Happo One is the largest and most well known of the resorts in the Hakuba Valley. It has Olympic heritage as it was used for Slalom, Ski Jumping and Downhill events in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.
Located centrally in the Valley between Hakuba 47 and Iwatake ski hills (although not connected via ski lifts), Happo One has something for everyone – incredible views, a great variety of long piste runs including steeps, beginner slopes and moguls, freestyle park, great ski school & guiding services and fantastic backcountry terrain.
Snow & Weather
Happo One enjoys abundant snowfall and good quality with an average season snowfall of 11 metres.
Generally speaking the Happo resort faces East and therefore the snow quality varies from slope to slope. The North East facing slopes keep the snow in fantastic condition as North facing slopes are always in the shade and are unaffected by the sun.
With over 1,000 vertical metres the snow quality also varies depending on elevation. The snow quality at the top, above the tree line, is excellent most of the time, whilst snow machines operate on some of the lower trails to assist in maintaining snow quality.
Happo One has 23 lifts in total: 1x Gondola, 5x Quads chairs, 3x Triples chairs, 14x Doubles and 1x Magic carpet with not a button lift or T Bar in sight!
Most of the lifts at Happo One are relatively new with an upgrade program having been carried out over the past few years. They are fast for the most part, although there are still a few of the old double chairs that are pretty slow.
There is a contrast in lift lines between weekdays, where queuing is much better with the newer lifts and the weekends, when the additional visitors (mainly from Tokyo) can lead to relatively longer lift lines by Japan’s standards.
There is Night Skiing in operation on the Nakiyama green slope, serviced by the Nakiyama 2 lifts. This is actually relatively steep for a green run but is a great experience for beginners.
Happo features a relatively steep pitch and is large for a Japanese resort with just shy of 1100m of vertical.
The Happo One ski hill is narrow at the top and funnels out to a wide base with four distinct base areas:
1) Nakiyama – the main access point for day trippers, located down the road from the Ski Jumping Stadium with a mix of red and green runs
2) Shirakaba – featuring a mixuture of black, steep reds, a short green at the bottom and the main ADAM Gondola (the fastest way to access the upper mountain).
3) Kokusai – with a small patch of First Timer terrain at the bottom but with the main access being a black run.
4) Sakka – perfect for beginners and best accessed from Wadano Village.
Happo has a great variety of well-maintained piste runs, with something suitable for skier and boarders of all ability levels.
The official trail stats are 30% beginner, 50% intermediate and 20% advanced.
There are a number of options for green runs at the bottom of the mountain, the pick of which run down to the Sakka base area – best accessed from accommodation in Wadano. This is the best place for beginners and includes a magic carpet and Kids Park. Those wanting a green higher up the mountain should head for the Skyline Course.
The Evergreen International Ski School operates all over the Happo One mountain and are based at the Kokusai base area.
Intermediates are well catered for at Happo, which is characterised by it’s relatively steep pitch. Happo’s upper section has great wide runs with consistent pitch above the tree line.
For a top to bottom red run including a slalom course half way down, head to the very top and feel the burn all the way down the bottom of the Nakiyama area in the shadow of the Ski Jumping Stadium.
Advanced & Experts
There are some great steep black runs for advanced skiers and riders. In particular, be sure to check out the Olympic courses accessible from the ADAM Gondola – great for racing your friends!
If it hasn’t snowed for a few days, some of these black runs will have been shaped into moguls, which is popular among the locals.
Happo’s terrain park is above the Sakka beginner slopes. The park features a few kickers and is serviced by the Kitaone lift. For bigger and better parks with more features, Hakuba 47 and Tsugaike are the places to head to.
Off Piste Sidecountry
The Happo terrain off piste terrain is characterised by rolling topography and fantastic tree lined gullies.
There are three designated ungroomed areas, where off piste skiing is permitted – skiers’ left of the Great Quad chair, skiers’ left of the Alpen Quad and either side of the middle section of the Skyline course.
Outside of these designated ungroomed areas, the official ski patrol policy is that ducking ropes to ride the trees between the runs is not allowed. However, in reality the ski patrol appear to be very relaxed about enforcing this. Technically you could have your pass confiscated for skiing in the trees but it is unlikely.
Please avoid skiing wide open faces with no trees that are roped off and heed the signs as small scale avalanches do happen fairly regularly on these faces as Happo is the one of the steeper ski areas in the Valley. For the best Off Piste terrain within the resort boundary, head to the Cortina Ski Area at the northern end of Hakuba Valley.
Undoubtedly the famed Happo backcountry terrain accessed through the “Climber’s Route (Resort Exit)” at the top of the Happo One resort is the best in the Hakuba Valley for advanced skiers and snowboarders.
The Happo backcountry terrain has some steep alpine bowls, gnarly chutes, pillow laden gullies and gladed trees that are incredible and will more than likely result in a thigh deep Japanese powder experience to remember!
This is true backcountry and hiking in a touring setup or on snowshoes is involved after you leave the top of the resort. Once you leave the resort you are completely on your own in unpatrolled and uncontrolled terrain. The alpine slopes have a steep pitch and are prone to avalanche, so wait until the avalanche risk is low, come with full backcountry safety equipment and book a local guide.
Private Guiding availability is in short supply, especially during peak season and should be booked a long time in advance.
Nakiyama – the closest access point for those staying in the Echoland Village and also the best access point for day trippers as it has great access by road and ample parking without having navigate the windy tight roads of central Happo One Village.
Shirakaba – the ADAM Gondola is main access point for those staying in Happo One Village as it is the fastest route to the upper mountain.
Kokusai – can be accessed equally easily from Happo One Village or Wadano and is the location of the Evergreen Ski School.
Sakka – best accessed from the Wadano Village and is ideal terrain for beginners.
Happo One Village is the main transport hub of the Hakuba Valley and as such those staying further afield in Goryu Village, Iwatake, Tsguaike and Cortina can get to Happo One via the frequent shuttle bus services. Bus times are available from the Happo Information Centre, your accommodation or at the bus stops themselves.
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Happo One village is a great choice for anyone wanting to be in the thick of the action and well connected to the rest of the Hakuba Valley.
The village has the majority of shopping, dining, nightlife and amenities, including high quality international ski schools, helpful ski hire staff and experienced backcountry guides.
With plenty of space between properties and the abundance of snow-covered trees Wadano offers the perfect tranquil winter retreat.
Wadano is a great choice for families taking ski lessons and large groups wanting to stay together in spacious accommodations.
All information is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing.