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Possibly the best skiing in all of Asia is just a three-hour bullet train trip from Tokyo. The Hakuba Valley gained international fame after hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics and now attracts thousands of foreign visitors every year. But when is the best time to visit? That entirely depends on your personality and interests.
The Hakuba Valley
Powder Chaser (January)
Japan, and Hakuba in particular, has gained a reputation among international skiers for being a great powder snow destination. Snow fall varies greatly from year to year (anywhere from 5m to 15m) but Hakuba receives among the most in Japan.
January is by far is the best month for fresh powder snow and those visiting should head to Cortina – Hakuba’s premiere powder snow resort. With so much snow falling in January, you should prepare for longer waits and more traffic.
International Competition Enthusiast – (January 19 – January 26)
For the second year in a row, Hakuba will host the Free Ride World Tour, the prestigious international backcountry ski and boarding competition.
50 of the world’s best freeriders across four categories – ski men, ski women, snowboard men, and snowboard women – will compete across three continents on five of the most epic backcountry alpine runs in the world. If you enjoy international competition and the associated festivities, plan your trip to Hakuba around the Free Ride World Tour.
Thrifty Traveller (early to mid-March)
Despite getting plenty of powder in early March, most hotels and chalets in Hakuba discount their properties, sometimes by as much as 25%. The snow quality decreases towards late March, but there will certainly be enough snow to ski.
Cherry Blossom Seeker (early to mid-April)
Travel towards the beginning of April to sneak a bit of skiing into your cherry blossom trip. There are plenty of amazing places near Hakuba to see the cherry blossom, including Matsumoto, Kanazawa and Karuizawa – easily accessible with a Japan Rail Pass. You won’t have powder days like January and February but visitors can ski the upper portions of the resorts until the first week of May.
Outdoor Enthusiast (Summer)
Hakuba’s green season is a great time for hikers, mountain bikers, cyclists and nature lovers. As the snow retreats, beautiful green colours return to the valley and the pace of life in Happo-Village slows to a crawl – perfect for those looking for a quiet retreat in the woods. Several restaurants, bars and cafés do remain open during this time and several companies offer adventure tours ranging from paragliding to kayaking.
For find out more about the Hakuba Valley, including information on restaurants, resorts, trail maps and snow forecasts, visit www.hakuba.com. Or visit www.mountainwatch.com/Japan/Hakuba for the latest snow reports.
Go skiing in the Hakuba Valley as part of a longer Japan trip on our Winter Sports & Culture Self-Guided Adventure. As well as taking to the slopes, you’ll meet snow monkeys, stay in a traditional ryokan and explore cities Tokyo and Kyoto.