8 ways to get the most out of Spring skiing in Hakuba, Japan


Whether confined to school or work holidays or simply set on getting as many ski trips into the season as possible, a spring ski holiday definitely has it`s quirks. While warmer temperatures, sunnier skies and perhaps less crowds are definite pluses to skiing later in the season, slushier snow and fewer open slopes are some of the drawbacks. Destination choice is therefore extremely important, so for those that find themselves pondering their options for next April, here are 8 ways to get the most out of spring skiing in Hakuba, Japan.

1.Ski top to bottom at Hakuba47

The warmer temperatures that spring time brings does no favours for the snow on the lower slopes, and eventually we loose terrain as they give way to the grass. Fortunately, while this is the case for the other mountains in the Hakuba Valley, Hakuba47`s north facing resort means that you can still ski to the valley floor well into the spring. This makes it is a great choice for those looking for a lengthly decent, milage and a change of scenery. The top of the gondola is well positioned half way up the mountain where you will find several beginner runs, a cafe, a restaurant and a terrain park. This makes it a great choice for lower level skiers as well, with a great view of the townsite too.

2. Ski the morning at Happo One with lunch at Pilar

While Happo is not a beginners mountain, it does have a handful of slopes and facilities open during the spring time; Skyline is great for novice levels and above, while Alpen and Grat provide the chance to ski something steeper or even get into the moguls. While there may not be enough terrain to support a full day on the slopes, a long morning followed by a lunch at Pilar – a beautifully appointed French restaurant at the top of the Alpen Quad – is time well spent. There is also an outdoor Corona bar at the top of the gondola for thirsty skiers, and when the weather cooperates and you know where to look (south), then Mount Fuji can be viewed from the top of the Grat Quad lift. A sunny day is ideal for a visit to Happo, so it is best to choose your day accordingly.

3. Backcountry touring

Notably not something for everyone, but pretty special for those that are partial to ski touring. While the snow at lower elevations is melting, there is ample terrain in the backcountry and often good snow to be sought out. It could be smooth `spring corn` or you may be lucky enough to get powder, but the experience as a whole is both beautiful and adventurous. Happo and Tsugaike have many backcountry touring options, and typically the later in the season – the more hiking is required. As always, if you do not have the necessary skills, knowledge or equipment to be in big avalanche terrain – where both natural and skier triggered avalanches frequently occur – hire a professional guide. Evergreen Backcountry Guides is a good place to find one.

4. Snowshoe Tsugaike

Skiing and snowboarding aside, snowshoeing is a great way to get into Japan`s Northern Alps and momentarily slip back into winter. Above the ski area, Tsugaike`s ropeway opens mid-March and takes you up to the Shizenyen; a picturesque plateau in the foreground of Mt Hakuba. Here would be an idea place to go for a snowshoe or even stop for a picnic. Being immersed in these mountains is nothing short of dramatic, and the elevation and volume of snow can`t help but make you feel worlds apart from the warming valley below. This is something that you could either do by yourself or hire a guide for.

5. Take the gondola up Iwatake

Though the first resort in the valley to fully close it`s slopes as spring takes a hold, Iwatake`s ace is a strong one. It is the only resort to offer 360 degree panoramic views, showing the best of the townsite, Happo`s north faces, Hakuba`s three peaks and the other resorts in the valley. New in 2018 Hakuba Mountain Harbour provides the prime location to sit and soak it all in, with it`s outdoor seating area, great coffee, freshly baked goods and craft beer. For those with children there are spots to sled, tube and even indulge in some snow play! The top of Iwatake is a must for a sunny day and due to it`s extremely easy access – one short gondola ride to the top – it is suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

6. Picnic at Oide

One of the great things about skiing in Japan is that you get so much more than just a ski holiday. With a culture unlike any other on the planet and four very distinct seasons, there is as much to do off of the slopes during spring time as there is on. If you feel the need to balance the skiing with something lower key, then Oide park is worth a visit. Understated, this cherry blossom framed park is the perfect spot for a picnic, offering the lesser seen view looking back towards the mountains from the far side of the valley. The scattering of thatched roofed traditional buildings and suspension bridge that straddles the Princess river can`t help but make you feel as if you`re somewhere quintessentially Japanese. An easy 3 minutes walk up the hill behind the park will provide even more impressive views of the Alps and river in the foreground.

7. Visit a shrine or temple

Staying along the cultural/historical theme, there is no shortage of quaint and atmospheric Shinto shrines and Buddist temples to visit in and around Hakuba. Seldom busy and surprisingly un-touristic, most of these are shrouded by tall cedar trees and, you guessed it, cherry blossoms. For many, the most aesthetically pleasing time to visit is indeed the Spring. Though there are much bigger and more frequently visited shrines found all across Japan, these local ones support the framework for the history of this region.

8. Onsen at Hakuba Highland Hotel

No ski trip to Japan is complete without sliding into an Onsen, AKA traditional hot spring. While Hakuba does indeed have many, the one located at The Hakuba Highland Hotel is unparalleled in it`s views from the outdoor bath. Slightly elevated and on the east side of the valley, you can soak in the water and cast your eyes over almost the entire valley; it`s villages, ski resorts and dramatic white capped peaks behind. It looks beautiful at any time of the day though the mountains do become backlit by the sun later in the afternoon, so before that is preferable; unless of course you`re after a glimpse of the night sky.

Nadine Robb is Owner and Instructor at Hakuba Ski Concierge. Hakuba Ski Concierge is a boutique ski school in Hakuba, Japan.

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Comments (10)

  1. Carolyn says:

    I’m not as young as I once was. Nowadays skiing takes its toll on my body. Maybe I need to go somewhere with an Onsen. Would be good if some hot natural springs could work some restorative magic on my broken aching body.

    • Nadine says:

      Absolutely Carolyn – it is amazing what a good soak and stretch after a day on the slopes can do to your body!

  2. Jeff G says:

    As I’m not the best skier in the world it appeals to me that there are other things on offer. I enjoy skiing in moderation but the idea of a lengthy picnic lunch or a visit to a temple or shrine appeals. Essentially, I like to ski in the morning and then do something else for the rest of the day.

    • Nadine Robb says:

      I can definitely relate Jeff, and we are very lucky that there are so many other scenic, cultural and sporting options available to us in Hakuba aside from skiing.

  3. Alison Williams says:

    I had never really considered Japan as a skiing destination though I’m very keen to see the country.

    Living in the UK it is a long way to travel so when I do go I need to make the most of it. I’m encouraged that you can still get a taste of Japan’s culture and cuisine whilst enjoying a few days of great skiing.

    • Nadine Robb says:

      Hi Allison, thank you for your comment. It really is a long way from the UK, especially as the European Alps are so close. The cultural aspects really are the point of difference for Japan, as well as the volume of snow that we get here every year; I believe that makes the trip well worth it!

  4. Simon says:

    A few of my buddies have been telling me about skiing in Japan. Maybe Hakuba in spring could be a possibly. Cheers for the info.

    • Nadine Robb says:

      Very welcome Simon. Mid- winter definitely offers the powder bounty, while spring times gives the perfect blend of the above. It very much depends on what your goals and time frames are. Enjoy if you manage to make it over here!

  5. Anna Hassan says:

    Looks amazing! My cousins are going over soon, I’ll have to see if they visit Iwatake

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