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Hakuba

Since the resounding success of hosting several events for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, Happō-One ski resort in Hakuba has become a popular spot with those in search of powder snow and a variety of ski runs. Thanks to the strong Siberian air sending over regular bouts of fresh snowfall to the Northern Japanese Alps, Hakuba is home to sublime skiing and snowboarding conditions. Particularly perfect from the middle of December all the way through to March, one can rely on having a great day on the scenic pistes here.

Off the slopes, one is even guaranteed a memorable experience, where one can luxuriate in a piping-hot ‘onsen’ bath surrounded by pure alpine air. This also makes for the ultimate après-ski activity – nothing beats soothing ones aching muscles in a traditional Japanese bathtub overlooking the dazzling white snowscape after a long day on the mountains!

While Hakuba is loved by national as well as international clientele, the ski resort has recently seen a large influx of westerners, so English is relatively widely spoken here. This provides a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere for those who cannot communicate in Japanese, and the various western restaurants, bars and European chalet inspired hotels that can be found dotted around this pretty area add to this homely feel.

This ski resort is ideal for all ages as there is an array of green, red and black ski runs to choose from. Alongside a range of intermediate and advanced runs, long beginner’s slopes have been created surprisingly high in the mountains so one does not miss out on the breathtaking views. Access to all the routes is easy as the main ski lifts all meet at the top, and shuttle buses run regularly around the base of the mountains. If possible, we recommend visiting Hakuba during the week in the winter months to have the slopes virtually to yourself – a rare experience anywhere – although the weekend visitors do not detract from the beauty of this place and make for a lively ambience!

Hakuba is less than an hour away from nearby Nagano and reachable via bullet train from Toyko, so makes for an easy addition to a private tour of Japan.

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