Norikura 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)
    700 – 1,300 (600)
  • Average Snow Fall
    11  metres
  • Lifts (9)
    1 triple
    8 doubles
  • Ski Hours
    mid Dec - early April
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 14
    Longest run – 2.5 km
    Beginner - 30%
    Intermediate - 50%
    Advanced - 20%

Hakuba Norikura Onsen Ski Area

The Norikura Onsen Ski Resort is a small ski area and even though the total vertical is 600m, most of the runs are much shorter than this. The ski area is spread out horizontally which extends it into two main zones. The Wakaguri zone sits above the Hakuba Alps Hotel and is the main part of the ski resort, whilst the Satomi area is smaller. Adjacent to Satomi is the little Warabidaira area, which used to belong to Norikura and functionally feels like part of Norikura, but the lifts are now owned by Hakuba Cortina. There are some English signposts to indicate the demarcation between Hakuba Cortina and Norikura (Hakunori), but you could be forgiven for crossing over the “boundary” and not realising.

Lifts

Norikura Onsen itself has 9 chair lifts (plus a magic carpet for tubing) that are all double chairs, except for one triple lift. Three of the double chairs are fast without being turbo-charged, which are located right near the Hakuba Alps Hotel (Wakaguri area). The lifts are numbered 1 to 10 (don’t spend too much time looking for no. 2).

Lift Tickets

Lift tickets for Norikura are reasonably inexpensive and for a little more, you can purchase the combined pass for Norikura & Cortina, which everyone other than beginners should do.

Or you could purchase a multi-day Hakuba Valley pass which is more expensive, but it’s advantageous if you’ll mostly be riding other Hakuba ski resorts and if you want to use the Hakuba Valley bus service.

Norikura Snow

The northern end of Hakuba Valley gets more snow out of most of the storm cycles, although the snowfall statistics for Norikura (and Cortina) don’t really reflect it. Nevertheless, 11 metres of snow per season is pretty impressive and those European ski resorts would be ecstatic if they received that much snow!

The Norikura snow quality is very good although it has a couple of detractors which can play out when the temperatures warm up a little and/or during the fringes of the season. Most of the slopes are south east to south facing, which is lovely for the beginners but not as ideal for powder hounds. When we visited, a couple of the treeless off-piste slopes sat squarely in the sun and had big glide cracks, avalanche debris and general chumpiness. Another minor con for snow quality is the elevation, which is a bit lower than a few of the other Hakuba ski resorts. However, in the prime ski season the snow quantity and quality is likely to be very good to excellent.

Beginner Skiing Norikura Onsen

The beginner terrain at Norikura Onsen is excellent, and to make progressions more obvious, the courses are rated as “beginner” or “advanced beginner”. The easiest runs are near the Hakuba Alps Hotel.

Intermediate Snowboarding/Skiing Norikura

Low-end intermediates may enjoy some of the “advanced beginner” runs, and high-end intermediates will be able to ski the few black runs which are pretty mellow. In terms of official red runs (intermediate), there are only four short runs which will get boring very quickly. Cortina doesn’t offer that much for intermediates either – it could be time to hit the off-piste!

Terrain Park

Norikura has a terrain park adjacent to lift no. 5, including a half pipe or two, but these hadn’t been established when we visited.

Advanced Skiing On-Piste Norikura

As is typical at most Japanese ski resorts, the black courses are snoringly boring. There are only three blink-and-you’ll-miss-them black runs, an established mogul course if you’ve got strong knees, and a few double black aka “ultimate courses” which are not very steep with maximum gradients of 30, 35 & 38 degrees. The latter is Sky View Slope which is really wide open and is lots of fun on a powder morning. The biggest challenge of the Sky View Slope is probably getting on the fixed grip chair lift which they may have amped up.

Off Piste Skiing and Riding

Norikura Onsen and the neighbouring Cortina are reasonably progressive when it comes to off-piste skiing, with designated “self-responsibility areas”. There’s no need to sign into ski patrol or listen to a safety briefing which largely misses the pertinent points (such as Hakuba 47!). In addition to self-responsibility zones, the trail map also indicates “off-limits” areas and there are a lot more of these at Norikura than Cortina, possibly in part due to the many solar aspects (keep your eyes peeled for glide cracks). Some of the off-limits areas are tiny and in the absence of fences and signage, you may be left wondering where they actually are. We didn’t experience any grief from the ski patrollers about straying into the wrong areas, but then we didn’t actually see any ski patrollers. Hmmm…

Most of the off-piste skiing at Norikura consists of short shots, and there is some nice tree skiing but it’s nothing quite like the lovely steep tree skiing of Cortina. The upside for Norikura is that most of the powder punters will be over at Cortina, leaving an abundance of fresh lines for you!

Backcountry

In addition to the sidecountry between Cortina and Norikura, Norikura provides some nice access to backcountry proper, particularly between Tsugaike and Norikura. Hakuba is a backcountry haven and if you want the services of a guide to take you to the good spots check out GoodGuides.