Hands down one of the most memorable moments of our lives, was seeing snow for the first time together. We spent the entire month of March 2017 exploring Japan. During the planning stage of our trip, we knew we wanted to spend a few days further north, in a beautiful snowy town. It took us a while to find the perfect location, but we eventually discovered Hakuba Japan Ski Resort.
Seeing snow has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Living in Australia definitely limits our options when it comes to experiencing snow, because it generally only falls in certain places on the East Coast. So when we were planning our trip to Japan, we locked in a couple of days for snow on our itinerary.
Table of Contents
- A Day at Hakuba Japan Ski Resort, Nagano
- Catching the bus to Hakuba, Nagano
- Things to do in Hakuba Ski Resort
- 1. Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium
- 2. Explore the streets of Hakuba Ski Resort
- 3. Skiing or Snowboarding at Hakuba, Happo-One
- 4. Enjoy lunch with a view
- 5. Build a snowman
- Photos from Hakuba Ski Resort Japan
- Pin for later!
A Day at Hakuba Japan Ski Resort, Nagano
Hakuba is located in the Northern Japan Alps, near Nagano, and was host to the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Hakuba is a highly sought after village during snow season, as it is home to 9 sky resorts and has far more advanced ski and snowboard slopes than anywhere else in Japan.
We decided to check out the Hakuba Japan Ski Resort Happo One. This is where the fun really started!
The snow season in Hakuba runs from December to April. We visited in the middle of March, and there was still a ton of snow and even some fresh snowfall! There are quite a few accomodation options within the town of Hakuba and even up on the Happo One Ski Resort, so if you would prefer to stay right up amongst the action, have a browse through these villas, lodges and apartments!
Catching the bus to Hakuba, Nagano
The closest and most accessible town to Hakuba is Nagano. This is the perfect home base, and where we stayed for two nights. If you choose to stay in Nagano, you’ll need to start your journey to Hakuba at the Nagano Train Stations. Google Maps can help you get there from your hotel.
Head up the escalator to the right of Starbucks, then find your way to east end of the station. There’s another set of escalators heading down and back outside again. Once you’re out of the station, turn to your left and you’ll see a long line of bus stops. Look for bus stop #26, where the Alpico Express bus to Hakuba departs from.
Cost: 1,800 yen each way
Duration: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Departure Times: roughly every hour from 8:30am – 8:30pm
Things to do in Hakuba Ski Resort
Whether you decide to snowboard, ski or simply enjoy the snow, there are plenty of things to do in Hakuba. We opted to just walk around and experience the beautiful snow covered town, mainly due to the fact that we couldn’t afford any of the winter activities. They are fairly expensive if you are on a budget, costing around $50 for a full day skiing or snowboarding package.
We still found plenty of fun (and cheap) things to do though, so keep reading to find out about our day at Hakuba Ski Resort.
1. Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium
We already knew we wouldn’t be able to do any of the winter activities, so we wanted to find something just as fun, for a quarter of the price. I had waited to see snow for most of my life, and we didn’t want to just spend a couple of hours wandering around the town.
We came across a place called the Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium. Like we mentioned earlier, Hakuba was home to the 1998 Winter Olympics, and the Ski Jumping Stadium is still there today! For 460 yen (adults) and 280 yen (children), you’ll have access to the most incredible views of Hakuba. Once you’re at the top, you’ll be able to admire the view for as long as your heart desires.
We were both amazed at view, and for such a small price, it was definitely a highlight of our entire time in Japan. There are three different indoor floors, plus two outdoor viewing platforms (where the athletes jumped from during the Olympics). We climbed the most terrifying stairs in the entire world, to the very top platform. Although it was easily the most horrifying experience of my life, it was also something neither of us will forget. The views we were rewarded with were breathtaking, and it was absolutely a life-long dream come true!
The above photo probably doesn’t do those stairs justice. But take my word for it: it was absolutely terrifying and something I’ll probably never want to do again!
If you’re keen to learn about the history of the 1998 Winter Olympics, all three floors of the Ski Jumping Stadium have a small museum. There isn’t a huge amount on display, but it does give visitors an insight into the life of an Olympic athlete. You’ll be able to see some of the cool ski wear and equipment the athletes used.
If you’re low on cash or aren’t interested in skiing or snowboarding, we highly recommend checking out the Ski Jumping Stadium. It’s an awesome, cheap way to experience breathtaking views of Hakuba Ski Resort, and is guaranteed to blow your mind.
We are happy to report that our first time seeing snow, was one that we will never forget.
Cost: 460 yen (adults), 280 yen (children)
Duration: As long as you like! There’s no time limit once you’ve paid for your ticket
Opening Hours: 8:30am – 4:30pm (April 12 – November 30), 9am – 3:30pm (Early December – March 31)
2. Explore the streets of Hakuba Ski Resort
Other than admiring the views of Hakuba from the Ski Jumping Stadium, simply walking around the town is an experience in itself. You’ll see dozens of people climbing the steep slopes, decked out in their ski or snowboard gear. We’ve gotta say, it looks super impressive, and I’m kind of glad we weren’t able to participate in the winter activities. I would have definitely made myself look like the uncoordinated person that I am.
If you turn down some of the side streets, you’ll come across some beautiful snow covered buildings. If you’ve never seen snow before, this is another great way to take it all in without risking your life skiing down snow covered slopes.
As soon as we got off the bus, we quickly learned just how beautiful Hakuba really is. I couldn’t stop taking photos. That could be beacause I’m a photo-taking-a-holic, but it’s definitely because I had waited my entire life to see snow! Either way, you’re definitely going to need a fully charged camera when visiting Hakuba Japan Ski Resort!
Take some time to wander through the streets, taking as many photos as your heart desires. You’ll be glad you did, when you can look back on all of those beautiful photos once you’re home from Japan.
3. Skiing or Snowboarding at Hakuba, Happo-One
If you are interested in participating in some winter activities, there are plenty of options available in the Happo-One area of Hakuba. You’ll find a ton of slopes for a variety of skill levels. There are lots of stores selling and renting skiing or snowboarding gear, so if you forget to bring your own, don’t worry, they’ve got you covered.
From what we could tell, the average cost for a full day skiing or snowboarding package was around 5,000 yen. Included in this price is generally your ski lift access, ski or snowboard boots and equipment, and access to the slopes for the entire day. Like we mentioned earlier, we didn’t have enough money at this point during our stay in Japan, so we decided to skip the slopes.
4. Enjoy lunch with a view
There are a lot of cafes and restaurants in Hakuba for a bite to eat, and best of all? They all come with incredible views! There are a ton of food options available, from burgers and fries to pizza and salad. Take a stroll around the town and I’m positive you will come across the perfect restaurant to enjoy a beautiful snowy lunch.
5. Build a snowman
I’ll be honest: our attempt at this was embarrassing. We were on our way to catch the return bus back to our hotel in Nagano, and I realised I hadn’t built a snowman yet. We didn’t have time to go all out and create a full-size snowman with a carrot nose, so we opted for a miniature snowman instead.
If you have more time, there are plenty of places to get creative and build your very own snowman! Just make sure yours is better than our (well, my) poor attempts. Yes, mine is that hideous excuse for a snowman on the left.
Photos from Hakuba Ski Resort Japan
Have you visited Happo One or Hakuba before? If not, where did you experience snow for the first time? Tell me in the comments below! And don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family.
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