Hakuba is located on the Main Island of Honshu, in what has been dubbed the "Japan Alps". The ski season runs from Early December through mid April.
In such a long season, what to expect in terms of temperatures, snow quality, lift operation, crowds, nightlife, airport transfers and accommodation pricing varies. The Hakuba Valley offers something for everyone and depending on your budget and what kind of ski experience you are looking for, Hakuba delivers at different times of the winter season.
With between 10 and 13 metres of fresh snowfall over the winter, you can expect fresh powder at least once a week during much of peak winter season with mountain temperatures in the range -7 to -13 and village temperatures in the range -3 to -7 degrees Celsius.
The first snow generally arrives in mid to late November with consistent snow leading to an opening of most ski area by early to mid December at the latest. Most of the snow falls in January and February, tapering off during the course of March.
As Hakuba is popular and easily reachable for a weekend ski for the city dwellers of Tokyo, the mountains are significantly busier on weekends than during the week, especially on Saturdays, with nightlife at its liveliest on Friday and Saturday nights.
Opening Season – Late November to Mid December (pre-Christmas)
It is impossible to predict more than a week or so in advance when the snow will start in earnest and this varies a bit year to year. If the snow comes early in November, a last minute trip could be on the cards and can be spectacular with the occasional incidence of deep powder conditions but no one else around!
However, for those planning to book a holiday in advance for the opening season, we would recommend coming to Hakuba no earlier than the second week in December. When the snow comes and temperature drops to around -5 degrees, the ski resorts will start to open. There is usually pretty good snow at the top / upper halves of the mountains and these open first.
Accommodation prices are similar to the March shoulder season and are considerably lower than the Christmas & New Year Season.
Some services & amenities in the Hakuba Valley may not yet be in full operation during opening season. Some restaurants and the Hakuba Valley shuttle bus services may not be operating until around the 19th or 20th December.
Accommodation that is ski in / ski out or within walking distance of the lifts is the best option for these dates. Alternatively, a chalet that comes with a vehicle or a hotel that offers their own private shuttle service for guests works well too. Taxis can also be arranged to get to restaurants that are open for evening meals.
Christmas & New Year – mid December to early January
With the season well and truly underway from the 3rd week in December, Christmas and New Year in Hakuba are great ways to spend the holidays with family or friends in the snow.
On Mountain temperatures in the range -7 to -13 and plenty of snow mean that skiing conditions are really good.
As New Year is Japan’s biggest public holiday, accommodation books out very early, so we recommend booking as early as you possibly can. Prices are at their highest during this period.
Restaurants and bars are all open and reservations are highly recommend for Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. All village services, amenities and shopping are open with the Hakuba Valley Shuttle bus connecting the various villages and ski resorts
Peak – early January to late February
The core of the winter season, with regular powder days usually the norm. The mountains are busier in January than February, although still quiet compared to the lifts lines of Europe and N. America. Daily temperatures and weather conditions can vary quite a lot during peak season with some cold snowy days and a few sunny ones as well. The lower temperatures keep the snow in really good condition.
Self catering apartments and the more popular hotels book out early and we recommend booking as early as you can. The Chinese New Year holiday is a popular time with prices being higher around these dates for some accommodation. The dates of this holiday vary slightly year to year but is normally in late January or in early February.
The Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival takes place on 15th January, and we can arrange a tour for you to take you there and back.
The village atmosphere is great with restaurants and bars in full operation with Friday and Saturday nights being especially lively.
Shoulder Season – March
March is the local skiers’ and snowboarders’ favourite month. Conditions on the mountain are good, it’s relaxed around the village and accommodation prices are lower. What’s not to like?
With more sunny days the temperatures start to rise a little, especially in the second half of March, with the colder days of peak season a thing of the past. When a fresh dump of snow comes in March, the following bluebird powder day is usually pretty special.There may occasionally be a bit of rain at
When a fresh dump of snow comes in March, the following bluebird powder day is usually pretty special. There may occasionally be a bit of rain at village level, but this usually means snow up top.
You will notice a big difference in the numbers queuing for the lifts and walking around the villages, as the crowds thin out from early March.
March is a great time to combine a trip to Hakuba with a couple of days in Tokyo, Kyoto or another spot away from the mountains to enjoy the famous Cherry Blossoms.
Closing Season - April
April is a tough time to predict how much snow will still be around. If March has been cold with some fresh top ups of snow, then early to mid April is be a viable option. More often than not, the lower lifts in most ski areas will close around mid April with only the upper lifts remaining opening or in some cases closing as well depending on which aspect the mountain faces.
Hakuba 47 is almost entirely north facing and therefore in the shade and opens until the end of April.
With plenty of sunny days and warm temperatures, April is a good time for those wanting to hit the terrain parks.
With access to some of the highest peaks in the Hakuba Valley opening up, April is also popular for backcountry skiers and snowboarder. Heli skiing is even in operation at Hakuba Tsugaike.