Japanese Alps - Hakuba's Playground - MountainWatch Travel

Japan | Hakuba

Japanese Alps – Hakuba’s Playground

Nestled amongst the towering Japanese Alps, Hakuba’s playground is an absolute delight for those who love to get deep into the mountains and far away from the commercial ski resorts. For anyone who has been to Hakuba this is quite obvious, as every time you take in the view from the village or resorts you can see endless backcountry terrain. This terrain is the significant difference between Hakuba and Niseko, as Niseko is located on Mt Annupuri which is not part of a large mountain chain. Hakuba also enjoys more bluebird days after its storm cycles which is more conducive to going well off piste.

The photo below was shot off the North face of Happo One in February 2013. Not only does it show a snowboarder shredding a pretty cool backcountry line, the background shows the endless amount of options out there. And this is only a shot in one direction, terrain like this can be seen on all points of the compass.

hakuba japanese alps

Pic Andrew Fawcett.


Naturally with this kind of terrain comes a considerable degree of danger. Every year people are injured in avalanches, with fatalities not uncommon. While this doesn’t mean you should stay clear of the backcountry, it does mean you should treat it with respect and take the proper precautions and preparation before heading out. Companies such as Evergreen Outdoor Centre and a host of smaller guiding operations such as Hakuba Mountainlife offer tours into the backcountry in the hands of seasoned experts. There are also a number of introductory and advanced avalanche safety courses run in Hakuba throughout the season for those looking to build their avalanche safety skills. This knowledge is priceless as it may save your or your mates life one day, so we highly recommend taking at least an introductory course on avalanche safety.

Hakuba’s terrain has lured many international skiers and snowboarders in over the years, with a number even liking it so much that they have moved there for good. These guys are personalities of the village and are the number 1 source of local information. One such ‘local’ is Bill Glude, a professional guide for Evergreen Outdoor centre. With 30+ years of avalanche experience and pretty much every experience and qualification attainable in North America there’s no one better to show you the best skiing/snowboarding of your life.

The best time to experience of this is during late February, March and April of each season. The constant storms that make venturing into the backcountry in January and early Feb take a bit of a break, and some clear days will feature. This is great news for your wallet because flights and accommodation are much cheaper in March! We have 7 night packages from $1095 on offer in March, however if you want accommodation and transfer packages without the lift tickets so you can use your legs instead just let us know!


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