Happo-One (“oh-nay”) is Hakuba’s oldest, largest and central ski hill. Happo offers a 1000 meters of top to bottom skiing with stunning views of Hakuba’s three symbolic peaks. Host to the men’s and women’s blueribbon downhill and super giant slalom events at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, Happo is the one hill not to miss in Hakuba. Orientation The resort has four numbered base areas that extend over two kilometers at the foot of the mountain.
1. Nakiyama – Home to the Olympic Ski Jump and the Happo Ski School.
2. Shirakaba – Adam Gondola, the fastest way up the mountain.
3. Kokusai – Access to Lower Wadano (Tokyu, Mominoki Hotels), Evergreen Ski School.
4. Sakka – “Snow Chao” kids’ area, access to Upper Wadano (La Neige etc.), Happo Freestyle Park. Lifts rise from all four areas to two midmountain zones, Usagidaira and Kurobishi, and then run alongside the resort’s steepest courses to a single ridge. The four or five main courses down from mid-mountain are linked; look out for the signs and try to carry some speed because the tracks between them have little gradient. Make sure you end the day at the right area, because it can be a long walk home!
Beginners should head out to the Sakka area where the gentle slopes will get you linking turns in no time at all. There is the Snow Chao kids’ area with a magic carpet, tobaganning, and a banked tubing course where conditions vary from great fun to genuinely hairraising! There is also a cat track from the top of the left side of the Panorama slope and look for the track heading left just below the lift. As a rule, this kind of long cat track is more suited to skiers than snowboarders.
A favourite is the Panorama slope just below the top of the gondola. It’s wide and well groomed with three lifts to keep you moving. Of the routes down from midmountain, Reisin Slalom to skiers’ right from Usagidaira provides great mogul-free cruising all the way to Nakiyama or via a cattrack back to the gondola. The easiest advice to lower intermediates is to not go higher than the gondola.
Try your hand at the 1998 Winter Olympic men’s and ladies downhill courses. The Olympians (except famously Herman Maier) finished in about two minutes. See how long it takes you. Powder Hounds first come, first served! The upper part of Happo is mostly ungroomed, so get yourself on the gondola when it opens. Catch the Alpen lift up to the Pilar Café (formerly the Virgin Café) to hit Usagidaira.If you see one of the Kurobishi lifts moving (the longer one seems to run mainly at weekends now), head over to that side but watch out for buried moguls! Cruise past the restaurant there and down Skyline for some of the best powder that Hakuba has to offer. Get your breath back on the lift before you embark on another slide through the powder wonderland!
Happo’s long-established heritage as a ski resort brings an older Japanese crowd and the majority of visitors ski rather than snowboard. This has led to some concluding that Happo offers little to snowboarders, but we think this is based on image and perhaps the resort abandoning its half pipe. Happo is a great place to free ride on a snowboard! Japanese flock to Happo at weekends and New Year, creating bottlenecks at the more obvious parts of the resort, principally the gondola. Use other lifts like Skyline if possible. Take an early lunch at 11am and you’ll get seated comfortably in the restaurant and will have an hour or so of relative peace on the slopes afterwards. Some of the restaurants can get quite chaotic, especially if you’re trying to sit and feed a group. The top lift is surprisingly the last to open since a large depression has to fill with snow. Later in the season, also look out for the Happo Freestyle Park on the Kita One course at the top of the Sakka Quad lift. A kids’ course composed of some banking and some whoops is also built near the Olympic Scoreboard at Sakka. To go with the Japanese ski resort staples of ramen noodles and katsu (pork cutlet) curry, Happo have undergone a burger renaissance in the last few years and you can enjoy delicious gourmet versions at the Café Bakery in the Usagidaira Terrace at mid-mountain and the Sakka Plaza on the Sakka side at the base. For a change from typical ski resort fayre, head down to the Nakiyama base area to Bangkok-ya, a small cozy restaurant run by telemarkers serving excellent Thai curries.