News and Events

Mt Hutt ‘all systems go’ for 40th season opening (13-Jun-13)
Immaculately groomed slopes and a genuinely warm welcome await avid skiers and snowboarders.....

Queenstown’s Coronet Peak ski area first to open in Australasia (10-Jun-13)
Queenstown’s Coronet Peak ski area today (June 8) celebrated in style as the first Australasian ski field to open for winter....

Coronet Peak first ski area in Australasia to open on Saturday (05-Jun-13)
Queenstown is officially open for winter as the 2013 season kicks off at Coronet Peak on Saturday (June 8).

Ski Areas Go Out With A Bang! (27-Sep-12)
Season extension and half price passes

Simon's Blog - Hakuba (24-Mar-10)

Hakuba, Japan, March 24, 2010 - Simon's Adventures in Hakuba, Japan

 

Happo One

 

We’ve left behind Nozawa and made our way to the valley of Hakuba, which I think has more ski resorts than Roppongi has karaoke bars.  The drive from Nagano tracked beside a really beautiful, bright green river (please no one spoil the image and tell me this is the result of industrial waste), which was quickly contrasted against the big, white mountain ranges that spread out as far as the eye could see.

 

We’re laying our heads down at The Lab, which could just as easily be called The Hub.  If it really is an experiment then it’s a successful one, jam packed with riders all spinning tall tales and true from their days on one of the huge number of ski hills.  Expectations were high as we shut our eyes.

Happo One

Well… Happo One… first day on snow in Hakuba. It became apparent real quick that we had walked directly into what we’re told is the busiest weekend of the year. Happo is a pretty big bad boy, significantly bigger than Nozawa. (21 lifts access 176 hectares with a vertical of over 1,000 metres) but the lift queues were still longer than a line for UN food aid. And when all those well-dressed Japanese skiers made it on to the slopes, in conjunction with a big wind blowing pretty hard up top, the crowds quickly skied off most of the new snow.  Despite the crowds though there were still plenty of good turns to be had across the morning.

 

Before landing here I had visions of complete Japanese proprietary, rules everywhere and everyone abiding by them but uh-uh.  In a country so constrained and conformed how can the lift lines be such a random gathering?  Old ladies – grandmas - cheekily cutting in, no one ensuring that lifts are full when there are a hundred people waiting, sending up singles?  Singles??  Who’s running this show? Best option: chalk it all up to cultural differences take your lead from the locals and keep sliding.

Riding Happo One

It’s amazing how soothing sushi and sake can be and a belly full of the best raw fish that Hakuba has to offer has me tres content.  And on top of that it’s snowing outside so I’m hoping that when we hit up Iwatake in the morning it will be a Batman and Robin comic.  Pow! Pow! Pow! KaPOW!

 

Ps while some rules here seem to be only loosely and arbitrarily enforced, idle threats to confiscate lift passes for transgressions involving out of bounds areas are much less idle than they are threat.  Tread with caution.

 

Pps still no encounters with pretty girls whose dad’s own mountains.

 

Iwatake.

 

The good thing about Hakuba is the valley is chock full o’ resorts.  If one doesn’t tickle your fancy you can take your fancy elsewhere. Today we took our fancy to Iwatake, bit smaller than yesterday’s Happo but still no small fry.

Snowman

The snow was alright with packed powder for the part but strangely enough it’s getting hot in here and I almost have to take off all my clothes.  The untimely heat that has seen me opt for the spring gloves is making for some springy kinda conditions down low. Spring huh? Fortunately the hill was high enough so that the snow was firm at the top and the crowds were lighter.  The Japanese definitely don’t put themselves about too much; they pretty much stay exactly where they are told.  That means that the good news for us was that with a little ingenuity we were able to milk some fresh tracks with just a small amount of work.

 

Maybe it’s down to the force of holding edges when we thought Japan would be floating on bases but today will be noted as broken boot day with Luce and I both blowing out buckles.  Understandable on her 14-year old race boots but not too hot on my four day olds.  Now if it were pow as far as the eye could see (and maybe so deep that the eye couldn’t see out at all) this wouldn’t be too much of a problem but driving edges don’t like wobbling feet. 

Lift Pass

Iwatake has taken out the awards both for most technologically advanced lift ticket system and most humongous snow monster creation by a liftie. Very impressive stuff. The forecast doesn’t look like it is going to smile on us (smile being spew down with snow like a 16 year old after a cask of Fruity Lexia) so it might be time to give the edges another going over in preparation for carving up the corduroy tomorrow.

 

Goryo and Hakuba 47

 

Another bluebird day, clear and warm... just like it should be at the beach.  At least if we haven’t got feets of snow in which to undertake feats of skiing excellence we are able to see the Japanese alps in all their glory.  The views of the mountain range that spreads back up the valley are head-turningly, super spectacular.  Must be an off-pisters dream, as long as you get far away off piste that They don’t snaffle your pass.  But events have conspired to keep us in-bounds on this our last day in Hakuba so the big mountains calling out the back will have to wait for next year.

The work done by the groomers up high on Goryo made for wonderful conditions early.  Fast and furious and edgy and as Luce is the fastest, the most furious and the edgiest I spent most of the day chasing her tail around. The twin mountains of Goryo and Hakuba 47 work well and we ripped between the two of them without it feeling crowded once.  47 also offered the best lift experience of the trip thus far; two older Japanese guys singing harmonies of traditional opera in the chair behind you is an enchanting way to get back up to the top.

Hakuba Backcountry

The Japanese people have been ace all round, warm and hospitable and gracious. The old ones are sweethearts and the young ones are hip.  (And speaking of hip, the one-piece is very in here and today I must have seen 20 great versions and all of them were in different shades of brown.  After all, in Japan being in is very in.  Goryo will be noted down as the home of the one-piece.)  The energy of the old ones must be boundless according to the age they keep skiing and working till, but that might be the result of napping techniques perfected during youth.  The ability of the young Japanese cats to take lunchtime naps in the lodge in the true army style of get-it-where-you-can is really something to behold.  Slumped in the most unbelievably uncomfortable positions they must be a people of very sore necks.

Goryu Main Building

Today has been a vending machine mission; book-ended by a morning kick in the pants from the ultra-sweet Boss coffee - which comes out of the machine hot, as if by magic - and cans of Asahi as a nightcap. The ability to take of your vices via vending machine is a thing of beauty.  Uppers – check, relaxants – check, refreshments – check, now where are the underwear ones… maybe they are in Niseko.  That’s where we are heading tomorrow.   Fare thee well Hakuba.

 

Travel day

 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

 

Travel Day – supposed to be good for the body to take a day off from the schooshing and the whooping.  To heal and grow and strengthen and take stock.  All that sitting though – squirming in seats in the fruitless attempt to find that one nirvana spot – makes me feel antsy.  Maybe it would have been more fun if John Candy (RIP big fella) were plane, train and automobiling with us but its amazing how endurable discomfort can be when you’re on the way to somewhere great. And we were.

Coffe In A Can

13 hours door-to-door from Hakuba to Niseko.  In any other country it would have been at least 20 I reckon.  The wonders of Japanese punctuality and efficiency meant we stepped off one bus and into the doors of a waiting one for the next leg, from bus to plane smoothly and then bus again all with perfectly unhurried but exact timing.

 

Travel days may not be as good as ski ones but it’s at least its enforced rest and we did get to experience the Japanese highway rest stops. Uber-quirk, like all the weirdness of Japan is concentrated into the neither-here-nor-there, holding-pattern state of the rest stop.  A bizzaro place of Hello Kitty iconography, unidentifiable snacks and people looking at stuff they are never going to buy. I can’t ever remember being excited about rest stops before.

We are in Niseko though and we are all prepared to meet our respective makers on the chance that the famed sweet 'death-by-choking-on-powder' comes true. All we need now is the snow.

For more from our Fresh Peaks Ground Crew visit here

 

 

 

 
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