Hakuba Skiing


Hakuba Skiing

Ski Hakuba Japan

The Hakuba skiing at each of the resorts offers something unique, and getting a taste of multiple areas is one of the attractions of the Hakuba Valley. See the top ski resorts in Hakuba page for our awards for the best skiing and snowboarding in Hakuba Japan. Our Japan ski resort ratings will also provide an indication of the strengths and weaknesses of the Hakuba ski resorts with respect to the terrain for each ski/snowboard ability level.

The Happo One ski resort is the most popular of the Hakuba ski resorts and for many visitors to Hakuba it’s considered the Hakuba ski resort to go skiing or snowboarding. It’s fairly large, has a lot of vertical, and is reasonably steep. Happo One is best known for the many long groomed intermediate slopes, the bumps, and the access to the renowned alpine backcountry.

Possibly the next popular in Hakuba Valley is the combined Hakuba 47 and Goryu ski resorts. Hakuba 47 has a little piste terrain for advanced skies and snowboarders with steep long fast runs, some tree skiing, and an excellent terrain park and half-pipe. The terrain at Goryu is mainly beginner and intermediate, with long wide trails and gentle slopes.

Iwatake features wide open runs and is well suited to intermediates and confident beginners, and is also popular for the terrain park. It’s also best known for the 360 degree views that are a fraction more spectacular than at the other Hakuba ski resorts.

Tsugaike is superb for beginners and good for intermediates, and is also known for the tree skiing/snowboarding and access to the backcountry.

The Cortina and Norikura combination is often the favourite of powder hounds. Cortina provides steep tree skiing fun and lift-accessed sidecountry. Sometimes Cortina is a bit like a zoo on a powder day though! Norikura (Hakunori) has lots of beginner and intermediate runs that are often devoid of traffic, and steep backcountry terrain that is lift-serviced.

Sun Alpina consists of 3 interconnected resorts (Sanosaka, Aokiko, and Kashimayari), although Aokiko has been closed since 2009 which has affected the interconnection of the resorts. Both Kashimayari and Sanosaka are known (or unknown!) for no crowds, but unfortunately the lack of patronage has also contributed to financial woes and closed lifts.

Jigatake is a small beginner hill that’s a 1:15 hour bus ride from Happo, so it’s not highly frequented.

Hakuba Snow

Hakuba is renowned for great powder with an average of 11-13 metres of snowfall annually. The quality of the powder is generally very good, although it’s not as light as the famous Hokkaido powder. The Hakuba powder can be very deep so bring your fat skis (or rent some), set your board back, and consider packing a snorkel because some of the storms are big!

The most northerly ski resorts of Hakuba Valley tend to get the most snow, especially with storms from the north rather than more northwesterly. There are days when Cortina, the most northerly Hakuba ski area, gets three times more snow than Happo One. Other ski resorts at the north end of Hakuba Valley are Norikura then Tsugaike, so it’s no surprise that these are the three most popular ski resorts on a powder day. At the south end, Kashimayari and Sanosaka don’t get the same snow volumes.

As to be expected, the snow quality varies a little across the resorts depending on the aspect and elevation. Hakuba 47 has a good aspect, some of trees at Cortina also have a favourable aspect, and the sidecountry of Tsugaike faces the right way. Happo One has a variety aspects and does well with snow quality due to the high elevation, that’s of course if the snow hasn’t been hammered by the wind. Happo and the other resorts have reasonably low base elevations, so sometimes the temps rise and turn the lower slopes into a sloppy mess.

The Hakuba season typically starts in early December and goes through to May at some of the resorts. See the Hakuba ski season page for more information.

Hakuba Lift Tickets

Firstly it’s worth knowing that if you buy lift tickets as part of a ski package that includes accommodation, the lift passes are not discounted.

One option is to buy lift tickets each day at each resort. Ticket prices for individual resorts vary a little, with Happo-One being the most expensive and Kashimayari being an example of a cheap resort. A further incentive to buy lift passes as you go is that many of the hotels sell discounted lift passes for some of the resorts (although you may have to pay cash – this is Japan after all!).

Another option is to buy a multi-day Hakuba Valley lift pass which can be pre-purchased on the Hakuba Valley website. The Hakuba Valley lift pass is valid at all of the Hakuba ski resorts, and it has the advantage of not needing to be used on consecutive days. For example there is a 5 out of 9 day pass and a 6 out of 10 pass. Other advantages are that you can ride at multiple resorts on the same day (e.g. if the Tsugaike gondola goes on wind hold and you want to move to another ski area) and that many of the Hakuba Valley shuttle buses are free (although some of the ski areas also provide other shuttles for free). Another advantage is that you don’t have to queue up at the ticket window each day. The pass can’t be used for night skiing.

Cost-wise it’s cheaper to buy lift tickets at the ski area as you go (and even cheaper when you use the discount passes from your hotel/pension) compared to the Hakuba Valley lift pass, even if you have to pay a small fee to use a HV bus. The price differential is even more marked for kids, especially teens. The HV pass considers children to be 6 to 12, and whilst a few of the resorts follow suit, Happo One includes high school aged children, and Goryu/47 has a youth ticket, so if you’ll mostly be riding these resorts, buying a HV pass doesn’t make financial sense. There is no seniors HV pass, so grey snowmads will probably also want to buy passes at the resort.

Using Your Epic Pass at Hakuba Valley

The Hakuba Valley ski resorts are also accessible on the Epic Pass (and Epic Local Pass and Epic Australia Pass) with 5 consecutive complimentary days with no blackout dates.

Show your Epic Pass at the ticket window at any of the Hakuba Valley ski resorts. You may be asked to present photo ID (e.g. driver’s license or passport) to confirm your identity and you'll receive a complimentary 5 consecutive day Hakuba Valley ticket.

You can ski and ride at an unlimited number of Hakuba Valley resorts each day. You can also ride the HV shuttle buses free of charge. However, the first day of this ticket will be counted upon the first use, whether for skiing or simply for the shuttle. Also note that the pass will not be valid for night shuttles.

Hakuba Valley Ski Resort Statistics Comparison

Runs  Lifts   %
Open Close 
Cortina 1,402 530 16 6 40 30 30 42 mid Dec early Apr
Goryu 1676 926 16 11 35 40 25 35 late Nov early May 
Hakuba 47 1614 794 8 6 30 40 30 32 late Nov early May
Happo One 1831 1071 16 22 30 50 20 35 late Nov early May
Iwatake 1289 539 26 9 30 50  20 35 mid Dec early Apr
Jigatake 1200 260 7 4 70 30 0 28  mid Dec mid Mar
Kashimayari 1550 720 8 4 40 45 15 38 mid Dec early Apr
Norikura 1598 748 14 9 30 50 20 38 mid Dec early Apr
Sanosaka 1200 460 5 6 40 40 20 32 mid Dec late Mar
Tsugaike 1704 904  10 15 50 30 20 35 late Nov early May

The opening and closing times are approximate only and vary from season to season depending on snow conditions.