Hakuba’s picturesque mountain peaks are a vast backcountry powder skiing playground that any powderhound would be happy to explore. The towering Japanese Alps get some of the deepest, fluffiest powder snow in all of Japan.

Hakuba is a playground for the dedicated powder skier. The deep powder is world-renowned, and the terrain is some of the most varied terrain in Japan. The over 1,000m of vertical above the top of Hakuba’s resorts and the countless ridgelines, chutes, and tree skiing are the most thrilling backcountry skiing in Japan.

One of the great things about Hakuba backcountry skiing is the options for all levels, from gentle powder fields to steep tree skiing and ridgelines. So grab your avy pack and clip into your powder skis as we take you on a tour of some of Hakuba’s best backcountry skiing spots.

Backcountry safety

Backcountry skiing is an inherently dangerous sport. When you choose to ski outside the resort boundary, you must take accountability for your own safety. People die every year in avalanches in Hakuba’s backcountry. Before you head outside the resort, you must take steps to make sure you are safe in the backcountry:

  • Take a safety course
  • Check the weather forecast
  • Check the weather history
  • Read the avalanche report (Nadare.jp)
  • Carry avalanche safety gear
  • Don’t ski alone
  • Know your route
  • Communicate your plan

Backcountry tours

An experienced, reputable touring guide knows the area, weather, and snowpack history. If you are new to backcountry skiing or need to learn the area, hire a guide. A professional guide is invaluable in keeping you safe in the mountains.

Hakuba backcountry guide to the best spots

The Hakuba backcountry is almost limitless. The area has tons of ridges, bowls, and glades throughout the valley, all offering outstanding ski touring and fresh powder.

Hakuba lift accessed side country

There are several side country ski areas in Hakuba. These areas are lift accessible and technically within resort boundaries. However, they have limited or no ski patrol support and minimal avalanche control. Before skiing any of these areas, you will need to take a safety course.

Hakuba 47 tree riding zone

Best for: Lift-accessed tree skiing
Recommended for: Advanced skiers looking for steep trees and fast lap times

Hakuba 47 tree riding zone

Hakuba 47 tree riding zone

Hakuba 47 trees are some of the best in Hakuba. The tree riding zone is a big favorite with locals. It is easily accessible from the Line C high-speed quad lift and has fast lap times. The area is best for advanced skiers looking for nicely spaced trees on steeper terrain. The resort does provide some avalanche controls but will not offer patroller support.

The area is split between 2 restricted zones that require you to enter through specific gates. Copious amounts of snow usually collect in the trees during storms, and you often can’t go wrong catching early morning laps here.

To ski in the tree riding zone, you must take a safety course at the Japanese ski school. The course is free and offered in English and Japanese. Once complete, you must sign in and out and wear a Hakuba 47 bib. Anyone seen going into or out of the area without a bib may lose their pass.

Tsugaike Double Black Diamond area

Best for: Longer lift-accessed tree skiing
Recommended for: Skiers looking for longer laps and are comfortable in tight trees

The DBD zone underneath the Tsugaike Gondola is some of the best steep tree skiing in the Hakuba Valley. The trees at Tsugaike are hard to beat for advanced skiers looking for a challenge. Accessible via the Tsuga No 2 chair and the four entry gates along the ridge, skiers and boarders will have a blast slashing pow and hitting drops down to the gondola mid-station. You can quickly get in multiple laps using the gondola.

The Tsugaike’s DBD has more vertical than Hakuba 47, and the gondola offers a chance to warm up between laps on a cold day. Also, the area is much larger and gets tracked out less quickly than 47.
The safety course for the DBD area is now available as a self-watch youtube video. Watch the video as you ride the gondola (a 20-minute ride from the base), and sign the safety form when you get to the top.

The DBD is an intense skiing experience, heavily treed with lots of opportunities for drops and jumps as you head down. The lift and gondola allow for relatively quick laps and a chance to dry off/warm up on those less appealing days.

Cortina/Norikura Backcountry

Best for: Easy access backcountry
Recommended for: Glade skiers looking for backcountry laps with minimal effort

Cortina backcountry, Hakuba

Cortina backcountry, Hakuba

Hakuba Cortina resort is a powderhound’s dream. The off-piste tree skiing in the resort is the valley’s best, and getting in and out of the backcountry is quick and easy. A day at Cortina is hard to beat.

Most skiers will start their Cortina day with a couple of fast frontside laps before heading off the back side.

The frontside trees are steep and well-spaced, and nothing is off-limits at Cortina. For in-resort laps, take the number 4 quad, and then the number 4 pair lift to the top and follow the cat track along the ridge. Cutting off anywhere to the left, you will find yourself in a powder playground.

After smashing a lap or two on the front side, it’s time to take advantage of Cortina’s easy access backcountry. To get into the backcountry, follow the track from the number 4 pair lift and cut to the right at the first corner. Be sure to do a beacon check before heading beyond the resort boundary. The gladed area on the backside is moderately steep tree skiing. You can head directly down the fall line or cut further left to try out some different lines. Follow the gully at the bottom of the slope to find the ski out into Norikura, where you can lift-hop your way back into Cortina.

Happo One

If trees aren’t your thing, Happo offers some great wide-open bowls, and ridgelines. You will need to drop a car or call a taxi to get from the ski-out back home.

Happo North

Best for: Wide chutes and ridgelines
Recommended for: Skiers looking to minimize skinning but maximize terrain. You will need to drop a car here or be prepared to call a taxi after your ski-out.

To access Happo North, ski down the resort’s North boundary from the Grat quad. You can access any of the wide chutes that lead down to the valley floor. The snow above the chutes is often wind-affected and quite hard, but once you come off the ridge, the snow is usually quite soft and deep. You have to cross a river at the valley’s base to get to the ski-out. Follow the trail and road down to the bridge, where you will either have to have a car parked or call a taxi.

Happo South

Best for: Open bowls and ridgelines.
Recommended for: Skiers happy with a short hike. With a short 45-minute trek up, you add excellent terrain and vertical to your runs.

Happo One backcountry, Hakuba

Happo One backcountry, Hakuba

Happo South has a nice bowl and ridgeline with some excellent wide-open terrain. You will need to skin up from the top of the Grat quad. Following the cairns up to Happo Pond, you can drop in on the South side of the ridge. The further up the ridgeline you head, the steeper and more technical the skiing gets. If you choose to ski the south face, the ski out will exit at the top of Echoland. You will need a car or a taxi to return to the resort, or you can stop at Sounds Like Cafe for a well-deserved breakfast.

Tsugaike Kogen Backcountry

Best for: Earning your turns
Recommended for: Skiers that want to pick their lines and earn their turns. There are many great options, from easy mellow to multi-hour routes with more technical descents.

Tsugaike backcountry, Hakuba

Tsugaike backcountry, Hakuba

Tsugaike is one of Hakuba’s preferred backcountry access points and is often used for backcountry safety courses. Tsugaike has multiple routes both to the North and South. The safest routes are to head up along the cat track and back into the resort.

If you are looking for more challenge, you can skin up to the saddle on Hiodori ridge, where the North and South faces have some intermediate to advanced descents. To ski out, you can head back into the resort from the South or continue further North, skinning up the next ridge and head into Norikura.

You can also choose to head South from the resort. Hiking your way up to the national park, continue across the marsh. From here, you can head up Mt. Korenge and descend towards Obinata. The ski out ends at the same bridge as Happo North.

Hakuba backcountry resources

Avalanche Safety Courses

There are a variety of outfits that offer avalanche safety training in Hakuba. The most common course available is AST 1.

Gear Rental

If you’re looking for touring equipment – powder skis, avalanche beacon, shovel probe, and pack, most tour operators offer rental packages that can be added to your tour. If you plan to tour independently, you can rent gear separately.

Rhythm Japan rents all the necessary Hakuba backcountry touring gear – powder skis, avalanche beacon, shovel probe, and pack.

Central Snowsports Hakuba rents powder skis, avalanche beacons, shovels, probes, and packs.

Rapie is a small Japanese backcountry dedicated store. They rent all backcountry equipment, and the owner has a lot of local backcountry knowledge.

Avalanche Reports

Nadare.jp produces avalanche reports in Japan. They have an English website with Hakuba conditions. The reports are written in Japanese, but Google translate will give you a good idea of the hazards.

*Note: reports are released once a day, and they do not update during the day. If weather conditions change, they will impact the avalanche risks and ratings.

Weather Forecast

With Hakuba’s temperate climate, elevation is a significant factor when it comes to snow conditions. The elevation of the freezing line can often be a major factor in determining whether weak layers are pervasive. Luckily in Hakuba, the snowpack readily resets itself during the ski season. For Hakuba weather information Windy.ty, Snow-Forecast.com, and SnowJapan.com are great resources.

When to Go

Hakuba has great backcountry conditions from mid-January through early April. The shoulder seasons can offer some excellent skiing as well, but the conditions are often more challenging.

Final Thoughts

Hakuba has a variety of ski touring options to offer. With such a large area, there is something for everyone. Just be sure to take the proper precautions, know your limits, and always go with someone who knows the area well.

With so much to offer, Hakuba backcountry skiing is a great way to explore the area and get some great powder turns in!


Japan backcountry skiingOrganise your guided backcountry skiing tour in Japan

There are lots of options in Hokkaido and Honshu that can be tailored to the kind of skiing you like and when you plan to come. Answer a few questions and we’ll get back to you with some recommendations.

Enquire Now