Cortina 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)
    872 – 1,402 (530)
  • Average Snow Fall
    13 metres
  • Lifts (7)
    2 quads
    5 doubles
  • Ski Hours
    8:30am - 8:00pm
    mid Dec - early April
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 16
    Size – 50ha
    Advanced - 40%
    Intermediate - 30%
    Beginner - 30%
  • Lift Prices (Day: 17/18)
    Adult - 4,000 yen
    Child - 2,400 yen
The Cortina Hakuba ski resort sits below the treeline and is small to medium sized. The ski area has terrain for beginners and intermediates, although Hakuba Cortina is most renowned for having some of the steepest in-bounds terrain in the Hakuba Valley and for the liberal approach to off-piste and sidecountry skiing and snowboarding.

Cortina Japan is interconnected with Hakuba Norikura Ski Resort, which is a similar size. Cortina lifts 6 &7 used to belong to Norikura and provide nice mellow intermediate terrain, as well as egress from some of the sidecountry without the need to have a joint Cortina Norikura lift pass. Other than this small “Norikura” area, all the Cortina terrain is contained within one basin that funnels down to mid-mountain lifts and then down the main beginner run to the hotel at the base. Many families find this terrain layout rather attractive because it’s reasonably easy to keep track of all family members.

The Cortina (Koruchina) Ski Resort courses (piste) are divided into five levels (beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate, advanced, and ultimate) with only 2 to 3 trails for each ability grouping, so for those who only want to ride on-piste, there’s a limited amount of variety. Conversely there’s decent variety for advanced skiers and snowboarders who venture off-piste and into the sidecountry and backcountry.

Crowds

The skier traffic at Cortina varies significantly. The piste areas can feel deserted on weekdays whilst there can be lots of Tokyo weekend warriors that descend on the hotel and resort, and on big powder days, lots of powder punters from central Hakuba seem to descend on the resort (to escape the masses at Happo One). It all comes down to relativities. The European freeriders think it’s not busy (because some of their resorts are like a feeding frenzy), whilst those of us used to the olden days of Japan skiing will find that the freshies disappear all too quickly on big powder days. The best experience is probably on “little” powder days when the fresh tracks can last past lunchtime.

Lifts

Hakuba Cortina has 7 lifts; 2 quad chairs and 5 double chair lifts. Only the main quad (no. 2) from the base area has any decent speed. The upper lifts (no. 4 and no. 5) may be slow to open on powder days, whilst the no. 7 that runs parallel to no. 6 is generally only open on weekends.

For those who can’t get enough action during the day, there is also night skiing on a couple of the main trails.

Lift Tickets

All Mountain Hakuba Valley lift tickets are valid at Cortina. However there’s no great advantage in having an all mountain pass and you might as well pay as you go and have the flexibility to do other things. Lift tickets at Cortina are very cheap and there are various combo deals (lifts, lunch, onsen), dual passes for Norikura, or single ride tickets if you’re heading into the backcountry.

The Hakuba Valley ski resorts can also be accessed for 5 consecutive days using the Epic Pass (and Epic Local Pass and Epic Australia Pass).

Cortina Hakuba Snow

The stats indicate that Cortina gets 12 metres of snow per season on average, however the locals’ perception is that Cortina gets so much more snow than its neighbours and that has certainly been our experience. Koruchina (Cortina) Ski Resort is the most northerly of the Hakuba ski areas and is the closest to the Sea of Japan, so Cortina gets more precipitation particularly with storms that roll in from the north.

The Cortina snow quality is also sometimes better because it picks up a bit more Chinese dust than those resorts further across the valley, with less inclination for rime which impacts on the stability and heaviness of the snow. The top elevation of Cortina is about 400 metres lower than Happo One and 250 and 200 metres lower than Goryu and Hakuba 47 respectively, yet any loss in snow quality due to altitude is probably made up for with better snow protection from the trees.

Cortina Skiing & Snowboarding for the Beginner

The main beginner run at Cortina travels down the guts of the resort and is beautifully manicured. Despite having to share the run with faster riders, it’s still a great place to learn because it’s super wide and a decent length, and being close to the hotel can also be a comfort.

The official trail stats are 30% beginners but this is somewhat inflated, in part because the “advanced beginners” trails (what a ridiculous name for them!) are a little too pitchy for your average beginner. There are other “real” beginner trails but these all entail access or egress via an "advanced beginner" trail.

Ski Cortina - Intermediates

The “advanced beginner” runs are the equivalent of most blue runs at other Japanese ski resorts and are ideal for low-end intermediates or very confident beginners. The Ipponmatsu Course that runs alongside the hotel is lots of fun, but the best experience is over at the former Norikura area on lifts 6&7. Or pay the small fee to upgrade your lift ticket to include the rest of Norikura and enjoy cruising on near empty slopes.

For mid to strong intermediates, there are a few steep runs that are delightfully groomed.

Advanced Skiing – On-Piste

For lovers of speed, there are a couple of steep runs where you can fly and there are no “slow down” signs to inhibit your fun (well that I could see anyhow whilst my eyes were watering!). The black/ultimate courses are labelled for “experts onry”. I rove that “Ls” get exchanged for “Rs”! In any case, these runs aren’t rearry for experts onry because even though they’re steep, advanced riders should be able to manage the ungroomed runs, although this may be dependent on the size of any moguls on one of the Hiedayama courses when it hits 42 degrees.

Off-Piste Riding

Hakuba Cortina is one of the best Hakuba ski resorts for off-piste skiing and you don’t have to wear a camouflage outfit to ride the trees and you won’t risk losing your pass. The downside is that there can be more competition for freshies (but it’s all relative).

It’s fantastic that the resort and patrollers have opened up the off-piste areas, with the exception of a couple of off limits areas. It’s obvious to see why they don’t want you going into these areas, and you should respect the keep out signs considering they are so generous in allowing other areas to be accessed. The off-piste areas are aptly called “self-responsibility areas” and it wouldn’t hurt to don your avo gear.

The trees off to the skiers’ right of the no. 4 pair lift are divine. The trees are mature and perfectly spaced, the terrain is delightfully steep, and it’s north facing, so it’s not surprising that people tend to hit these trees first (not literally obviously!). Some of the trees that drop fall-line from the top tend to be a bit tighter and have a little bit of brush in the early season, but you’ll score higher on the freshy-ometer. Further around to skiers’ left you can also explore in the more south facing trees depending on how sunny it has been. We had fun skiing here with a Kamoshika (Japanese serow - looks a cross between a goat, deer and a wombat!). Apparently seeing a Kamoshika in the wild is lucky, and we certainly felt lucky being at Cortina!

Sidecountry & Backcountry

For the sidecountry (ie slackcountry, easily accessed backcountry) areas, you should exit via the three gates and undertake usual avo backcountry precautions.

The sidecountry out to the skiers’ right of the resort that runs down to Norikura is the most popular, in part because it’s steeper, offers longer vertical and the egress down to Norikura can be easy (depending on how far out of bounds you head). The downside is that the snow out there can be crunky on warm sunny days. The sidecountry off the no. 5 pair lift out to the skiers left is amazing because the snow conditions are better. You can get about 200 metres of vertical along lots of ridges before traversing out across various gullies to a saddle, although snowboarders may have a tough time getting out if someone hasn’t seriously broken trail.

Cortina is a great resort for true backcountry too, and is better than the other Hakuba ski areas on low vis days. Not far from the Uchu gate is an old ski resort above the town of Otari, and there are also lots of other areas to play.

Terrain Park

Terrain park dudes will not be well placed at Cortina ski resort due to the absence of a park or pipe, although there might be a small park set up over at Norikura.