Hirayu Onsen

Hirayu Onsen

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Hirayu Onsen

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The Hirayu Onsen Ski Resort sits on the northern slopes of Mount Norikura. It’s a small locally run ski-jo that packs a punch because the upper slope has some pitch and the tree skiing can be gnarly. Hirayu Onsen Ski Resort probably only has enough terrain variety for a day of riding, and you could combine it with skiing at nearby Mount Norikura Ski Resort. Or head there if you want full immersion in the real Japan and immersion in a lovely onsen.

Both the Hirayu Onsen Ski Resort and the nearby onsen town utilise the pictorial symbol of a monkey. According to old folk lore, the onsen was discovered in the 16th century when wounded soldiers stumbled across an old white monkey licking his wounds in the onsen waters. The soldiers imitated the monkey (no they didn’t lick themselves!) and found that the hot spring water healed their wounds, and the legend surrounding the Hirafu Onsen water was born.

Pros and Cons of Hirafu Onsen Ski Resort

Pros
  • The ski area is incredibly quiet and there should be next to no one there to poach your lines.
  • Hirayu Onsen has good steep tree skiing for those with some route finding nouse, and the ski patrol are pretty relaxed.
  • Snow quality is usually lovely due to high elevation and a reasonable aspect.
  • The nearby town has beautiful onsen including rotemburo (outdoor baths) with nice views.
Cons
  • The ski resort is very small and low frills.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
  • The ski area and town are delightfully unwesternised so expect no English, sleeping on a futon (or two if you’re bony), and the full kaiseki Japanese food experience.

Hirayu Onsen Ski and Snowboard Terrain

On paper, Hirayu Onsen sounds very small with only 2 pair lifts and 3 courses (2 groomed, 1 ungroomed). In reality it is petite too! The ski jo has a gentle beginner slope accessed from the lower lift, whilst the upper lift which runs nearly the full 550 metres of vertical (1,310-1,860m), services 2 steeper runs that hit a maximum gradient of 38 degrees for a couple of turns.

Easy tree lines are skiers’ left of the steepest run and the resort boundary, with easy egress back onto the same run, or head into the sidecountry and skate back to the base. Inside the resort boundaries between the two upper runs is where the gnarly terrain is. It’s essentially a steep ravine with little dam walls and cliffs, so you’ll need your route-finding wits, and potentially some avalanche management expertise. Whilst the ski patrollers are reasonably chilled about going off-piste, you probably don’t want to flaunt your fun to everyone sitting on the lower chair whilst exiting from the gorge.

Hirayu Onsen Snow

Hirayu Onsen gets plenty of snow for a Gifu ski resort, but the resort doesn’t like to boast about it, so only Puki Yuki knows how much snow it receives. The top elevation (1,860 metres) is very good, although it’s not as high as nearby Mt Norikura Ski Resort, but the aspect is better and the mostly west to northwest facing slopes help to keep your powder dry.

Where is Hirayu Onsen Gifu?

Not to be confused with Hirafu which is part of Niseko in Hokkaido, Hirayu Onsen sits on the Gifu side of Mount Norikura, very close to the western border of the Nagano Prefecture. It is 35km east of Takayama City, 50km west of Matsumoto (in Nagano), and located just off route 158 and the Abo tunnel.

The ski resort is about 1km from the little town of Hirayu Onsen which is part of the broader Ohukida Onsen, a collection of onsen towns.

It’s possible to get a bus to Hirayu Onsen from Takayama station or Matsumoto, and there are occasional weekend bus tours from Nagoya, Osaka and Kyoto. However chances are that if you’re a master of getting off the beaten track of Japanese ski resorts, you have a car and you can drive there.

Mount Norikura Ski Resort (in Nagano Prefecture) is 27km away, whilst Hounokidaira (with its nice north facing slopes) is about 9km down the road.

Hirayu Onsen Accommodation

There is no ski-in lodging at the base of the ski resort and the little town of Hirayu Onsen 1km away has about 20 ryokan and other Japanese inns. Many of the ryokan have delightful onsen and offer half board packages with breakfast and dinner that may be served in your room.

If you don’t have an onsen at your lodging you can head to Hirayu-no-mori hot spring baths, and entrance is included as part of your lift ticket from that day. There is also another public onsen in town.

Hirayu Onsen Accommodation Listings

If you’re also skiing at Mount Norikura, the other option is to stay in Matsumoto (famous for the Matsumoto castle).

Matsumoto City Hotels

Ski Resort Facilities

The ski resort amenities are reasonably low frills and include a cafeteria in the base day lodge, equipment rentals, and a snowsports school. English speaking instructors are sometimes available for a private lesson if you book ahead.
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