First day of the season competition 2020/21

The first day for the 2019/20 season was the 6th of December. When will it all begin this winter?

It’s on againEach year we run a competition to pick the first day of the season. The rules are simple

  • The first day the lifts open for skiers and boarders at any one of the resorts in Hakuba.
  • One date per person. If 2 or more people choose the same date then we will have a draw out of a hat to choose the winner.
  • The date must be chosen at least one week in advance
  • If a date isn’t chosen then it’s the closest date before.

The prizes are

  • A  Hakuba White Horse cap and a beanie
  • 5000 yen voucher at the White Horse Bar and Restaurant in Echoland.
  • Consolation of a free drink if you pick the date but miss the main prize.

So go to the bottom of this blog and put your date in the comments section or message me HERE and I will add it. Good luck. Remember that the resorts will open as soon as there is enough snow on the ground so it’s pretty much any time now. Just patiently waiting for THAT storm.

The prize is transferable and as it is going to be difficult to get here this year we can also honour it during the 2021/22 season.

The list so far.

Rie Yamamoto – 28th November

TJ – 30th November

Brian Glynn – 4th December

Brent – 4th December

Marc Hunter – 5th December

Stefan Wood – 6th December

Pierre Chauty = 10 December

Dave Turner – 11th December

Graham Harris – 17th December

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When do the lifts open in Hakuba?

With over 100 lifts in the valley, you are bound to find one to yourself.

When does the snow season start in Hakuba? Answer is, as soon as there is enough snow on the ground. As the storms start rolling in during November, we all wait here with anticipation for the lifts to start turning. Here are the opening dates over the years I have lived here except for my first year. I am pretty sure it was December though.

2019 – 6th December

2018 – 15th December

2017 – 21st November

2016 – 8th December

2015 – 28th November

2014 – 5th December

2013 – 22nd November

2012 – 17th November

2011 – 26th November

2010 – 10th December

2009 – 15th December *

2008 – 23rd November

2007 – 7th December *

2006 – December *

*date could be a day or 2 earlier

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No covid in Hakuba.

Face mask vending machine
Face mask vendy machine. Well ahead of the times here in Japan

Well not that we know of and I suppose that goes for anywhere in the world. So far so good for the Hakuba Valley with zero cases recorded. Japan overall has done an amazing job to quell the spread of the virus. My take on it is that it is common practice for the Japanese to wear masks anyway so this has not been a habit that needed to be emphasised too much. It is also not usual to shake hands or hug upon greeting friends and acquaintances. The other thing is hand sanitisers have been common at the entrances of shops and restaurants for as long as I can remember. We are not out of the deep end yet and precautions must be adhered to however it is good to feel a level of normality in our village. I think we will see a return of domestic tourism over the summer months. It’s still too early to know how the winter will go but all signs are there that the resorts will be open. International tourism will be down without a doubt. If current travel restrictions are still in place then we will have the valley to ourselves. Not good for business however I can’t really complain as it will be a dream to have the valley back to how it was 18 years ago when I first arrived. Buckets of snow and no one around. Obviously if I had the choice I would have preferred things to have stayed on the steady growth line. Watching the valley improve it’s facilities and services over the years has been exciting. This is something that is out of our hands now so a 12 month hiatus it is and hopefully the world will bounce back quickly and everyone will be flocking to the mountains in no time. Keep the dream alive.

The White Horse Hotel and the Monkey Rider Lodge are taking tentative bookings now with no deposits required. If you are dreaming of a trip and hoping the travel restrictions are eased then shoot me a message through our contact page and we’ll sort you out a good deal. http://www.whitehorse-hakuba.com

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Hakuba first day of the season competition 2019/20

First day 2018

14th December 2018 E-san getting first tracks at Cortina

It’s on again. Each year we run a competition to pick the first day of the season. The rules are simple

  • The first day the lifts open for skiers and boarders at any one of the resorts in Hakuba.
  • One date per person. If 2 or more people choose the same date then we will have a draw out of a hat to choose the winner.
  • The date must be chosen at least one week in advance
  • If a date isn’t chosen then it’s the closest date before.

The prizes are

  • A  Hakuba White Horse Long sleeve T
  • 5000 yen voucher at the White Horse Bar and Restaurant in Echoland.
  • Consolation of a free drink if you pick the date but miss the main prize.

So go to the bottom of this blog and put your date in the comments section or message me HERE and I will add it. Good luck. Remember that the resorts will open as soon as there is enough snow on the ground so it’s pretty much any time now. Just patiently waiting for THAT storm.

The list so far.

Andy – 20 November.

TJ – 22nd November.

Nikki – 23rd November.

Stefan Wood – 24th November.

Daniel – 25th November.

Dylan – 26th November.

Will Curry

Scott – 28th November.

Patrick Fux – 29th November.

Tom Gowing

Byron Shapland – 1st December.

Chad Edwards – 4th December.

Dave Turner – 5th December

Josh G – 6th December.

Graham Harris

Patricia – 7th December.

Brian Glynn

Jayden McClelland

Nellie  – 8th December.

Andrew Taylor – 9th December

Adam Roberts – 13th December.

Richard Copland – 14th December.

Keiran Shapland – 15 December.

Kayla – 18th December

Leigh Pleydell – 22nd December

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Epic Pass Hakuba

Hakuba

Vail Resorts Inc. have spread their Epic Pass out far and wide and their season passes at any of their official resorts will offer 5 days free skiing in the Hakuba Valley. That’s a good saving off your holiday expenses and a great excuse to experience this amazing area. Epic Pass holders are required to present their valid Epic Pass or Epic Local Pass hard card and a valid photo ID to the lift cashier at one of Hakuba Valley’s ten resorts to redeem their five-day lift ticket. It’s as simple as that to get you out on the mountain for first tracks in the morning. It is 5 consecutive days and no black out dates so you can come to Hakuba anytime of the season to take advantage of this great deal. The resort list is Jiigatake, Kashimayari, Sanosaka, Goryu, Iimori, Hakuba 47, Happo One, Iwatake, Tsugaike, Norikura and Cortina. Some of those are linked so realistically it is 8 different ski areas catering for all levels of skiers and boarders. If you are looking for accommodation for your stay then have a look at the White Horse Hotel in Echoland which is the main restaurant and bar district of Hakuba. With many years of experience guiding their guests around all the resorts, they are sure to get you to where you should be every day.

If you are looking to keep the costs down with some good value budget accommodation then try the Monkey Rider Lodge.

Hakuba

Hakuba Epic Pass

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Cheap lift tickets for Hakuba 47, Goryu and Iimori

47 Voucher

It has always amazed me how cheap the lift tickets are in Hakuba and the discount vouchers make it an even bigger bargain. 5100 yen for an adult day pass including a 1000 yen meal and drink voucher. Kids at 3000 yen including the voucher too. Crazy prices for such a fun mountain that has something for everyone including arguably the best park in the valley. There is also the Hakuba Valley pass for convenience. It is a little more expensive but no lining up at ticket boxes in the morning is a bonus.

For the discount pass, print off the PDF below and hand it over when purchasing tickets at the resort only.

Hakuba47 voucher

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Hakuba Valley First Day of the season competition 2018/19

First day 2017

First day last season was the 21st of November.  I remember it well.

It’s on again. Each year we run a competition to pick the first day of the season. The rules are simple

  • The first day the lifts open for skiers and boarders at any one of the resorts in Hakuba.
  • One date per person. If 2 or more people choose the same date then we will have a draw out of a hat to choose the winner.
  • The date must be chosen at least one week in advance
  • If a date isn’t chosen then it’s the closest date before.

The prizes are

So go to the bottom of this blog and put your date in the comments section or message me HERE and I will add it. Good luck. Remember that the resorts will open as soon as there is enough snow on the ground so it’s pretty much any time now. Just patiently waiting for THAT storm.

The list so far.

Tricia – 16th November

Danial Atkins – 17th November

Brin McNab – 19th November

Keesha Millar

Mark Rees

Von – 20th November

Steve J – 21st November

Reza

TJ – 22nd November

Shea Oliver

Joaquin Wong

Caleb – 23 November

Bec Britt

Ian Lee

Pete – 24th November

William – 25th November

Susie Teo

Byron (last years winner)

Kyle – 26th November

Snowriders Australia

Toby – 27th November

Kelsey – 28th November

William F – 29 November

George long-Howell

Kath Dumas

Zia Jasper

Steven Wilkes

Tom Parker

Nate – 30th November

Chad Edwards

Brian Glynn – 1st December

Brian Morris

David McAlister

PeterC

Alex Nicholson – 2nd December

Liam Baker – 3rd December

Adin Uhrig

Taylor Marsh

Veronica Lin

Jay – 4th December

Chad Steele – 5th December

Peter Moon

Tereza Foulcher

Tuulia – 6th December

Justin

Peng Li

Paul Cathcart – 7th December

Stephen Bryant

Nathan K

Kat

Coco Lin

Matt Bryson – 8th December

Angeline

Kacy Marsh – 9th December

Wing Choi Lam

Allen Marsh – 11th December

Adam R 13th December

 

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White Horse Hotel, Hakuba, Japan.

Hakuba Hotel

Autumn colours are out which means it’s time to get ready for the winter

Coming up to our 13th season, the White Horse Hotel has been at the forefront of service for winter guests in Hakuba. I have been at the helm from the start and with 3 years of holidaying here before that, I have a true understanding of what it is that customers want. First and foremost it is a snow holiday and regardless of the level of skiing and snowboarding, we constantly hear from our guests that they have had, “the best day ever on the snow”.  That is what I gauge my success on. Giving people the most memorable experience in this winter wonderland and that’s why people keep coming back to stay with us. It is not just by being in Hakuba that it is achieved. I spend a lot of time researching the mountains the weather and discussing with our guests what it is they are after. Powder snow, tree runs, backcountry, long groomers, beginner runs, cross-country or lessons, it doesn’t matter what style of sliding you want, I will ensure you are where you should be within the valley and sometimes out. The hotel has gone through some changes over the last 12 years and we will continually upgrade as we go along with even bigger plans for the next couple of years but at the end of the day it will still be your experience on the snow that I will push as our number one objective.

If you are interested in staying with us then please send a direct inquiry through our website http://www.whitehorse-hakuba.com . We don’t subscribe many rooms to the booking engines so they will tell you we are full when we actually do have rooms available. We also don’t push our guests to write reviews so you won’t see much of that either. Many guests tell us they won’t do it anyway as they want to be able to get a room for their next trip 🙂

I hope to see you here soon.

Tony

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Hakuba first day of the season competition

Hakuba

First day of the 2016/17 season was the 8th of December

It’s on again. Each year we run a competition to pick the first day of the season. The rules are

  • The first day the lifts open for skiers and boarders at any one of the resorts in Hakuba.
  • One date per person. If 2 or more people choose the same date then we will have a draw out of a hat to choose the winner.
  • The date must be chosen at least one week in advance
  • If a date isn’t chosen then it’s the closest date before.

The prizes are

So go to the bottom of this blog and put your date in the comments section or message me HERE and I will add it. Good luck. Remember that the resorts will open as soon as there is enough snow on the ground so it’s pretty much any time now. Just patiently waiting for THAT storm.

UPDATE – BYRON SHAPLAND was the winner with the 21st of November. Thanks for entering and I am I hope you enjoyed your prizes.

The list so far.

Hakubabrewery – 17th November

Lucky Pete – 18th November

Matt Dunn – 18th November

Byron Shapland – 21st November

Tony A – 23rd November

Michael Alan Hunt – 23rd November

Melita Harmer – 24th November

Kate W – 25th November

Mark Treston – 26th November

Emma C – 27th November

Brian – 27th November

Vanessa – 27th November

Chris Haxton – 27th November

Kellie Barkworth – 28th November

Jodie Bambridge – 28th November

Kolt Tremain – 29th November

Brad Smith – 29th November

Ryan – 30th November

Will C – 30th November

Tereza Foulcher 30th November

Chad Edwards – 1st December

Sue Cullen – 1st December

Richard Copland – 2nd December

Marc Hunter – 3rd December

Adam R – 4th December

Tom Gowing – 4th December

Michael – 5th December

Hamish Cranney – 5th December

Nicole Plozza – 5th December

Jacky Belfour – 5th December

James Millane – 6th December

Stefan Wood – 6th December

Jayden – 7th December

Sharmaine Adamson – 7th December

Quan – 7th December

Michelle Novotny – 8th December

Chiharu A – 9th December

Wayfarerz – 9th December

Jeff Snelgar – 10th December

Donna Mercer – 10th December

Tina – 11th December

Shane Steere – 11th December

Davis Walshe – 12th December

Steve Postlethwaite – 12th December

Keiran Shapland – 12 December

Denis Waddams – 13th December

Cynthia Gilchrist – 13th December

Mark Gunzburg – 14th December

Tanya – 15th December

April – 15th December

Damien Miller – 16th December

Lance – 17th December

Chris Rodgers – 19th December

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Destination – Mt. Hakuba

Hakuba

The top of Shirouma Dake

There is lots to explore in Hakuba. The stand out spot when you are in the valley is obviously the tallest peak of Shirouma Dake or to translate that, Mt. Hakuba or again White Horse mountain. I had climbed it previously from the Daisekkei ice field but this time we were taking an alternative route via Tsugaike and staying the night in the lodge. Studying the weather and assessing all the models we decided upon the weekend of the 3/4 September 2017. It looked to be a sunny and relatively low wind weekend. True to Hakuba’s form of micro climate we found ourselves locked into some low cloud however there were plenty of times it cleared enough to get the camera out.

Hakuba

The gondola and ropeway will take you half way up to 1900 meters

We started off at the Tsugaike gondola and then a 300 meter walk to the ropeway. That takes us up to the starting point. (turn right just before the Park Entrance Hut). It is a pleasant start through high sassa grass forests up to the swampy flats of Tengu para. The next part of the climb up to Norikura Dake involves a bit of bouldering. You’ll likely see some snow up here with a small 50 meter traverse which may be icy. They do have a rope to assist you. At the top of Norikura you will have a chance to see some raicho birds. You may see there head pop up occasionally. It is difficult at this time of year to get a good photo but you may be lucky.  From here it is a bit of rock hopping down to Hakuba Oike (pond). As we strolled into the basin we were able to get a great view of the pond before we were socked in with a think cloud. There is a lodge at the pond for a toilet break and a bite to eat. We brought our own food so we sat down outside and had some lunch here. It took us close to 3 hours to get to this point.

Hakuba

The Tengu para swampy marshland

Hakuba

Still some snow on Norikura Dake

Hakuba

A bit of bouldering to get you through this section

 

Hakuba

Hakuba pond with the hut in the background

The next stage of the trip is on a stony trail traversing along the side of the mountains with ridges and saddles. At this stage we were still hidden in the clouds. It was beautiful in it’s own respect however I could imagine how spectacular the scenery would have been on a clear day. The terrain doesn’t change much from here except for a few steeper sections as we made our way along the peaks that I laud from the village daily. The biggest threat would probably be the wind through the saddles which I could imagine being quite fierce on its day.  As we climbed higher we eventually punched through the cloud to an absolutely stunning vista. It was worth the wait and the cloud below us has now become a bonus. This stage is about 3-4 hours to the top peak of Shirouma sitting at 2932 meters above sea level

Hakuba

Rocky fields along the way

Hakuba

You can see where the inspiration for the traditional Japanese garden has come from

Hakuba hikes

Getting on top of the clouds. It was so nice to feel the sun.

Hakuba

Watch your step. It gets steep in sections

 

Hakuba

Getting closer to the peak

Hakuba

We made it. Top of the peak with a sea of cloud

Continuing on just down about 15 minutes from the peak is the lodge. This place sleeps 800+ people but on a busy weekend during peak season they will never turn any one away so be prepared for minimal space. We chose a quiet weekend just out of peak so we were able to get a private room. Nothing fancy here other than a warm futon for the night which after a big hike is all you need (maybe a pillow and a pair of ear plugs too if you are a light sleeper). The restaurant is beautifully built and offers amazing sunset views out of the cold. Sitting up so high in the mountains in a nice comfortable restaurant and being able to order a beer and some warm food makes this a dream hiking destination. The lodge offers a basic dinner and breakfast  deal with accommodation as an extra or you can purchase dinner separately at the restaurant which is what we did.

Hakuba

A beautiful sunset too from high in the mountains

Hakuba

Sitting back on the top of the mountains with beer and edamame. Life is good.

After a big hike and a few beers and a feed it was time to catch some zzzzs. We were woken up abruptly for the first breakfast call at around 5 o’clock. Seems people are really keen to get moving early. A perfect clear morning gives us the views we were dreaming of.

Hakuba

The view from my bedroom window in the morning. That’s a great way to get you moving.

Hakuba

Looking back up to the peak in the morning

There are a couple of different routes from this point with more lodges along the way if you want to stay more nights. We have chose to make our way down and back to Hakuba via the Daisekkei ice field down to Sarukura. Before you leave be sure to hire some crampons for the ice down lower (700 yen) The hike is a steep decline and walking poles are recommended. Lots of twists and turns and every step takes concentration. Don’t forget to stop and look back at the magnificent rugged mountain scenery. Even though it is all down hill, it is a bit of a challenge. As we were making our way down on a perfect clear morning we could see below a thick cloud charge up the valley and just stop right over the ice. It was another natural change that just added to the trip.  It will take a bit over hour to reach the icefield. The trail carers assess the icefield regularly to make sure the routes are safe however you will see one of the major threats is being hit by rocks that have been naturally released and sent down the steep mountain sides. There are numerous boulders scattered around so stay aware. You will hear the smaller rockfalls too as you make your way down. It is not really a marked trail here for most of the way however you can basically pick where everyone else has been walking. They may put some coloured markings down or a rope in some areas to show where to go. Once you are off the ice there is a little bit of scrambling but mostly steps down to the next hut where you can relax and buy a drink. The next 45+ minutes is an easy hike back to the Sarukura hut where you can hand in your crampons and get a snack. They have buses running from here to the village at some times during the year. Either that or arrange a pick up with your hotel or you can ask them to call you a taxi.

Hakuba

A perfect morning to begin the hike down

 

Hakuba

Pick your way carefully. Natures stairs

 

Hakuba

The start of the icefied just below.

 

Hakuba

and then just like that the cloud rolled up the valley

A couple of highlights for me. I hiked with my 7 year old daughter. This was an amazing bonding experience that I will always remember. I knew she was capable physically however there is the mental aspect of a long climb. She passed with flying colours. This is not a climb for every kid. Once you get up past the lake it is just as difficult to go back as it is to go forward and that would be hard to explain to a child who is in melt down. Keep them going with plenty of positive reinforcement but ensure to do some smaller hikes prior to tackling something like this (and take plenty of snacks 🙂 .  The other thing for me was producing my first Brocken Spectre which is a rainbow halo created from the sun behind you and reflecting your shadow on the clouds below.  It gives a stunning effect and something I have always wanted to see.

Hakuba

Brocken Spectre. That’s my shadow with a rainbow.

What to take.

Good hiking boots,  food, snacks, water, raincoat, extra warm clothes, gloves, walking poles, sunscreen, cash (no card facilities), camera, first aid kit,  crampons (can be hired), pillow, torch, phone,  plastic bags for rubbish, sunglasses

Tips

Temperatures can get down to zero even in the summer time so be prepared.  Leave early and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.

The hiking in the Japanese alps is as good as anywhere in the world. Come and explore this beautiful part of Japan on your next visit. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at tony@whitehorse-hakuba.com

White Horse Hotel, Hakuba.  www.whitehorse-hakuba.com

Hakuba

Above the clouds on the very top peak of the Hakuba valley

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