Hakuba Norikura Ski Resort

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Hakuba Norikura Ski Resort

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Hakuba Norikura

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Hakuba Norikura

The Hakuba Norikura Ski Resort is no longer overshadowed by the inter-connected Hakuba Cortina Ski Resort. Hakuba Norikura Onsen aka Hakunori was once known as a quiet resort with mostly mellow slopes, yet the advent of the Alps 11 Pair Lift in 2022-23 has been a game changer, providing lift-accessed backcountry tree skiing on slopes that are steeper than Cortina and rival the Tsugaike sidecountry. Now Hakunori potentially has the best and steepest lifted terrain in Japan. We’re not sure whether Hakuba Norikura translates to “saddle the white horse” or “get on the white horse” but either way, you’ll be riding a wild white horse!

The base areas of the Hakuba Norikura Onsen Ski Resort are probably what old school Hakuba used to be like, before all the westerners took over the place. A long way from the hustle and bustle of Happo and Echoland, yet only 10km north of Happo in the northern part of Hakuba Valley, Norikura feels relatively deserted and has a simplistic Japanese charm.

Pros and Cons of Hakuba Norikura

Pros 
  • Hakuba Norikura and Hakuba Cortina are accessible off the same lift pass, and the Nortina combination makes it the best Hakuba ski area for chasing powder.
  • For experts with avalanche gear and backcountry knowledge, lift #11 provides access to steep backcountry terrain.
  • There is barely anyone on-piste at Norikura ski resort so beginners can learn in peace.
  • The northern end of Hakuba Valley tends to score more snow than the southern Hakuba ski resorts.
  • The inflated prices of mainstream Hakuba haven’t reached Norikura.
  • Norikura has some ski-in ski-out accommodation, including the Hakuba Alps Hotel.
Cons
  • Norikura Ski Resort has mostly old lifts, but at least a few of them go at a decent speed.
  • If staying in Norikura, it’s a little clunky to get to most other Hakuba ski areas by bus and the only resort you can get to before first lifts is Cortina (or your lodge host may provide shuttles to resorts).
  • For overnight guests, Norikura is a typical unwesternised Japanese ski resort, so don’t expect much nightlife or an abundance of restaurants.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
  • Norikura is great for beginners but there isn’t an international ski school. Some visitors have reported that the Japanese ski instructors speak enough English to get the gist (particularly for kids).
  • Not a lot of English is spoken in many parts of Norikura, which is rather refreshing relative to the rest of Hakuba.

Norikura Ski and Snowboard Terrain

As is common with Japanese ski resorts, the Hakunori Ski Resort is not particularly large with only 14 courses (trails) and 9 lifts. The vertical drop is 748m (850 - 1,598m) which has increased about 300 metres since the opening of lift #11. The neighbouring Cortina isn’t very big either with only 14 courses and 7 lifts, but at least the two areas combined (Nortina) provide adequate variety for a few days of skiing or snowboarding.

The trail split for Norikura Onsen Ski Resort is 30% beginner, 50% intermediate, and 20% advanced, although as is common in Japan, the degree of difficulty is exaggerated. The black runs are probably more akin to intermediate runs (except that they may not be groomed) and there are 3 double black diamond runs that are really just single blacks. The maximum piste gradient is only 38 degrees and it’s a very wide run with an average pitch of 25 degrees, so there’s no need to upgrade your life insurance just yet. If you go off-piste, then that’s an entirely different matter!

Like the inter-connected Cortina Ski Resort, off-piste skiing is permitted at Norikura ski resort in what are termed as “self-responsibility areas” and there are also several “off-limits areas”. These are indicated on the trail map but once out in the field they are not marked and it’s a bit confusing as to whether you’re in a taboo area or not (well that’s what you might tell a ski patroller anyhow!).

The terrain serviced by the number 11 lift is considered backcountry terrain, and in order to ride the lift you need to have a helmet and avi gear, sign a waiver, and wear an armband. A new course was to be added along with the lift, but this is yet to happen, leaving just the unpatrolled gnarly backcountry style terrain that’s only for experts.

Where is Norikura Ski Resort?

Norikura is one of the Hakuba ski resorts and is wedged between Cortina ski resort to the northeast (interconnected via the slopes) and Tsugaike to the southwest (not interconnected with Norikura). Hakuba Norikura Onsen Ski Resort is located near the small village of Otari, and 10km north of Hakuba train station. See the Hakuba Norikura travel page for more information on getting to Norikura and see the how to get to Hakuba page for general information on travelling to Hakuba.

If you’re staying in other parts of Hakuba you can get a bus to Norikura for a day trip.

If staying in Norikura, there are a few buses to Tsugaike and Cortina, or for other ski resorts you have to change buses at the Happo bus terminal, and the first bus is a little late for first tracks. Those chasing powder at multiple Hakuba ski resorts will want a car or to stay at a lodge where the host will do early morning shuttles.

Hakuba Norikura (HakuNori) should not be confused with Mt Norikura Ski Resort which is also in the Nagano Prefecture but near Matsumoto.

Norikura Accommodation

There are two main villages at the base of Norikura. Wakaguri Village features the includes the large ski-in ski-out Hakuba Alps Hotel which has an onsen, swimming pool and kids snow park. The Satomi Village which is to the northeast and closer to Cortina, has lodges and economical pensions.

Cortina and Norikura Accommodation Listings

Hakunori Facilities

There are a handful of daytime eating options at the base of the Norikura ski resort. SnowDrop is the main cafeteria in the Wakaguri area, serving up pretty classic Japan ski resort fare such as katsu curry and rice bowls. Just below at the Hakuba Alps Hotel, you can also get cafeteria type food in the restaurant. The Satomi area is also home to a few simple eateries.

For ski and snowboard rentals, you can head to the Hakuba Alps Hotel, although don’t expect anything other than beginner equipment. There is also a ski school based there and whist the instructors aren’t fluent in English, various people have reported that they speak enough English for at least the kids to get by. See other Hakuba Ski & Snowboard Rentals here.

Just outside the Hakuba Alps Hotel is a kids’ snow park and magic carpet, and the rental shop provides complimentary sleds and tubes.

Norikura Onsen

As the name suggests, the area has hot springs. You can have a relaxing soak at Wakaguri Onsen Norikura-So or use the onsen at the Hakuba Alps Hotel, which in addition to indoor baths, has a small open-air bath that overlooks a ski slope.
Hakuba Ski Tours

Safari (Road Trip) Tours

Japow Freedom Tour
CAMPER VAN TOUR
8 Nights | 7 Days Guiding
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Explore in a camper van with the support of your guide & get the maximum exponent of freedom to be in the right place at the right time. The itinerary is completely flexible depending on snow forecasts and your guide can show you the best Japow spots in lift-assisted freeriding zones
Price p/p Based on a group tour for 2024 with a group of 4 people
USD 3,198
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Myoko to Hakuba Backcountry
GUIDED LIFT ASSISTED BACKCOUNTRY TOUR
8 Nights | 9 Days
Ability: Advanced to Expert
This lift assisted backcountry tour takes in Myoko, Nozawa Onsen & Hakuba & is ideal for advanced to expert backcountry skiers and split boarders. These 3 areas are known for deep snow & epic tree skiing. Join as a solo, couple or small group; max 8 guests per tour.
Price p/p Price per person based on 2024 tours
USD 4,299
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See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit Hakuba Norikura here

Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours

Hakuba Backcountry
GUIDED BACKCOUNTRY ADVENTURE
7 Nights | 8 Days | 6 Days Skiing/Riding
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Get away from the crowded Hakuba ski hills & explore the renowned backcountry. Lift assisted backcountry trip where the lifts will be utilised to gain some ascent, but expect to also ascend via ski touring/ splitboarding 1,500 to 2,500 metres per day.
Price p/p Price is per person based on twin or triple-share rooms
Base/invoice currency is CAD
Displayed price may vary slightly to actual due to exchange rate fluctuations
USD 4,202
View Details
 
Hakuba Backcountry Adventure
GUIDED LIFT ASSISTED BACKCOUNTRY TOUR
8 Nights | 9 Days
Ability: Advanced to Expert
This is the ultimate lift assisted backcountry tour in Hakuba for advanced to expert backcountry skiers and split boarders. Hakuba Valley will be your base to some of the best ski and snowboard terrain in Japan. Join as a solo, couple or small group; max 6 guests per tour & guaranteed departures.
Price p/p Based on 2024 tours
USD 4,399
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See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit Hakuba Norikura here

Backcountry Skiing Tours

Hakuba Backcountry Day Tours
HAKUBA BACKCOUNTRY DAY TOURS
Private Groups Only - Max 5 In Group
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Reach out above and beyond the boundaries of the Hakuba ski resorts & be guided to the sheer expanse of backcountry with touring gear. Daily rate is 99,000 yen for 1 person up to 5 people (ie solo can't join a mixed group). Day guiding or multi-day guiding.
Price p/p Price is based on a private group of 5 for 2023-24 season
base/invoice currency is JPY (Japanese Yen)
displayed price may vary due to exchange rate fluctuations.
USD 131
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See all Backcountry Skiing tours that visit Hakuba Norikura here
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