When I heard that a lot of Australians come specifically to Japan every year to go skiing, I thought there must be something very special about its mountains. And so I did my little exploration and went on a ski trip to Hakuba, a ski resort area located in the Japanese Alps. Japan offers many ski places all around the country and choosing one can be difficult, but from my experience, it can’t disappoint you.
As you leave Tokyo, you’ll see beautiful mountains as your bus or train rides through the country. There are Shinkansen that will take you to Hakuba in no time, but you can also take buses directly from the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal like I did to reach the resort area. That’s a great option if you are on a budget (4,850 yen one way) and if you also want to let the road slowly reveal beautiful snow-capped mountains.
The bus trip from Shinjuku Station took me a little over five hours and dropped me at the Hakuba bus station (Happo Bus Terminal) where most people usually stop. The bus station is a good place to get information on the area and if you book a hotel in advance (which I would recommend as rooms get booked quickly during the season), you can ask to be picked up by your hotel shuttle. Bear in mind that snow falls and general road conditions may affect your arrival time.
The great thing about Hakuba is that the area has many ski resorts located close to each other, which makes it easy and exciting to explore during your time there.
My hotel was conveniently located close to the main road where a free shuttle was picking up people every morning to drive them to various ski resorts. Pick-up time for different destinations varies so you should check the schedule in advance in order to be sure to wait for the shuttle at the right time for the right destination. The bus drives you to the bottom of the slopes so most people already wear ski boots when they get on the bus. Bear in mind that these areas are very popular so shuttles can be packed and aren’t really comfortable, yet are very convenient to take.
Within the space of a few days, I went to four different resorts (one a day): Hakuba Happo-One, Hakuba Goryu and Hakuba 47 (which you can do together), Hakuba Cortina, and Hakuba Iwatake. There are other resorts to explore in the area, too.
Being able to try a new resort every day was a great adventure as it allowed me to experience new mountains, new slopes, and a new scenery every time. If you are an intermediate or advanced skier, you can easily do one resort a day.
Snow quality in Japan is excellent, and if you are lucky enough to arrive the day after a good snowfall, you’ll truly enjoy the experience. And as with many things in Japan, you’ll find the same level of standard across all ski areas, such as restaurants, hotels, ski rental shops, etc. I was, for example, able to rent my ski gears in a shop located close to my hotel, and I was able to drop them at a different branch of the shop in another resort (with given notice).
Going to the Hakuba ski resorts area is definitely worth it and easy. With shuttles conveniently picking you up and dropping you at the bottom of the slopes, and the possibility to hop on and off mountains as you like, it definitely makes for a unique experience.
・98 Things to Do in Shinjuku, the Party District of Tokyo, in 2018!