Happo Ski Resort 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)
    760 – 1,831 (1,071)
  • Average Snow Fall
    11.7  metres
  • Lifts (23)
    1 gondola
    5 quads
  • Ski Hours
    9:00am - 5:00pm
    early Dec - early May
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 13
    Longest run – 8 km
    Beginner - 30%
    Intermediate - 50%
    Advanced -20%

Happo Ski Resort Terrain

The Happo ski resort is one of the largest of the Hakuba ski resorts and is also characterised by the reasonably steep pitch of the mountain. It’s not as pitchy as Cortina or parts of Hakuba 47 and Goryu, but it’s distinctively steeper than Iwatake, Norikura, Tsugaike and the other Hakuba Valley ski areas.

The Happo One ski resort drops down the flank of Mt Karamatsu (2,696m). The ski area is narrow at the top and it fans down to four base areas. Nakiyama has night skiing on a steep green run and also has a red (intermediate run) feeding down to the bottom. This is the main day trippers base. Shirakaba features the Adam Gondola (or gondora as the Japanese like to call it) with steep red runs and a little green trail at the base. The Kokusai base has a small patch of never-ever (novice) terrain at the base (and is the on-slope headquarters of Evergreen) but the main access is a black run. The Sakka base is close to the Upper Wadano Village and is perfect for beginners.

Lifts

Happo Ski Resort has 23 lifts including the Adam gondola, 5 quad chairs, 3 triple chairs, and 14 double chair lifts. The lift infrastructure has seen a well needed upgrade in recent years so there are more detachable lifts, but there are still some painfully slow lifts, the Skyline 2 double chair being a case in point.

Lift queues have improved with the lift upgrades but can still be problematic, especially on weekends when the Tokyo folks come to play.

And a very welcome break is the absence of blaring music from any speakers attached to the lift towers. Ahh the serenity!

Happo One Snow

Like the rest of Hakuba, Happo One is blessed with bountiful snowfall and good powder (but generally not super dry Hokkaido type powder), and it also has snow making on various trails in the lower parts of the resort. The Happo slopes are largely east facing but the aspect does vary somewhat. Also as to be expected with a vertical of over 1,000 metres, the Happo snow quality differs from the top to the bottom slops (no spelling mistake!).

Beginner Skiing Happo One

There are various green trails on the lower section of the mountain, although the terrain near the Sakka base is best for beginners and there’s a magic carpet in this area. There’s a great long run from the top of the Adam gondola that snakes down to the Sakka area. Groups with beginners may want to stay in accommodation in the Upper Wadano area to be able to easily access the Sakka terrain. For those staying in accommodation in the heart of Happo near the Nakiyama base (e.g. the ski-in ski-out Marillen Hotel), be aware that the night skiing beginners’ slope is somewhat steep for a green run.

Ski Happo for the Intermediate

Happo-One is incredibly well suited to the intermediate skier or snowboarder, with many long perfectly groomed runs and fantastic fall-line. There aren’t a lot of intermediate courses, but it’s all about the quality.

Terrain Park

Happo-One isn’t the best place for dedicated park riders. Better terrain parks can be found at Tsugaike or Hakuba 47.

Snowboarding and Skiing Happo - Advanced

There are some fabulously steep groomed runs at Happo-One that are great for speedy Gonzales riding. Tighten your goggles or your eyes may water! The Olympic course is particularly good for a fast race.

The resort also generally has great black mogul runs if it hasn’t snowed in a while. The Japanese locals love their bumps and they’ll potentially put you to shame. Many of the Japanese are absolute legends on the bumps and are a great advertisement for Glucosamine, the arthritis wonder-herb!

Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Like many Japan ski resorts, there’s no in-bounds terrain that is super steep that will get experts quivering in their boots. Similarly there are negligible little cliff bands for hucking fun.

Off Piste Skiing and Riding

The ski patrol are more laid back than at some of the other Hakuba ski resorts (with the exception of Cortina), yet it’s still frowned upon in places so you’re left wondering whether you’ll lose your pass or not. The resort has introduced an official tree skiing area to try and keep up with the likes of Madarao, but the tiny little tree run is a complete joke.

One popular spot for off-piste skiing is the ridge to the skiers’ left of the Alpen quad chair. It’s up high so the snow quality is generally very good but it tends to get tracked out rather quickly. Another well-liked area is a steep face adjacent to some avalanche fences (understandably patrol isn’t so tolerant about this zone). There are other off-piste spots at lower elevation such as the trees in the Shirakaba area, but it requires good quality snow to ride it.

All in all, the tree skiing and off-piste skiing isn’t that fabulous. There isn’t that much good terrain, there are too many other powder chasers there, and it’s hard to know whether ski patrol will reprimand you.

Backcountry

The backcountry is the highlight of powder skiing at Happo and possibly also Hakuba. From the top lift it’s possible to access the renowned Happo backcountry that has steep alpine faces and gullies that lead down to tight trees.

These alpine slopes are very avalanche prone, and like any backcountry skiing, only do so with appropriate avalanche equipment and backcountry know-how, and better still, go with a reputable guide (see Hakuba guided tours). On a day immediately after a snow storm you may commonly see Japanese groups heading out into the Happo backcountry, but if you want longevity on this earth then perhaps go with a guiding outfit that avoids the area until the snowpack has settled.