Hakkoda Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

  • Vertical (m)
    670 – 1,324 (654)
  • Average Snow Fall
    lots!
  • Lifts (2)
    1 ropeway
    1 double
  • Ski Hours
    9:00am - 4:00pm
    late Nov - mid May
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 5
    Longest run – 5.7 km
    Advanced - 20%
    Intermediate - 60%
    Beginner - 20%
  • Lift Prices (17-18)
    Adult - 5,050 yen (5 trips)
    Student - 3,600 yen (5 trips)
Hakkoda Ski and Snowboard Terrain Hakkoda san is a dream come true for powder hounds and back-country enthusiasts. The snowfall at Hakkoda is abundant, and in the height of winter it doesn’t seem to stop dumping! The terrain is also abundant. There’s a bit of fun to be had in the small area off the chair lift. More fun can be had in the ropeway (cable car) serviced backcountry-type terrain, and even further frivolity can be had in the backcountry beyond the ropeway.

Lifts The main lift is the Hakkoda Ropeway which covers 654 metres of vertical in about 10 minutes. The ropeway makes an ascent every 15 -20 minutes from 9am to 3:40pm. Even though the ropeway carries up to 100 people, there can be morning queues on weekends and during spring time.

The base area also has two dinky double chairlifts running alongside each other, although only one of them is still in operation.

Hakkoda Lift Tickets The ropeway doesn’t sell one day tickets but rather a one ride ticket or a 5 time ticket. Depending on how much time you’re likely to spend in the backcountry you might not ride the ropeway 5 times in one day.  A credit card can be used to purchase ropeway tickets.

As they are separately owned, if you want to ride the chair lift you’ll have to purchase another ticket. You can buy a half day or full day ticket. Either way they are very cheap!

Chairlift Serviced Terrain – Ski Resort If you thought that the chairlift terrain at Hakkoda was just for the locals to practise their race training, think again! On deep fubuki days, this can be powder hound heaven, and if the Hakkoda Ropeway is closed and you don't want to earn all your turns, this is your only option to snort powder.

The ski resort has two groomed runs to skiers’ left that are classified as beginners’ runs. The fact that these runs are used for race training probably provides a hint that the pitch on these runs is not for your average beginner!

To skiers’ right is an ungroomed run which is appropriate for confident intermediates to practise riding powder. Further again to the right you can access a steep ungroomed run that heads down to the ropeway. This run can be bliss!

To the left of the chair lift is a bit of tree skiing, but be careful not to get hooked up in the cables for the speakers. Actually get hooked up in the speaker cables and then no one will have to listen to that annoying music!

Ropeway Serviced Terrain When you exit the Hakkoda Ropeway the terrain is dotted with many snow monsters, the ice caked trees that have very nasty tree wells. About 30 turns later you’ll be in the shelter of the “normal” trees that are naturally gladed.

The Hakkoda Ropeway serviced terrain has a few steep-ish pitches, but it’s largely mellow terrain which can be a little problematic on very deep days, especially for snowboarders. One plankers would be well advised to carry collapsible poles.

There are two official courses on Mt Tamoyachi that are marked with orange poles. These ungroomed courses are about one to ten metres in width and are generally highly trafficked, so freshies can be somewhat difficult to come by.

The Forest Trail to skiers’ right is reasonably mellow (maximum pitch 30 degrees; average pitch 8 degrees). The course is long and meanders between the trees to end up next to the road. Boarders can walk up the road or skiers can do a bit of side stepping and take a short trail back to the ropeway station.

The Direct Course is a little steeper and shorter. It ends up in the ski resort area, or you can go through the trees to the base.

Other than the courses, the area is unpatrolled and is essentially backcountry-type terrain. Route finding is often challenging as you can’t just follow the fall-line. There are lots of “dead spots”, valleys, and many creeks that may or may not be crossable.

“Backcountry” Terrain Beyond the ropeway serviced terrain there are infinite lines of powder joy across the various mountains. Generally only short hikes are required to access much of the terrain. Even though there may be crowds to get on the ropeway, you can find lots of areas that are completely deserted.

The north facing slopes have minimal trees whilst further down the bowls transform into glades that go on forever. Some routes are as long as 7km. Some lines are mellow whilst other routes are super steep and can only be tackled when the avalanche risk is really low.

The best thing about the Hakkoda backcountry is that the road surrounds the mountains, so if you’ve got access to a vehicle (or your guide does), then the world is your oyster.

Hakkoda Snow and Weather Conditions Hakkoda is well known for the frequent foul weather and blizzards, particularly in January and February. There are no buffering mountains between Hakkoda and the raging Siberian storms that blow across the Sea of Japan, so Hakkoda cops the full force of the weather. All that foul weather is rather delightful because it brings big dumps of snow. The average annual snowfall at Hakkoda is unknown but it could be in the realm of 14-20 metres a season. Hopefully the photos give you a bit of an idea regarding the amount of snow at Hakkoda!

The Hakkoda Ropeway can operate in remarkably windy conditions but it has to close down when the winds are higher than 25 metres per second (90 kilometres per hour). Considering that the area near the ropeway can have ferocious winds and close to zero visibility, you’ll want to get down into the trees pretty quickly!

Hakkoda is renowned for unpredictable and fickle weather patterns. The forecasters do their best but the weather can go from being sunny to nasty in a split second – be prepared!

Even though Hakkoda is very close to the sea, the quality of the snow is pretty good because of its northerly position. It’s not dry Hokkaido powder however, and sometimes this becomes problematic on the slopes that are deep not steep.

Ability Level Required Most of the terrain at Hakkoda is not that challenging, so on the rare nice weather day, strong intermediate off-piste riders could probably tackle the Hakkoda ropeway. However Hakkoda is probably best suited to high end advanced and expert riders who can manage the white-out conditions, the really deep powder (and the energy required to get up if you fall over), and the huge tree wells.

The ski resort serviced by the chair lift has runs for intermediate riders, but you wouldn’t come to Hakkoda just to ride this area.

Hakkoda Ski Season The Hakkoda ski season goes from late November to the middle of May. In December there may not be adequate cover to access all areas, and snow bridges may not have formed over the rivers. In January and February it seems to keep dumping and weekday crowds are negligible, so powderhounds may like to visit then. January and February are also prime season for the snow monsters. In spring it’s much easier to access all backcountry areas, but with the nicer weather comes the crowds.

Is a Hakkoda Guide Necessary? You definitely need a guide at Hakkoda. One exception would be if you plan to just ride the chairlift and the two courses off the ropeway, and if you’re looking for a fill of powder you wouldn’t come to Hakkoda just to do that! That being said, even riding the courses without a guide can be harrowing. When you get out of the ropeway on a really windy day there might be negligible visibility so it can be really difficult the see the signs or the orange poles that mark the courses.

The other exception to not needing a guide would be if you’re highly experienced in the backcountry, are fully kitted out, and the weather is completely predictable (which it never is at Hakkoda).

The majority of people will want a Hakkoda guide to help with route finding. Climbing out of a creek or valley in super deep snow is not much fun. The guides can also organise vehicle pick-ups for the routes that drop down to the road.

Hakkoda has the usual backcountry hazards such as avalanche risk and tree wells, but the Hakkoda tree wells are particularly treacherous. In addition to the fickle weather, there are also some volcanic vents that emanate toxic gases. These perils are enough reasons to hire a guide, but the mountain is also said to be haunted and that’s not just by the snow ghosts! Who else is going to ward off the spirits of those ill-fated soldiers?!

Unfortunately the long-time running Hakkoda Powder Guides has closed up shop so guiding options are a bit limited.

The Hakkoda ski school has some guides located at the resort however advanced bookings are difficult and most don't speak English. The other downside is they tend to take large groups of up to 20 people.

There is Hakkoda guiding available out of Aomori Spring Resort which is located about 2 hours away so having a guide turn up for a day probably wont work as it will be so weather dependent. You could however stay/ski at Aomori Spring (which is fabulous and also has some great side & backcountry) and then grab a guide and head to Hakkoda when the weather breaks.

Of course there is also the option of joining one of the several multi-resort tours which visit Hakkoda.

Equipment Required Firstly the snow is often very deep at Hakkoda so skiers will need fat powder skis as well as powder ribbons. Powder straps aren’t advisable in the backcountry because in the event of an avalanche you don’t want skis attached to you. Powder buckets on your poles will also be very useful. Snowboarders would benefit from poles as well as a long board or split board.

Considering the depth of the snow you’ll also need snowshoes or skins, and a backpack that you can affix your skis/snowboard and snowshoes to. Other essential equipment includes an avalanche beacon, shovel, probe, tree well whistle, and water or other hydration. Other equipment for consideration: extra layers; a little food; compass; radio; mobile phone (although it might not work too well); and a spare pair of goggles in case the first pair fog up (or use sunglasses for hiking).