Winter in Japan is a unique and magical experience. There’s plenty to see and do. If you’re an adventurous type, a trip out to a ski area might be perfect. Japan has some world-class ski resorts located in the Japanese Alps, a series of tall mountains that run through the middle of the largest Japanese island of Honshu.

Located in the beautiful Northern Japan Apls of Nagano Prefecture, Hakuba is considered one of these ski areas and is the most popular in Japan. It has plenty to offer to all ages and skill levels on the slopes, as well as plenty of other options when you take off your skis. The Hakuba Valley area comprises 11 ski resorts, offering expansive terrain and plenty of snow. The ski season at Hakuba Valley usually starts from late November to early May.

Why to visit Hakuba in Winter?

Hakuba Iwatake Snow Field. Photo Credit: Ski Mania at Wikimedia Commons.

Hakuba is one of the best ski areas in Japan and the top location in Nagano prefecture to experience many winter sports. It does not only feature excellent powder conditions but also has some of the best ski infrastructure in Japan.

With 11 ski resorts and over 200 different trails, Hakuba valley is an ideal ski holiday destination on Honshu island of Japan. If you’re looking for one of the best ski adventures in the Northern Japan Alps then you really should spend a week in Hakuba.

The ski resorts in Hakuba Valley are surrounded by wonderful winter vistas. With an annual base of snow exceeding ten meters, the area is quite a famous location in Japan to experience abundant of snowfall. Some of the ski resorts here have ski schools with various ski lessons conducted by English-speaking instructors.

Photo Credit: HAKUBA VALLEY Snow Resort Promotion Board.

Except skiing and snowboarding, visitors can take multiple day trips to see Nagano’s iconic landmarks such as Matsumoto Castle, Zenkoji Temple, Jigokudani Monkey Park, and so on.

In comparison with Niseko, Hakuba is less crowded and easier to find cheap accommodation. You can enjoy great variety of dining options and nightlife.

The local delicacies here are delicious and they can be found at the restaurants, cafes, bars and Izakaya. Don’t you forget to taste Soba noodles, Oyaki (Japanese dumpling), and Nozawana-zuke during your next visit to Hakuba.

Things to do in Hakuba

Photo Credit: Hakuba47 Mountain Sports Park.

Skiing

There are lots of options for skiers and snowboarders, with a total of 19 ski resorts, 135 lifts, and more than 200 runs. Resorts provide ski, snowboard, and other winter gear rentals. They also offer a variety of lessons from professional instructors for every level of skill, from beginner to expert, in several languages including English. You can also enjoy cross-country skiing in the area.

Enjoy Japanese Culture

The many ski resorts in the area offer chances to experience Japanese culture. These include classes and performances. You can try out cooking soba noodles, folding origami, or attend a Japanese tea ceremony in a traditional kimono.

Nature of Japanese Alps, Hakuba. Photo Credit: Tourism Commission of Hakuba.

Snowshoe Tours, Snowmobiling, and More

Skiing isn’t the only way to enjoy Hakuba. You can sign up for snowshoeing tours through old-growth forests or along the area’s mountain ridge trails. You can also rent a snowmobile for a faster-paced adventure. If you’re very adventurous, ask about heliskiing and backcountry tours. You can even ride in a hot air balloon to witness awesome winter scenery of Hakuba.

Nightlife

Whether you’re looking for an energetic nightclub or a friendly traditional Japanese pub, you can find all these and more in the Hakuba ski area. However you like to finish your day on vacation, you can find it here.

Matsumoto Castle. Photo Credit: Kelly Drewett at Wikimedia Commons.

Relax

Enjoy a massage at one of the area’s spas. You can also enjoy one of several traditional hot spring baths (onsen) to loosen up tired muscles. Open-air onsen offer great views of the snowy countryside and will help you recover from a long day on the slopes. This hotel in Hakuba area is famous for its private onsen.

Local Sightseeing

The mountains and resorts aren’t the only things to see in Hakuba. Visit the historic Matsumoto Castle, which is one of Japan’s original castles, see the hot spring-bathing monkeys of Jigokudani Monkey Park, explore the famous Zenkoji Temple (houses the first Buddha statue ever to be brought into Japan) or visit the historic town of Obuse. There are many adventures and sights to be found in the area, all located close to the resorts.

Ski Resorts in Hakuba

What a breathtaking scenery, Hakuba Happo One Ski Resort. Photo Credit: Hakuba Happo-one Snow Resort.

Hakuba Happo-one Snow Resort

The Nagano winter Olympic games were held in this scenic resort in 1998. It’s a massive area, with 13 runs and 23 lifts offering options for every skill level. The steepest piste in the area can be found here and some of the best powder. You will need more than one day to get the most out of this resort.

This ski area is said to be best in Hakuba. So if you think that you want to explore some ski areas in Hakuba valley with stunning snowy mountain views then spend most of your time at this resort. Stay at this ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), which is a 5-minute walk from Nakiyama slope of Happo-one Ski Resort.

HAKUBA47 Winter Sports Park

This popular park’s highlight is its halfpipe and kicker. It has 8 runs and 6 lifts. There is a very relaxed atmosphere. You can enjoy HAKUBA47 Winter Sports Park along with nearby ; using the dual mountain pass.

Hakuba Cortina Snow Resort

The highest annual snow records are held by this area on a regular basis. The powder found on its 16 runs is excellent. You stay nearby at the Hotel Green Plaza Hakuba and there are also a number of food choices in the area. There are 7 lifts.

Hakuba Norikura Onsen Resort

This romantic area is very beginner-friendly and quite tranquil. There are options for all skill levels, including a mogul course. There are 14 runs and 9 lifts available for visitors. Along with skiing and snowboarding on the slopes here, snow scoot, telemark skiing, and snowshoeing are quite popular winter sports.

Why don’t you ride in a hot air balloon?! Photo Credit: Hakuba47 Mountain Sports Park.

Jiigatake Snow Resort

This family-friendly resort has seven ski runs and seven lifts, which is a perfect place for beginners to learn skiing. There are a special lift and small hill set aside for children to ride sleds. It’s rarely crowded, though it’s pleasantly lively during the season.

Kashimayari Snow Resort

This is a great ski resort for those looking for a challenge, with 16 ski runs and 8 lifts. It also provides a wonderful view of the Northern Japanese Alps. The central plaza offers a lot of options for food, shopping, lodging, and you can even find an open-air onsen.

Hakuba Sanosaka Snow Resort

This is a very picturesque and family-friendly ski resort, with a lot of trails for beginners. There are 5 runs with 6 lifts. Leisure skiers and families really enjoy this resort. There is also a well-maintained mogul course.

Hakuba Goryu Snow Resort

This ski resort has one of the longest seasons of all resorts in the Hakuba area. It offers 16 runs and 13 lifts, with a wide range of options for skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels. It has the area’s largest night skiing area.

Photo Credit: Tsugaike Kogen Tourist Association.

Tsugaike Kogen Snow Resort

Snowfall here is very heavy. Located in Otari Village, the resort is a great fit for families and beginner skiers and snowboarders. There are 11 runs and 20 lifts. English-speaking ski instructors provided by Tsugaike Ski School is limited. However, the staffs of the school offer a full range of instruction for all ages and skill levels. Some of the slopes here are quite enjoyable to experience night skiing.

Hakuba Iwatake Snow Field

With an epic view, this resort is a great trip for those looking for a scenic view. A gondola trip can take you all around the mountain. There are 26 runs and 12 lifts. The snow park here is a big draw and all areas are well-maintained year-round.

Minekata Ski Resort

This beautiful ski resort is small but famous for its beautiful cross-country skiing course. With 2 lifts and 6 courses, this resort offers well-groomed cross-country ski tracks and plenty of beautiful snow landscapes to make your ski holiday in Hakuba an unforgettable experience.

The Epic Pass

Photo Credit: Tsugaike Kogen Tourist Association.

Fittingly named, the Epic Pass offers 50% off daily lift tickets at all Vail Resorts in Hakuba for five consecutive days. It’s an excellent choice for anyone looking to enjoy a ski vacation in Hakuba to its fullest, allowing you to visit almost any resort you like and its unique slopes. You can purchase the pass at any Vail resort ticket center. Present it at lift ticket windows along with a photo ID to receive your discount.

One big disadvantage of the pass is that skiers can’t use it for night skiing. In addition, once it’s purchased, it can’t be refunded and reissued. So think twice before you make a purchase! For more info, please visit here.

Access to Hakuba

Hakuba is very easily accessible from Tokyo. Take the Hokuriku Bullet Rain “Kagayaki” to Nagano, or the Limited Express “Azusa” or “Super Azusa” trains from Shinjuku. From Nagano, take the Limited Express Bus to Hakuba. Tickets can all be purchased in advance and there is usually a discount to do so online.

For Japan Rail Pass holders, the best way to reach Hakuba is by the JR Hokuriku shinkansen.

You can also take the Nagano Snow Shuttle directly from Narita Airport to Hakuba to skip all the transfers. Prices and crowd levels vary and it works best to plan your transport to Hakuba in advance.