Japan

HAKUBA VALLEY: JAPAN’S ULTIMATE ADVENTURE DESTINATION?

HAKUBA VALLEY: JAPAN’S ULTIMATE ADVENTURE DESTINATION?

It may have been the 1998 Winter Olympics that put Hakuba Valley on the map, but it’s the inviting powder snow, stunning landscapes and authentic Japanese culture that have kept it there.

The Japanese Northern Alps are a group of mountains over 3,000 metres high, extending to the Sea of Japan, creating a natural adventure playground in the process.

So, if you’re into snow, adventure, food, culture, or all of the above, head to Hakuba Valley for these 7 must-do activities.

1. VIST WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES SITES

It’s no exaggeration to say hosting the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics was a gamechanger for the Hakuba Valley. When the game’s global audience caught a glimpse of the valley’s phenomenal snow conditions, its reputation as an international snow destination was cemented. A surge of visitors eager to experience the area's pristine slopes and vibrant winter sports culture soon followed.

You can visit the iconic Olympic ski jump that launched Hakuba Valley on the world stage, and check out the panoramic views of the stunning valley from the 90-metre and 120-metre jumps. Take a moment to reflect on the courage and skill of the athletes who launched themselves down the ramps and into the history books, including the two Japanese gold medal winners.

2. CHOOSE A SNOW RESORT

Winter is peak season for adventure seekers in Hakuba Valley, which experiences snowfalls of over 11 metres.

The valley, which is made up of three municipalities Hakuba, Otari, and Omachi, boasts 10 snow resorts, each with their own unique offerings. If you can’t choose, snap up a day or season Hakuba Valley Lift Pass.

The cost-effective pass gives you access to all 10 resorts across, and you can use the free shuttle buses to move between them based on the weather conditions or your preferences.

You can also buy and use the international Epic Pass at Hakuba Valley. The valley has been a partner of the snow resort alliance Epic Pass since the 2018-2019 season, giving skiers the opportunity to lock in discounted access, food and lodging at world-class resorts throughout Japan, North America, Australia, and Europe.

Related: Hakuba has it all 

3. PARTICIPATE IN SNOW SPORTS

The snow resorts in Hakuba Valley offer all levels of ski and snowboard terrain with more than 120 trails and some of the longest vertical skiing in Japan, 92 lifts and abundant snowfall averaging 11 metres a season.

Discover the magic of night skiing in Hakuba Valley. Tree riders can experience the delicious thrill of carving fresh tracks through virgin snow as they negotiate the picture-perfect, white-barked deciduous trees thanks to illuminated slopes.

4. TRAVEL WITH THE FAMILY

Hakuba Valley has several resorts that cater for families and groups with diverse abilities.

The cafe, THE CITY BAKERY at HAKUBA MOUNTAIN HARBOR, is famous for its panoramic views of the Northern Alps from an altitude of 1,289 metres. Warm up with hot coffee and pastries while enjoying the breathtaking views and take advantage of the private sessions and lessons tailored for adults and children. (International schools are available for non-Japanese speaking guests.)

5. CLEAN OFF IN AN ONSEN

If a day on the slopes is not enough to work up a healthy glow, head to the areas throughout the three municipalities to indulge in steamy onsens — hot springs with highly alkaline water and natural cleansers that will exfoliate the most snow-crusted skin.

Explore outdoor baths that provide views of the snow-covered landscapes, so you can relax your muscles and sightsee whilst experiencing the benefits of the hot springs minerals.

Legend has it that the hydrogen in the water has anti-aging properties.

Related: What's it really like to snowboard in Hakuba 

6. STAY AT LUX ACCOMMODATION

Hakuba Valley’s accommodation options range from traditional Japanese inns to private chalets and high-end luxury apartments and hotels that can organise your ski hire. For those who prefer ski-in, ski-out options, several on-mountain options can accommodate you.

7. INDULGE IN APRÈS SKI

Not all activities in Hakuba Valley revolve around the snow. The area is rich with non-skiing activities that can give you a taste of the real Japan, such as shrines and Buddhist temples.

If shopping is more your choice of off-piste activity, Hakuba Valley has a good selection of shops, including multiple outdoor gear shops, including famous brand outlets.

Echoland, which sits between Hakuba 47 and Happo-one Snow Resort, has a vibrant 500-metre long main street bustling with a broad selection of restaurants and bars. Japan makes a fine range of beers, but don’t forget to give sake a go. It can be drunk warm, to help defrost after a day on the mountain.

Hot tip: Check whether the night shuttle bus is running so you can let your hair down and really enjoy the après ski scene.

Get there

Fly direct to Japan’s Narita or Haneda Airports, Tokyo. Hakuba Valley is about an hour and 15 minutes’ drive from Nagano, which is reached after a 1.5-hour Shinkansen ride from Tokyo.

Get Informed

Head to hakubavalley.com/en/ to plan your winter escape.

Words Kate Robertson

Tags: hakuba, japan, onsen, ryokan, ski

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