow, get a package deal from the Japanese Rail.

hakkoda

jason janisch12/02/2014
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    N/A
  • Month Visited:
    March
  • Admin Rating
    3

hakkoda

jason janisch12/02/2014
The best time of year to visit hakkoda is march. I would have to say that 5 years ago this place was never crowded. However, now that back country has replaced the park as the popular form of riding, it is fairly crowded at the lift.

Japan has literally 100s of hidden gems for riding. They are small resorts good for a day. This country is small enough to where you can visit different resorts every day (if you have a car).

Another great thing about this place is that your tickets never expire. If you hold on to them and come back in a few years you can still use them.

SO MUCH SNOW!!

adam09/04/2013
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    18-35
  • Admin Rating
    2

SO MUCH SNOW!!

adam09/04/2013
I arrived at Hakkoda after 3 weeks of snowboarding around Japan and was told I would need the 3 weeks warm up for the deep powder we will find at Hakkoda.. and it still didn't help me.

The resort is amazing if you're looking for fresh powder.. there's a 100 person rram to the top then you just find your way down.

Did a back country day trip which I'd say everyone should do.

Not much night life but it keeps u rested for the next day.

Hakkoda

Gint22/03/2012
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Admin Rating
    4

Hakkoda

Gint22/03/2012
I live 2 hours away from Hakkoda in Akita so there is access to tons of great backcountry powder within 30 min - 2 hrs like Moriyoshi, Akita Komagatake, Chokaisan, Zao and many others.

The powder up here is really great nearly everyday above 800m from mid Dec to mid March. In Hakkoda, winter pow can last into April with sensational spring conditions afterwards.

Within resort boundaries the terrain is not double black by Euro/North American standards. Even in the backcountry you will never find a long 45-50 degree slope like Cocaine Chutes or Cosmiques Couloir any place in Japan. Steep pitches and chutes are limited.

Instead, come for the powder that seems better than the Selkirks. In Hakkoda it really stays cold from late Dec to mid Mar and the storms just continue to dump. Living here I am watching for a partly sunny day to run up and get some fresh pow with good visibility.

If you look at the positive and negative posts on Hakkoda you will see that the weather is normally snowing and blowing at the top of the ropeway. If you want to hit the challenging terrain you need a good local guide who will safely take you to the backside or get you into the great side country powder close to one of two trails.

Simon is the best guide for English speakers or anyone that does not want to join a HUGE Japanese group that will stress the avalanche slabs. He is extremely knowledgeable and keeps up with the second and third generation Hakkoda guides.

Hakkoda is an amazing touring mountain that offers amazing powder. Be prepared to tour in deep powder that is way too deep. So if you snowboard then keep your poles out.

Also, this mountain is really about the great powder and massive touring options across 8 peaks. But given that Simon takes small groups with mixed skills, it is best to be flexible and realize many of your companions do not drop into the fifties.

A note of caution with the mellow terrain is that you can easily get lost and sucked into a gully.

Every time I go to Hakkoda I call to see if Simon is available and always get a great tour but people traveling a day or two really have to look at Hakkoda's topo and daily storm conditions to realize that some of their hopes may be difficult to achieve in any part of Japan.

Simon will ensure your best experience on Hakkoda.

Peace,

Gint

Further Comments on Hakkoda

Mike Banks16/03/2012
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Telemarker
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Admin Rating
    4

Further Comments on Hakkoda

Mike Banks16/03/2012
Hakkoda obviously get huge amounts of snow as reported by many in these reviews. We were there for 3 days and didn't see a flake. During this settled period of weather I thought temperatures were far too warm (around zero C) to keep the snow in good condition.

It would seem that Hakkoda does not have ideal conditions whether it is dumping or there has been no new snow. The bad weather brings the snow but limits you to the front side of the mountain on the Direct or Forest courses from the cable car or on the chair lift runs. When there is no new snow backcountry options are limited and the front side has been skied out.

The backcountry runs we accessed during this dry spell for snow had a short run down a face in junky snow and low angled slopes through the trees. We managed to find fresh tracks but snow was only boot deep. I can't imagine these runs being that great in deep snow. The snow monsters are formed from heavy, sticky snow being plastered into the trees with high winds so anywhere exposed is going to be wind affected. From all reports the chairlift seems to be the place to get the really deep snow and this stands to reason as it is in the trees and quite protected. Hardly a reason though to travel to Hakkoda, just to access the 176 vertical metres on the chairlift.

Hakkoda can hardly be regarded as uncrowded - we had to have our wits about us to avoid huge groups of Japanese skiers in the backcountry.

A real plus for Hakkoda is the Hakkoda Resort Hotel – excellent customer service, great food and perfect location right near the lifts.

I would love to return to Hakkoda for photography as the snow monsters are spectacular - a real wow factor. I would not return to Hakkoda to ski as my buddies and I like to ski deep light snow in the backcountry away from the crowds. We can get this in Hokkaido in places like Niseko, Asahidake and the Tokachi mountains where we use lifts to access the backcountry and earn our turns by climbing on skins where the snow stays light and dry for days from the cold temperatures.

I was really hoping and wanting Hakkoda to be the untouched powder gem but it fell short in a number of areas. It has issues with weather (skiing is limited with or without big snowfalls), terrain (dangerous tree wells and wind lips and low angled backcountry slopes) and too many people in the backcountry.

Maybe not quite matching the hype - but pretty darn good

Andrew Gray14/03/2012
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Admin Rating
    4

Maybe not quite matching the hype - but pretty darn good

Andrew Gray14/03/2012
The reviews on Powderhounds give a fair and balanced picture - Hakkoda is heaven to some and a challenge in some respects to others. For me, it fell in the middle, but closer to the heaven end of the spectrum.

Access to the hill and hotel is pretty easy - we got there on the train and bus with our gear, 2 year old and 6mth old in January 2012 with no real difficulty. Have no concerns on that front.

As to the hill and riding itself:

* Snow quality is similar to Hokkaido - and so it the weather. This seems to concern some who find it too windy/snowy/cold in Jan/Feb. As other reviews have advised, in Jan/Feb, it is unlikely that you will see many (if any) windless, bluebird days. But you will see snow. LOTS of light, dry snow. In my limited observation, it was not quite as dry as in the Daisetsezan - but it was so close as not to matter in my view. It was "far more Hokkaido than Happo One". I give the snow an unequivocal 5/5. I have not been in March/April, but I expect that "Powdernator" is spot on in suggesting that you'd get unbelievable touring conditions when the wind slows down and the skies clear a bit - as you would above the treeline in Hokkaido. (You have to go above the treeline to tour effectively at Hakkoda - which is an important point for those visiting in Jan/Feb).

* The terrain on the hill with the lifts is broadly similar to Asahidake in Hokkaido. Slightly more vert at Hakkoda, but what I regard as "the usual" problem with there being no consistent, continuous fall line (as Crunky alludes to). That said, when the touring is on, there is HUGE scope for fun and adventure.

* The trees are well spaced - ie. not "sticky" as they are below the gondola in Kurodake.

* The onsen is "inside" (ie. not a rotenburo), but the water is fresh, clear and hot.

For me, the biggest danger with Hakkoda is in the hype - with some people I met expecting something that the World really cannot offer (at least as far as I know): Alps-like vert, clear skies and sunshine, summer temperatures, Hokkaido/Hakkoda-type powder (but not too much), no people at all (which would be a bit lonely) and western-style food in outback Japan (not sure why anyone would want this, but some do). Hakkoda delivers a lot, but not all that.

For me, the biggest down-side was the crowds. I am sure that some will find this weird. My problem was not that you get thousands on the piste (you might get 10 on a busy big snow day here), but that as you leave the piste the other riders tend to ride in very large packs and all ride together on the same line. Oddly, people really get in each others' way here, in my observation. In the grand scheme of things, that is a minor frustration, easily cured with skins or snowshoes and a willingness to walk a bit.

The Hakkoda Resort Hotel and the people I met on the hill were truly wonderful. (A big thank you to Michael in this regard who was a tireless help in many respects and whom my 2 year old still talks about). Staff and fellow guests all showed great kindness - and our 2 year old loved the care and interaction. It is not Disneyland, but is also not off-limits to young families. (Although I would not book this with really young ones unless you've done time in central Hokkaido or the wilder reaches of Honshu before - and you do a lot of travelling).

Overall - I would say that Hakkoda is a "skiers hill" (or "boarders hill") - ie. a place for riding snow ahead of all else. In my opinion, if you are:

1. Experienced in the backcountry and in Japan - you will enjoy Hakkoda and you would be missing out if you did not try it and form your own views. You will enjoy it most if you come with buddies with whom you can tour independently.
2. Wanting to get into backcountry and try it out - you will probably enjoy it and will have every opportunity to do so with Simon's tours.
3. Not fond of cold and not keen on a true Japanese experience - you may not enjoy it.
4. A non-skiing partner - you will probably hate it.

I am grateful to Powderhounds for their insight and reviews before I went there. I am grateful to the people whom I met there. I would go again.

(I have rated "lifts" a 5/5 because what is there works, does the job and is all I need on a hill. It is NOT a full, lifted resort however).

Hakkoda in February

Ben White20/02/2012
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    18-35
  • Month Visited:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    2

Hakkoda in February

Ben White20/02/2012
Without a doubt Hakkoda gets a lot of snow and frequently. However Hakkoda was not what I was expecting. For me the terrain that you could access off the lift was not great. In saying that it would be an excellent place for touring and back country although I did not have the equipment for this.

I would recommend it for those who are after a quality back country experience but for just riding off the lift I  believe there is better elsewhere in Japan for cheaper.
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