Hakuba and the surrounding area has 10 ski resorts which are quite spread out so it might be a bit daunting to choose the location for your accommodation and the closest ski resort. Here is a concise guide to help you choose the right mountain.
The largest ski resort in the area, great for intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders. They do have beginner slopes and kids area, but all of the beginner slopes on the upper mountain are cat tracks and the only wide beginner slope is located at the bottom of the mountain, so you might want to be careful if you are aiming for it early in the season in December or in late March, as those slopes might be closed due to the lack of snow. This ski resort also has the widest range of accommodation, restaurants and bars available within walking distance. If you prefer to stay close to the centre of the village where all the restaurants and bars are, we would recommend an area in between Happo Bus Terminal and Happo Gondola. If you prefer a quieter area, choose an accommodation in Wadano which lies at the bottom of Sakka and Kokusai slopes – it has great hotels and chalets located in a beautiful forest. Most of the accommodations offer complimentary transportation for their guests anyway and there is a village night shuttle bus running from late December to the end of February.
The second large ski resort located 10 minute drive from Happo. Great for all levels, especially for intermediate and beginner skiers/snowboarders. Their huge advantage is that they usually keep their long beginner slope open even when the snow conditions are not great, in the early or late season. There are also a couple of nice beginner runs at the top of the mountain, so you can enjoy them when the bottom lifts are still closed. They also have a couple of advanced mogul runs, but those could be closed when there is not much snow. Terrain park and tree riding zone available as well. Before going for tree runs make sure you complete registration and safety briefing at the gondola station. There are a couple of great restaurants and bars with regular events and parties in winter, so you’ll definitely find some good options for going out. In general though the area is pretty quiet and located a bit further away from central Hakuba.
Another ski resort not far from the centre of the village, very popular with snowboarders due to some natural half-pipes and its terrain park. Good for all levels. It is smaller than the two above and has much lower elevation, so it suffers most when the snow is not great, but still definitely worth a visit. The terrain park is great for all levels, even if it’s your first time in one. Also there is a very nice terrace cafe with astonishing views of the Japanese Alps, probably the best ones as Iwatake is located virtually in the middle of the valley. They also have some unique services and activities which you won’t find anywhere else in the valley such as VIP lounge, snow show tour, Early morning fast track cat tour and buggy cruise.
There is a small area with properties and restaurants right at the bottom, but this ski resort is also a bit further away from the central village, so you would need to take a bus or ask your accommodation to take you if you need to Hakuba station, supermarket, etc.
Great for beginners and advanced skiers and snowboarders, this ski resort offers a huge area at the bottom of the mountain dedicated to easier slopes, as well as some nice tree runs at the top. Same as with Goryu/47, you would need to register and listen to a short safety briefing before you head for tree runs.
The ski resort is actually located just outside of Hakuba, in the neighbouring village of Otari. Nice range of accommodation and family-run restaurants. This area does not have supermarkets, ATMs or 24 hour convenience shops, but it has regular bus service to Hakuba (about a 20 minute ride).
Cortina and Norikura
These two joint resorts are located not far from Tsugaike, further away from Hakuba. They are the only ones that boast of large areas of ungroomed tree runs, that is why so many skiers and snowboarders flock here to enjoy some powder after a good dump of snow. Most of the people go to Cortina though and are not aware that Norikura is as good, just not as popular, and with less crowds, it is definitely a good choice on a powder day. You can also enjoy both ski resorts in one day if you buy a joint day ski pass which is slightly more expensive than the individual ones. There is only one hotel at the base of Cortina and it is the most further away from the centres of all other non-ski activities, so this is a good place to stay if you would like a quiet holiday.
This ski resort is the smallest one in Hakuba Valley and is located to the south of Goryu, on the way out of Hakuba. It is a great place to go if you would like to spend a day away from crowds on the slopes, as it is very peaceful and quiet, with never a line in front of a lift, even on a weekend. Good choice for intermediate skiers and snowboarders. Splendid views of Aokiko lake at the base. An interesting unique feature of this place is that you can bring your dog with you to an allocated slope.
Jiigatake and Kashimayari
Here are two more ski resorts included into Hakuba Valley lift pass but often overlooked because of their location. They are both located south of Sanosaka and technically are in the neighbor town of Omachi. Still these two are ones of the least crowded resorts: Kashimayari has excellent beginner and advanced slopes and Jiigatake is ideal for beginners and intermidiate and families with kids.
▶ Hakuba Valley shuttle bus timetable (free for Hakuba Valley lift pass holders)
▶ Map of Hakuba and the ski resorts