HAKUBA MOUNTAIN GUIDE

SHOW ME THE MOUNTAINS!

The Hakuba Valley is at the heart of the spectacular Japan Alps. The alpine scenery is truly spectacular with huge rugged peaks towering above the ski resorts throughout the valley. Host to the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Hakuba is one of Japan’s largest and most renowned alpine ski areas. The Valley consists of 10 ski resorts, giving an incredible variety of alpine terrain and catering for all abilities whether you’re a skier or a boarder.

Averaging over 10 metres of snow a season, Hakuba offers reliability and quality of snow. Large weather systems move across the Sea of Japan from Siberia consistently throughout winter. These systems deliver snow with a moisture content of 8%. What does that mean? Champagne powder and plenty of it! With over 200 different trails and some of Japan’s longest vertical skiing and most challenging terrain, Hakuba is a world class ski destination not to be missed. It’s quite simply the snow sports mecca of Japan. It truly has to be experienced to be believed.

The Phat House Hakuba couldn’t be better situated, with as much terrain north of us as there is south, we are smack bang in the middle. This means if rumour has it that Tsugaike has the best snow conditions today but Goryu the best tomorrow, you won’t be missing a thing, it’s all accessible from The Phat House.

Find below, The Phat House Hakuba’s guide to the mountains in the Hakuba Valley….

IWATAKE

Season Dates: Mid Dec to late Mar
Longest Run: 4km
Lifts: 16; 1 Gondola, 1 express chairlift, 14 regular chairlifts
Resort Height: 750m – 1289m
Night skiing: No
Terrain park: Yes, ‘Love Snow Park’
1 day lift pass (adult/child): ¥4,400*/¥2,600*
Accessibility from The Phat House: 1min drive, 10min walk or daily complimentary shuttle service courtesy of The Phat House Hakuba

The Phat House Hakuba is proud to call Iwatake its local mountain!!! It boasts one of the most breath taking views of the Northern Alps 3 peaks, including a 360° Panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. Iwatake has 15 runs, each with their own unique features and a number of long, cruising trails, well suited for the beginner, family and intermediate skiiers and boarders.

The mountain has lots of wide open terrain, with some good challenging courses and steep pitches for more experienced skiers and boarders. Being able to access all faces of the mountain, means there is always good snow to be found. Iwatake has a small terrain park suited to beginners or intermediates, lots of accessible tree lines, and being that little bit smaller often misses the crowds on powder days, making it possible to make fresh turns 2 or 3 days after a dump of fresh Japow.

For those wishing to take a break from skiing or snowboarding or are just looking for a relaxing acivity, Iwatake also offers 2 snowshoe courses at the top of the resort. You’ll even find 2 cross country skiing courses at the base of the mountain, 3km and 5km in length.

From the Phat House, you can reach Iwatake on foot in about 10minutes while there is a free lift a 5 minute walk away from us that will take you up to near the Gondola.

Iwatake piste map

 

HAPPO ONE

Season Dates: Late Nov to early May
Longest Run: 8km
Lifts: 23; 1 Gondola, 5 quad chairlifts, 3 triple chairlifts, 14 double chairlifts
Resort Height: 760m – 1831m
Night skiing: Yes
Terrain park: Yes ‘Happo Banks’ from late Jan to early Apr
1 day lift pass (adult/child): ¥5,200*/¥3,000*
Accessibility from The Phat House: 5+min drive or daily complimentary shuttle service courtesy of The Phat House Hakuba

Happo-One boats some of the highest snowfalls and longest vertical pitches in all of Japan and is Hakuba’s premier skiers mountain. As the biggest ski field in the Hakuba Valley, it has the largest available area of above tree line skiing/riding in all of Japan. For these reasons, it is the most popular of the Hakuba mountains and many visitors to Hakuba only ski or snowboard at Happo-One.

With over a 1000m of vertical, the mountain offers everything from wide-open groomers, long cruising trails to steep, banked, powder filled lines. As management is slightly more relaxed about off-piste skiing, there is a great range of terrain to satisfy any intermediate / advanced rider. There is also back country accessed from the top of the mountain.

Happo-One was a stage for the 1998 Winter Olympics for the slalom and downhill races and today, you can get your photos next to the original Olympic rings whilst gazing down the steep slopes the Olympians actually skied down. From the slopes of Happo-One, you can also gaze towards the official Olympic Ski Jump used in 1998. See our ‘Guide to Hakuba’ for more information on this.

Happo-One is a short 5+ minute drive from The Phat House making it an excellent mountain to frequent during your stay.

Happo One piste map

 

HAKUBA 47, IIMORI & GORYU

(all included in the same day lift pass)

Season Dates: Early Dec to late May
Longest Run: 3,800m
Lifts: 19; 2 gondolas, 17 regular chairlifts
Resort Height: 750m – 1676m
Night skiing: Yes, at Goryu
Terrain park: Yes, R4 Snow Park
1 day lift pass (adult/child): ¥5,000*/¥2,700*
Accessibility from The Phat House: 10-15min drive or daily shuttle service courtesy of The Phat House Hakuba. In addition, The Phat House offers daily complimentary shuttles to ‘Hakuba Happo Bus Terminal’ where regular Hakuba Valley ski buses (free) easily take you the remainder of the way.

Hakuba 47 refers to the incredible 4 seasons of Hakuba which guests can enjoy 7 days a week. The ski area shares a lift pass and is interconnected with the Goryu and Iimori ski areas. The slopes attract more snowboarders than skiiers.

The lower areas of Goryu and Iimori cater well for beginners with wide open runs and a good consistent slope. The upper mountain and Hakuba 47 provides steep challenging runs for the more intermediate and advanced skiers and riders. With north-west facing mountains, most of the area is unaffected by the sun, giving it consist dry powder conditions.
Hakuba 47 boasts the best terrain park and only half pipe (Olympic sized) in the area. The park is well maintained and has a variety of kickers and rails for all levels.

Patrollers on this mountain are extremely strict about enforcing their ‘no off-piste’ policy which can be very frustrating for the average powder punter and the many deciduous trees make it difficult to be discrete. It is possible to ski off-piste if you’re willing to run the risk of loosing your lift pass. As a substitute, the resort generously offers a tiny ‘tree riding zone’ where you’re allowed to head off piste if you’ve signed up for the ‘tree riders club’ (free and fairly straight forward). You must wear a snazzy vest to show you’ve signed your life away too.

Hakuba 47, Iimori and Goryu are easily reached from The Phat House. A daily complimentary shuttle bus to the Happo Hakuba Bus Terminal is offered where you can take the rest of the journey free by ski bus.

Hakuba 47 & Goryu piste map

 

TSUGAIKE-KOGEN

Season Dates: Late Nov to early May
Longest Run: 4.63km
Lifts: 22
Resort Height: 800m – 1680m
Night skiing: Yes
Terrain park: Yes, Hit Park from mid Jan onwards, Jib Park from end of Dec onwards
1 day lift pass (adult/child): ¥5,100*/¥3,000*
Accessibility from The Phat House: 7+min drive or daily complimentary shuttle service courtesy of The Phat House Hakuba

Tsugaike-Kogen has an enormous area (about 350m wide) of beginner slopes at it’s base which are serviced by multiple chair lifts. You’ll also find wide and well groomed intermediate slopes further up the mountain making it well suited to both beginner and intermediate and it’s also popular among families for its safe terrain.

Tsugaike Kogen has rather impressive lift infrastructure. The Tsugaike gondola takes an entire 20min to reach its top station (where you can get higher by taking additional chairlifts) but it is worth the journey as when you reach the top, the long cruising trails back down are thoroughly enjoyable. Along the journey up, you’ll see the slopes of Tsugaike have their very own and Hakubas only KFC! Keep your eyes peeled for the Colonel himself riding the gondola too!

As one of the biggest resorts in the Hakuba Valley, Tsugaike-Kogen also has several terrain parks and offers both a cross country skiing course, as well as a snowshoe track. From mid March, heliskiing and boarding are possible and rather popular at Tsugaike as they are a bit of a rarity in Japan. It’s reasonably affordable so it’s worth going solely for the thrill of the helicopter ride and the amazing scenery, or if you’re new to heli skiing and are happy to ride a mellow slope. But don’t go if you’re dreaming of steep and deep virgin snow. This is an unusual heliski operation where they use the same drop zone and route, so unless you’re lucky enough to be the first down, fresh tracks are far from guaranteed. Some decent back country is accessible from the top and you might even witness avalanche training taking place as this is a popular mountain for this.

Tsugaike-Kogen is easily reached from The Phat House. A daily complimentary shuttle bus to the Happo Hakuba Bus Terminal is offered where you can take the rest of the journey free by ski bus. (For Winter 15/16, The Phat House may run complimentary shuttles direct to Tsugaike)

Tsugaike piste map

 

CORTINA & NORIKURA

(For a couple of dollars extra, be sure to get the combined lift pass, giving you access to both mountains)

Season Dates: mid Dec to early Apr
Longest Run: 5km
Lifts: 16
Resort Height: 700m – 1402m
Night skiing: No
Terrain park: No
1 day lift pass (adult/child): ¥4,800/¥3,300* (combined ticket – Cortina + Norikura)
Accessibility from The Phat House: 15+min drive or daily shuttle service courtesy of The Phat House Hakuba. In addition, The Phat House offers daily complimentary shuttles to ‘Hakuba Happo Bus Terminal’ where Hakuba Valley ski buses (payable) can take you the remainder of the way.

Theres a good chance you’ve heard of Cortina already, its reputation for excellent off piste and backcountry opportunities precedes it. It’s true, Cortina boasts some of the best off piste and back country terrain in the valley however, you’re not the only one to know it. Cortina at weekends or the day after a massive over night dump is sure to be swollen with every aspiring back country enthusiast. For this reason, it’s sensible to exercise your resourcefulness and consider other mountains.

Cortina receives the highest snowfall in the valley due to it being closest to the Siberian Sea. This plus the steepness of the terrain plus the more progressive policy regarding off piste skiing and boarding, making it a favourite with experienced skiers and boarders.

Another huge attraction of Cortina is being able to combine your day’s lift pass with lunch and finish the day with an onsen (Natural Hot Spring bath). The onsen, within the enormous Green Plaza Hotel at the base of the mountain, overlooks the piste, a truly unique experience, likely to be one of your holidays fondest memories. Surely one of the best value lift tickets in the world!?

Cortina & Norikura are easily reached from The Phat House. A daily complimentary shuttle bus to the Happo Hakuba Bus Terminal is offered where you can take the rest of the journey by ski bus. A fare of ¥500*pp one way is payable for this ski bus. Why not consider getting a Com Car from The Phat House and taking yourself there for first tracks?

Cortina and Norikura piste map

 

KASHIMAYARI

Season Dates: mid Dec to early Apr
Longest Run: 5km
Lifts: 9; 8 regular chairlifts, 1 T-bar
Resort Height: 830m – 1550m
Night skiing: Yes
Terrain park: Yes
1 day lift pass (adult/child): ¥4,100*/¥2,300*
Accessibility from The Phat House: The Phat House Hakuba offer daily complimentary shuttles to ‘Hakuba Happo Bus Terminal’ where Hakuba Valley ski buses can take you the remainder of the way.

Kashimayari is one of the least crowded mountains in the valley and has a good range of runs from steep and challenging gentle beginner runs. It has gorgeous views of the lake below and surrounding area from the top. Kashimayari is renowned for its night skiing, offering the largest area of night skiing in the area. In the past, Kashimayari was joined with both Sanosaka and Aokiko and were skiable on the same lift pass but sadly a few years ago Aokiko closed down, isolating both Sanosaka and Kashimayari.

Kashimayari is easily reached from The Phat House. A daily complimentary shuttle bus to the Happo Hakuba Bus Terminal is offered where you can take the rest of the journey free by ski bus.

Sun Alpina Kashimayari piste map

 

JIGATAKE:

Season Dates: mid Dec to late Mar
Longest Run: 1.5km
Lifts: 4; 4 regular chairlifts
Resort Height: 940m – 1200m
Night skiing: No
Terrain park: No
1 day lift pass (adult/child): ¥4,200*/¥2,200*
Accessibility from The Phat House: The Phat House Hakuba offer daily complimentary shuttles to ‘Hakuba Happo Bus Terminal’ where Hakuba Valley ski buses can take you the remainder of the way.

Jigatake is a little farther from Hakuba but can be blissfully uncrowded during the week, making it a good place to learn to ski or board. There are no advanced runs but there is a dedicated kids park so is popular with families.

Jigatake is easily reached from The Phat House. A daily complimentary shuttle bus to the Happo Hakuba Bus Terminal is offered where you can take the rest of the journey free by ski bus.

Jigatake Piste Map

 

SANOSAKA:

Season Dates: mid Dec to late Mar
Km of runs: No information available
Lifts: 5; 5 chairlifts
Resort Height: 740m – 1200m
Night skiing: No
Terrain park: Yes
1 day lift pass (adult/child): ¥4,000*/¥1,500*
Accessibility from The Phat House: The Phat House Hakuba offer daily complimentary shuttles to ‘Hakuba Happo Bus Terminal’ where Hakuba Valley ski buses can take you the remainder of the way.

Probably the smallest mountain in the Hakuba Valley but despite this Sanosaka has a terrain park and dedicated mogul run too. As with most mogul runs, it can be impressive to watch the experts and a real laugh having a go yourself. Most of the runs are fairly short and suit intermediates.

Lake Aokiko at the base of the mountain makes views from the top especially attractive. In the past, Sanosaka was joined with both Kashimayari and Aokiko and were skiable on the same lift pass but sadly a few years ago Aokiko closed down, isolating both Sanosaka and Kashimayari.

It’s common for visitors to the Hakuba Valley to visit both Sanosaka and Kashimayari in the same day. Sanosaka is easily reached from The Phat House. A daily complimentary shuttle bus to the Happo Hakuba Bus Terminal is offered where you can take the rest of the journey free by ski bus.

Sanosaka piste map

 

INFO APPLYING TO ALL HAKUBA MOUNTAINS:

LIFT PASSES:

THE PASS ITSELF:

All mountains above (except Kashimayari) use an electronic lift pass system. The pass is either a pre-programmed computer chip encased in a plastic covering or a plastic card (just like your credit card). You’ll need to place the pass in your clothing or glove which will allow you to pass through the electronic gates hassle free at each lift. When purchasing a pass at some mountains, or redeeming a pre paid pass coupon, a ¥500 deposit is required, so be sure to take lunch money PLUS lift pass deposit with you up the mountain. The deposit is fully refundable at the end of the day by slotting the pass into an automatic deposit refund machine. You’ll usually find one of these located right near the ticket booths. If you ask for your refund at the booth, you’ll more than likely be directed to the machine.

LIFT PASSES OPTIONS:

The option to pre-purchase a lift pass valid at all 10 mountains (this is called the ‘All Mountain Area Pass/Hakuba Valley Ticket’) for the duration of your stay in Hakuba is possible both before your arrival to Hakuba (through a limited number of local tour operators/agents) or on the first day of your holiday however we generally don’t recommend this, as a general rule of thumb… you really can’t go too wrong buying a 1 day pass for the mountain you chose on the day.

The All Mountain Area Pass/Hakuba Valley Ticket pricing is as follows:
1 day ¥5,700*ad / ¥3,200*ch
2 days ¥10,000*ad / ¥5,600*ch
3 days ¥14,900*ad / ¥8,300*ch

We’ve listed the standard 1 day lift pass price* for each individual mountain above and you’ll notice these range from ¥4,000 to ¥5,200 (adult), so unless you plan to spend every day of your holiday at the mountain with the most expensive 1 day rate, you’ll often find that pre-purchasing a Hakuba Valley Ticket really isn’t always the best or most economical option. By buying a pass on the day, you’ll be giving yourself the best flexibility and if you just so happen to get swept up in all the fun taking place at The Phat House one evening and choose to have a sleep in, you can get yourself a half day pass instead and won’t spend the day quietly beating yourself up that you haven’t made the most out of your pre paid multiday pass.

RESTAURANTS:

There are plenty of rest stations on all mountains where food can be purchased. It is usually of the fast food variety (fried rice, noodles, curry etc) but is also usually quick, easy and reasonably priced (as far as meals up a mountain go!), large and filling. Beer and other alcoholic beverages are widely available too. And of course the Japanese convention of vending machines (with both hot and cold drinks) extends up the mountain too, you’ll see plenty of them near gondola, lift and rest stations. Grabbing a can of hot chocolate for the chairlift ride can be a god send!

KAMOSHIKA:

If you’re lucky, you might just spot one of Japans national symbols up the slopes one day.
The Japenese Serow (more commonly referred to in these parts as Kamoshika), is a Japanese goat-antelope ungulate mammal. They are found in dense woodland in Japan and we get plenty of them in the Hakuba Valley. They are a protected species in areas of conservation.

Adults stand about 81cm tall and weigh 30-45kg. They range in colour from black to whitish in the winter, camouflaging them well. They have bushy fur (especially the tail) and both sexes have short, backwards-curving horns. Their diet consists of leaves, acorns and shoots. They are diurnal so you might catch them feeding in the early morning or late afternoon.

So keep your eyes peeled for what conservationists have labelled a “living national treasure of the forest” whilst you’re on the chairlift. Matt, part of our Phat Crew, seems to have an uncanny knack for spotting these creatures, so next time you see him, perhaps you could ask him for his ‘Kamoshika spotting top tips’.

Kamoshika

 

WORDS OF WISDOM FROM A PHAT CREW:

It goes without saying that the Crew at The Phat House Hakuba want you to have an incredible time shredding in the Hakuba Valley but would like to take this opportunity to remind and stress to you that most Travel Insurance Policies (even those purchased with Winter Sports Cover), won’t cover you if you are involved in an incident off piste, or in the ‘side or back country’ that require a claim. If you do choose to ski or board in the side or backcountry, ensure you have all the necessary equipment (beacon, shovel, probe etc) and NEVER go alone. We highly recommend you have participated in an avalanche course and are accompanied by someone familiar with the area.

If you have further questions about the ski areas accessible from The Phat House, please don’t hesitate to ask, remember, this is our passion and we are living our dream. Do bear in mind though that we safely guard our best secret backcountry spots. They’re our secrets for a reason. The mountains are yours for the taking…. the best way to discover your own favourite spots is to get up the mountain and explore for yourself. We can’t wait to hear your days slope stories over Apres at The Phat House bar.

*Pricing accurate at time of writing

 

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