Why Our Family Loves to Ski Hakuba, Japan

Photo courtesy Japanskiexperience.co.uk

A Brave Ski Mom Interview with Maryann, a brave ski mom of three living in Hong Kong. 

If you could only ski at one resort this season with your family, which resort would you choose?

Hakuba, Japan!

Why Hakuba?

We choose where we ski based on the time of year we are traveling.

Japan is our choice for a short break – when the kids don’t have that much time out of school and we don’t have time to deal with jet lag. Japan is near enough to Hong Kong, it is easy to get flights, and Hakuba has great varied runs.  Hakuba is also still Japanese unlike Niseko which is so Westernized that we don’t even feel like we are in Japan.

What makes Hakuba good for family skiing?

The gorgeous long runs! Every run has something for everyone and the fact that there are actually numerous resorts within a 20 minute bus ride is a bonus. If we want to try something else we can.

What would you improve at Hakuba to make it even better for family skiing? 

The chairs are old – more safety bars on them would make me happier!

Are there any “secrets” are you willing to share about Hakuba? 

Study the trail maps well before you head out to ski. There are several flat sections that the boarders in our family aren’t fans of and that little skiers can have trouble with!  There are ways to avoid them but planning is required.

Photo courtesy Skiworld.co.uk

What advice would you give other families before they come to Hakuba?

Rent a place or book a room at one of the lodges near a chairlift. There are lots of them that are very convenient and easy to get to and from.  Also try to stay somewhere on the free bus or shuttle line so that if you want to travel a little for meals or to the other mountains nearby its nice and easy.

Where do you like to eat?

My kids fell in love with all the Japanese curry places on this mountain!

What about lodging?

We rent as near to the chairlifts as possible.  This year we choose a 2 bedroom villa, but we loved the apartment we stayed in previously. There are many options.

Photo courtesy travelwithkidz.com.au

What makes Hakuba unique?

Moguls – oh my!

I have never seen so many of them on one mountain. There are ways to avoid them but there are just so many!

What is your favorite memory of Hakuba?

Perfect snowball fights at the end of the day.

When did your family start skiing?

My daughter first tried skiing when she was 3 in Winter Park, Colorado. She didn’t get back on the snow until she was 8.5 years old. My boys were 3 at the time.  They all loved it so much that they have begged to go skiing every year since then!

Do you have any tips to share with other parents? 

Helmets are a complete must-have!  I’m always surprised at the number of kids that ski without helmets.  As my children have gotten bigger and ski in different weather, pit zips and helmet vents have become other must-haves.

Do you have a favorite family skiing memory?

I learned to ski when I was 36. The first time I was confident enough, and the kids were all good enough, to ski as a family was great fun!  We have made lots of great memories since then, but one of the best is skiing with another family and having a massive snowball fight partway down a run when the faster skiers in the group decided to ambush the slower ones!

What do you enjoy most about family skiing?

I love watching their faces light up when they think about the snow and the great times they have had on it and the confidence it has given them.  They all worked hard to be good at it and they all still love to take lessons.  As one of their favorite instructors said, “there is always something to learn until you bring home an Olympic gold.”.

Photo courtesy tokyoroomfinder.blogspot.com

The Brave Ski Mom adds…

Thank you Maryann! When I think of Japan I think of powder. I didn’t know about the moguls.

Hakuba is located in the Japanese Northern Alps in the Nagano prefecture, about 300 km (187 miles) northwest of Tokyo. Nagano was the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. Ski jumping, Downhill and Super G were held at Hakuba.

There are 10 ski resorts in the Hakuba valley, with over 200 runs and 130 lifts. For more information on skiing at Hakuba, try the Hakuba Goryu website. This site has everything you need to know – lift tickets, lodging information and a link to the multi-lingual snowsports school. While the relationship between the resorts in the Hakuba Valley is confusing, a ticket for Hakuba Goryu provides access to Hakuba 47.

Another useful site is SnowJapan.com. Here is their resort profile for Hakuba Goryu, as well as Hakuba Norikura Onsen (which provides access to Hakuba Cortina Kokusai).

While these websites were less helpful, they are still interesting, especially if you are looking to book a holiday through a tour company:

  1. Tourism Commission: Hakuba Official Site
  2. Hakuba Tourism
  3. Hakuba Village (has snow reports and hot springs information)
  4. Ski Hakuba Japan

If you have experience skiing at Hakuba, or elsewhere in Japan, please share your tips, recommendations and insights. I would love to learn more from you!


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