The Japanese Alps have long attracted discerning skiers from all over the world – and no wonder. The majestic mountains offer consistent powder snow, easy logistics and all the facilities needed, ranging from luxury chalets to fine-dining restaurants. Niseko has long been the go-to destination for foreign visitors wanting to go skiing in Japan, but Hakuba is fast gaining traction. Before booking your next ski break in Niseko, check out why some are saying “Hakuba is the new Niseko”.
First things first: Just like Niseko, Hakuba offers great skiing. With 9 world-class ski resorts and over 200 different trails to choose from, Hakuba is bound to satisfy even the most die-hard snow bunnies. Hakuba gained global fame after hosting the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. What many people don’t realise, however, is that the area has been welcoming skiers for over 70 years. Though a never-ending debate exists about the skiing conditions in Hakuba versus Niseko, Hakuba does in fact offer consistent powder snow with the annual snowfall averaging at 11 metres.
Curious about what the conditions in Hakuba are really like? Check out Hakuba Tourism’s live cameras from the resorts.
Compared to the very sought-after Niseko, Hakuba offers an affordable option for those hunting for the perfect powder. To give some perspective, let’s look at the price of lift passes. The Hakuba Valley Ticket is priced at 14,900 yen (USD $90) for a three-day pass. In Niseko, you can get a three-day Niseko United ticket for 19,800 yen. The same goes for food and accommodation: it’s easier to score better deals in Hakuba.
Hakuba is located some 300 kilometres northwest of Tokyo, with a super-efficient bullet train running between Tokyo and Nagano. From there, you can catch either a bus or a local train to the Hakuba station. The whole journey takes about 3,5 hours. For more detailed information, check out our previous post on how to get to Hakuba. The smooth logistics also hold true within the resorts themselves, with reliable free shuttle bus service taking you between your accommodation and lifts and restaurants.
Feel of the Real Japan
Compared to Niskeo, Hakuba maintains the feel of an authentic Japanese village. This might be a pro or a con depending on the kind of traveller you are. If you’re looking to do some wild partying with other foreigners after hitting the slopes, Niseko might be your best bet. If, however, you’re looking to relax and actually experience the local culture, Hakuba is a better fit.
Hakuba doesn’t offer the same vibrant nightlife as Niseko, but is home to countless onsen hotsprings and Izakaya style restaurants. If you want to get your hands dirty, you can also join classes in everything from soba noodle making to folding origamis.
Accommodation a Plenty
There’s great accommodation available in Hakuba, no matter what your budget is. You can find everything from no-nonsense ski huts and lavish luxury chalets. We love the ease of a ski in /ski out chalet – the aptly named Slopeside Chalet is one of our favourites. For more inspiration, you can check out our chalets in Hakuba or go for the very best: the 7 best chalets in Hakuba.
Though Hakuba is first and foremost a ski destination, the area offers plenty to do during the summer months as well. Regardless of the time of year, the scenery is simply sublime. Some would even argue that the mountains of Hakuba are more imposing and more majestic than those in Niseko. Some of Hakuba’s summertime highlights include hiking through Hakuba Valley and kayaking at Lake Aoki. Visiting the 500-year-old Matsumoto Castle is a spellbindingly beautiful experience any time of year.
Interested? Read more about what’s happening in Hakuba during the summer season.