A Senior’s Introduction To Some Of The Best Skiing In Japan.

Happo One is the largest resort in the Hakuba Valley with four base areas serving the mountain. Credit: Hakuba.com

The Hakuba Valley sits three hours west of downtown Tokyo and boasts some of the best skiing in all of Asia. Host to the 1998 Winter Olympics, Hakuba offers a unique combination of diverse terrain spread out over 11 resorts, 12 meters of annual snowfall, world class facilities, and amazing Japanese cultural experiences: think sushi, hot springs, and thousand year old temples. The entire valley has been added to the 2018/19 Epic Pass allowing pass holders five days of free riding across all of the resorts.


From downtown Tokyo you will take the famous Japanese bullet train one and a half hours to Nagano Station where you will need to transfer to a bus for the last one hour of the journey. The entire is just 3 hours and costs ¥10,000. ($85.00)

Two Outstanding Resorts In The Valley


The largest and most central resort in the valley is Happo-One (pronounced On Ay), spreading across 220 hectares. The highest run is 2,696 m and spreads to four base areas providing everything advanced skiers could want: steep runs, high vertical drops, and powder runs. There are opportunities for beginners as well but this resort is best suited for intermediate and advanced skiers.

Adult Lift Ticket: ¥5,200 ($46.00)

Senior Lift Ticket: ¥4,700 ($41.00)


Cortina has become synonymous with powder skiing for Hakuba enthusiasts. The resort receives the highest and driest snowfall in the valley and usually gets nearly twice as much snow as neighboring resorts. The snow patrol at Cortina are quite relaxed, and off-piste skiing is not an issue.

Adult Lift Ticket 1 Day ¥4,000 ($35.00)

Senior Lift Ticket 1 Day ¥3,200 ($28.00)

Alternatively, visitors can buy the Hakuba All Valley Pass which gives pass holders access to all 11 resorts.


The Evergreen Outdoor Center is the largest international ski school in Hakuba and offers English language lessons with certified instructors on Happo-One.


You can get all your rental gear at Central Snow Sports. They have several locations throughout Hakuba and have very knowledgeable and friendly English speaking staff.

Basic Ski Rental Package: Approximately ¥4,000 per day ($35.00)

Where to stay?

Happo Village has everything you need for a comfortable stay in Hakuba: proximity to the resorts, best restaurants, hot springs, and public transportation.

Marillen Hotel

Only in Japan: Marillen is an Austrian-themed hotel in the heart of the Hakuba Valley. Credit: Hakuba.com

The Austrian-themed Marillen Hotel sits on the Nakiyama slope and is one of the few true ski-in-ski out hotels in the Hakuba Valley. The Austrian theme stretches  to the food with schnitzel and pretzels served while a fire roars and live musical acts perform in the après bar. Nakiyama even offers night skiing if you find the energy for a few extra runs after dinner.


Soaking in a Japanese hot spring after a long day on the slopes is a terrific way to relax. Be advised,  it’s customary to bathe in the nude. It may feel daunting to walk into a public onsen at first but the experience is well worth any initial awkwardness. There are multiple onsens within Happo-Village, and they cost approximately ¥600 ($5.50) per visit.

Off the Slopes

Join a day tour and soak in the rich Japanese culture and visit the world famous snow monkeys. This full day tour takes you from Hakuba to Nagano City where you’ll stop at Zenkoji, an eighth century Buddhist temple. Many believe the first Buddhist sculpture ever brought to Japan remains within this sacred building. After touring the temple, you’ll be taken to the snow monkey park where you’ll be able to see the only monkeys in the world known to bathe in hot springs.

For more information, click here for the Hakuba Valley site.

The Cortina resort offers lots of snow and powder opportunities. Credit: Hakuba.com



  1. Jim McDonald says:

    Re: Happo-one, “The highest run is 2,696 m”

    This is “slightly” misleading.
    The peak of Mt Karamatsu is at 2,696m, but the high point of lift-served skiing at Happo-one (pronounced Oh Nay, just btw) is 1,831m, a considerable difference.
    It can take two hours or more to reach the peak from the top lift at Happo-one in summer; in winter, you need to be very fit and quite experienced.

    • …there’s nothing like some “local knowledge”…thank you mr mcdonald…i am headed to japan to ski for the first time, with a tour/group (powder recon), in late february…based in morioka, and skiing iwate, miyagi, aomori etc…any other helpful hints ?….thanks again…lm

      • Did you learn what skiing in late February is like?
        We’re contemplating a Japan ski trip and want to include touring.
        What was your experience?

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