If you were to choose just one location to ride for the rest of your life Hakuba would probably be it. Situated in the Nagano prefecture, Hakuba’s huge valley is occupied by 10-interconnected ski resorts which opens-up 960 hectares of rideable terrain. If it’s powder you seek, this place has 11 metres on tap each season. If it’s parks you feel like hot-lapping, there’s nine of those too, in all shapes and sizes including the famed Happo-banks. If it’s long, cruisey runs loaded with side hits, there’s a never-ending network of those too. Hakuba also has some of the steepest backcountry terrain Japan has to offer, so if you feel like hitting big pillows and windlips, you’ll find that here too.
Introducing the Experts
He might have started out in the frozen streets hitting handrails but human-beanstalk Richie Carroll took a different approach to his riding not long after his first trip to Hokkaido and is now a proven pow-convertee, frequenting places like Hakuba, Myoko and Niseko year after year.
A snowboarder who needs no introduction, YES rider Clint Allan knows exactly where and when to score in either Hokkaido or on Honshu. His word has somewhat become gospel in the realms of Japanese snowboarding.
Few westerners have the knowledge of Japan’s snow covered regions like Quentin Nolan. Which is why he started his own booking company Liquidsnow and has been pointing people in the direction of powder for some time now.
According to the Experts
What attracted you to ride this part of Japan?
When I arrived in Hakuba, my mind was instantly blown with how steep the terrain was and how easily accessible so much of it is. Previously I’d spent time on Hokkaido, and this proved a lot more difficult to find there. I go back every year now no matter what circumstance I’m in … I’ve lost girlfriends, careers and a ton of money to Hakuba. so far, no regrets! – Richie Carroll
Top places to ride in the region when the snow is on?
Cortina really turns it on on a powder day but it is also the most popular so can get a little crowded. Norikura resort is just next door to Cortina so gets the same quality snow with hardly anyone riding it. There are some good stashes at Happo One if you know where to find them as well as Hakuba47 and Tsugaike. – Quentin Nolan
Top things to do when it’s not?
I like Jacks Sports Bar for a beer after riding. The Rabbit Hole is mental, as well as Sharaku restaurant for some sake and sashimi, it’s always a favourite. – Clint Allan
Hakuba Heat is an old abandoned hotel where you can shoot your mates with air rifles. There are also heaps of great onsen’s throughout the villages, some with some pretty spectacular views of the Valley. – Quentin Nolan
What type of conditions do you need for an epic day on the mountain here?
Hot tip – when the winds are blowing from the North, head straight to Cortina! – Richie Carroll
It doesn’t get as cold as up north with quite a few bluebirds throughout Jan and Feb so even if it’s not snowing you can still get out and enjoy the groomers or one of parks. – Quentin Nolan
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone heading to ride here?
Make sure you take the right board! There’s nothing worse than standing at the top of an epic powder field and you’re struggling to get your board going because you’re sinking on a 152 jib stick that hasn’t seen a wax iron in over 5 years. Splurge out and invest in a powder/all mountain board. Something like a shorter, fatter board with a fishtail or something forgiving. – Richie Carrol
What’s your travel hack tip to getting here?
By locking in your trip with one of the expert travel providers you can get your trip locked away for the same cost or cheaper than booking everything yourself, but the convenience of having it all combined to work out smoothy with the best connections, then have support on the ground. – Quentin Nolan
Best place to stay for a weary snowboarder?
The Springs Hotel is my place of choice to stay. It’s about a three-minute walk to the chairlift, close to all the good shops, restaurants and bars and they’ve got good beds. I’m all about immersing myself in different cultures and enjoying new experiences but when it comes to my sleep there’s no compromising. No tatami mat on the floor for me … I’ll take a Queen bed any day of the week. – Richie Carroll
Any last local secrets you care to share?
If you fancy easily earning your turns and Splitboard or snowshoeing, there are some incredible places to find off the side of the road if you keep driving past Cortina and take a right in between two tunnels. – Clint Allan
If I earned my turns I’d go here …
Get a chair up Happo One and drop the North Face – Richie
Happo One back bowls – Clint
Tsugaike – Quentin
If I had a briefcase full of cash I’d make sure I’d …
I’d go cat boarding in Myoko – Richie
Eat at Mini’s and heli out of Tsugaike – Clint
Stay at Phoenix and eat at Mimi’s Restaurant – Quentin
I couldn’t leave my kids at home so I took them riding at …
Happo One – Richie
The bottom lifts at Happo One – Clint
Happo One as it’s easy – Quentin
Sometimes I feel like cutting a few park laps so I head to …
Hakuba47 – Richie
Hakuba47 – Clint
Hakuba47 for the big hits, Happo Banks for some more mellow ones – Quentin
I’ve got the need for speed, where’s those long groomers at …
Happo One, on Happo Banks – Richie
Happo One – Clint
Happo One has the longest runs at around 8kms – Quentin
According to the stats
Annual Average Snowfall: 11m
Number of Resorts: 10
Terrain Parks: 9
Longest Run: 8km
Ability Terrain Mix:
Season Start: Late November
Season End: Early May