If you are looking for more than skiing on your Japan ski holiday, and want a chance to truly immerse yourself in Japanese culture, then you should be thinking about a trip to Hakuba. All too many people looking to get off the beaten track overlook Hakuba in favour of smaller resorts. But while smaller resorts like Myoko and Nozawa Onsen have undeniable charm, there are 10 resorts in Hakuba Valley, and if you choose to ignore the more notorious ones then you will find yourself skiing on slopes even less crowded and more charming than you could hope to find elsewhere in Japan. Resorts such as Iwatake, Norikura and Tsugaike which are skiable on the Hakuba Valley All Mountain Pass offer incredible big mountain terrain in a serene and uniquely Japanese ski environment. One recent development in Hakuba is that a handful of accommodation options are now available in these more remote Hakuba ski areas, making it a special time to visit – these areas are largely undiscovered, but this won’t be the case forever. Accommodation such as Slopeside Chalet in Tsugaike, Powderhouse in Goryu, Hakuba Momiji in Norikura and Sierra Resort Hotel Hakuba in Ochikura are superb places to stay to get off the beaten track in Hakuba Valley.
One of the best things you can do if wanting to explore Japan on a Hakuba ski holiday is to ensure you book Hakuba accommodation which includes a vehicle, or hire one while you are out there. This will give you access not only to the huge variety of undiscovered ski terrain that Hakuba Valley has to offer, but will also give you the chance to visit a wide variety of incredible onsen and restaurants. Getting to natural hot-springs with spectacular mountain views such as Mimizuku and Tenjin can be tricky without wheels, but with a vehicle, heading straight to bathe in these exceptional natural hot-springs after a day on the slopes is the most rewarding treat imaginable. Likewise, there are an abundance of incredible Japanese restaurants spread throughout Hakuba Valley, which can be difficult to access without private transport.
As well as all of the amazing things you can do in Hakuba Valley itself a major attraction of visiting this ski area is the plethora of interesting Japanese attractions surrounding it. Matsumoto is a drive or train ride away and offers visitors the spectacle of one of Japan’s oldest and most impressive castles. If visiting at the right time, it is also well worth visiting Matsumoto for one of Japan’s best cherry blossom (sakura) viewing spots. Another great opportunity to experience cultural Japan is to book a day trip which includes the amazing snow Monkeys of Jigokudani and Nagano Zenkoji temple, or Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival.
While Hakuba is certainly a leading international ski resort to some, to others it is a place far removed from hustle and bustle, and offers everything you could be looking for in a traditional, quiet, and quintessentially Japanese resort.