A post by John Blagys:
The premiere skiing destination in Honshu, Hakuba has been quickly developing into one of the most popular ski resorts in all of Asia. Hakuba gained national recognition after hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics, and the growth has continued since. In fact, this year we anticipate 200,000 foreign stays in Hakuba.
Where is Hakuba?
Hakuba is nestled in the Northern Japanese Alps, 1 hour from Nagano Station.
How to get there on the cheap?
There are buses that run from Tokyo to Hakuba that takes about 5 hours and cost between ¥4,000 and ¥7,000 for a one-way ticket. Similar buses run from other major cities to Hakuba.
Have more time than money? This may be the best option for you. For ¥11,200 you get unlimited rides on JR Rail (excluding Shinkansen and Limited Express trains) for 5 nonconsecutive days. With this pass you can affordably build in off slopes activities like the Onsen Monkeys or Matsumoto Castle. The pass must be used during certain periods of time: December 1st to January 10th or March 1st to April 10th.
Where to Stay?
A youth hostel is going to be the cheapest place to stay. Our favorite is The Lab because of its proximity to the ski resorts and night life. The Lab also has an awesome bar/lounge where you can meet like-minded travelers and drink affordably.
When to Go?
You’ll find the best deals in March and April, with many hostels and hotels cutting prices significantly. The snow conditions are still epic in March but as you get into April you’ll be limited to skiing the upper areas of the resorts.
Where to Eat?
On the super cheap, Lawson may be the best bet. Fun fact: the Hakuba Lawson is the best performing Lawson in all of Japan. Go figure. There are also lots of eateries near The Lab where you can buy delicious Japanese and Western meals for around ¥1,000.
There are several shops in Hakuba that will provide rentals at an affordable rate and have English speaking staff. The cheapest rentals for both skis and snowboards starts around ¥4,000 and can be pre-booked here.
Tickets for individual resorts must be purchased at the respective resorts. If you’re interested in purchasing an “All Valley Pass” which allows access to all resorts for one day for ¥6,000, you can do so here.
Cortina & Norikura
These two interconnected resorts can be accessed with the same ¥4,500 and may be the best place for fresh powder skiing in all of Hakuba Valley. Cortina also offers great backcountry skiing opportunities.
Are you a beginner or intermediate skier? This may be the best bet for you. The runs here are wide without trees and are perfect for finding your balance and confidence.
Only 10 minutes from Hakuba Station, Iwatake is a great option for families or groups as there are runs for every level.
The largest resort in the Valley, Happo-one hosted several Olympic events in 1998 including the men’s downhill and super giant slalom.
The highest run starts at 2,696m and spreads to 4 base areas, providing an absolutely epic run.
Hakuba 47 & Goryu
These two interconnected resorts can be accessed with the same lift ticket. If you’d like to ski backcountry at Hakuba 47, you need to register for the Double Black Diamond club upon arrival. It’s free and they will give you a bib that gives you access to the epic backcountry runs.