Iwatake stands on its own mountain in front of the extended Japan Alps range. Unlike the other Hakuba resorts, Hakuba Iwatake Snowfield, literally drops over the back side and has slopes on all points of the compass. This can provide respite from high winds and ensures some runs will be out of the sun, keeping the snow better for longer.
Iwatake attracts a younger crowd including many Japanese university students attracted by the budget deals offered by the resort. A single ride on the “Noah” gondola gets you to Iwatake’s summit, from which courses radiate out in all directions. Easiest to miss is the Resort View area that is accessed by a cat track off to the left as you get off the quad lift. This area provides quite varied terrain and great views of the three Hakuba peaks. On Iwatake’s front side, the wide course along the quad offers great vistas of Happo-One and the alpine terrain above. From the resort top, there is only one way down to the base – follow the signs and check the map if visibility is poor. Midway there is the “Corridor”, a flat section where beginners should stay left to allow others to pass.
The resort has a number of powder pockets that do not see the same traffic as at the big boys nearby. The resort has moved away from grooming all its courses and now leaves several areas to lay down some tracks. Due to the high proportion of snowboarders in the resort’s clientele, Iwatake remains almost completely free of the moguls you will find in ungroomed areas elsewhere. A number of park items are also provided along another easily-missed course, this time to lookers’ right of the restaurant at the top. Iwatake also has a good reputation for alpine snowboarding, boasting a snowboard school manned by expert carvers. Popular in Europe, hard boots and alpine boards offer a whole new perspective on snowboarding. Give them a try!
Intermediate riders should be able to enjoy the whole hill, while beginners can stay low or take the gondola and ride a number of courses with lifts back up to the summit restaurant. Non-skiers can hire a guide and take a snowshoe tour at the resort top to slip away and take in the wonderful views from the quiet of the forest. Alternatively, you can try your hand at cross-country skiing on the 5km course at the resort bottom. Rental equipment is available and the regular shuttle buses to Iwatake make it far more convenient than Hakuba’s cross country stadium.