by Dave Enright
Hakuba 47, Goryu Tohmi and Iimori collectively make up one of the premier year-round mountain resorts in Japan—and the season that sets them apart is winter.
The Hakuba mountain range is the most northerly in the Japan Alps and the first mountains that Siberian storms hit after their moisture-absorbing journey across the Sea of Japan. Hakuba 47, Goryu Tohmi and limori are ideally situated behind huge peaks that force great precipitation-filled fronts to drop unfathomable amounts of “white gold” on the slopes of Hakuba.
As a result of high winds from the northwest, much of the snow also gets deposited on the protected lower ridges and bowls of resorts throughout this winter wonderland.
While Hakuba 47 is a fairly new ski area, Goryu has a long and rich ski history that goes back to cable bindings, wooden skis, bamboo poles and wool knickers. The combination of new ideas and past tradition are sometimes conflicting, but the three companies seem to be heading in the right direction since their merger five seasons ago.
Once they move towards opening the (now closed) off-piste areas within the resort boundaries, they will truly become a premiere world-class ski resort.
ON THE HILL
There are three base areas, one for each of the lift companies that comprise the Hakuba 47 and Goryu Resort. Together there are two gondolas, one at Hakuba 47 and one at Goryu Tohmi that swiftly whisk you up the mountain. The resort features three large-scale terrain parks with beginner to pro-sized kickers, tables, hips, rails and one pipe. Mogul hounds will enjoy the hand-crafted mogul course beside 47’s half pipe where they can buff up on their bump bashing style.
If you’re of the old school and enjoy carving fast turns from top to bottom on soft groomed runs (or even better in powder), this hill has some great leg burners. There are slightly less than 1,000 vertical meters from top to bottom, starting moderately, becoming steep mid-mountain—and just when you think your legs can take no more—the steeps give way to more gentle slopes near the base.
For beginners, or those with small children, Goryu Iimori is the place to be, featuring wide-open lower slopes, slow speed zones and a kid’s center.
Plenty of restaurants and cafes can be found at the tops of both gondolas and at each of the base areas. There is great Mexican food at Uncle Steven’s Soup Kitchen, and Luis has fine brick-oven pizza at the base of Hakuba 47.
There is a MOS Burger at the Iimori base and a great little ice cream and espresso bar at the Goryu Tohmi’s Escal Plaza.
Most of the restaurants on the mountain close when the lifts shut down, but 47 says this year they will keep their shops open for longer apres ski fun. They have even promised to give readers a “Buy 1, Get 1 Free” beer or soft drink if you show them this story!
OFF THE HILL
With plenty to do off the slopes, there is never a dull moment in Hakuba. If you’re not a skier or boarder, you can explore some great areas on snowshoes and cross-country skis or enjoy a mountain-top picnic with breathtaking views as far as the Sea of Japan. You may even see a kamoshika, a type of Japanese mountain goat that lives around Goryu and 47.
More adventurous souls can try out the thrill of snow-scooters or snow-bikes, a flight in a hot air balloon high above the Hakuba Valley, a bouncy ride in a snow raft, or perhaps some snowmobiling. All of these activities are offered in the area. Check at the new guide desk beside the 47 ticket sales area for details.
That’s not all. When you get off the hill, it’s time to soak in one of Hakuba’s famous hot spring baths. There are too many onsen in Hakuba to count, but Hakuba 47 and Goryu Resort have a few great hot springs nearby.
Jyurou no Yu in Iimori, Dake no Yu (by the Misorano traffic lights) and La Foret Hotel (near Echo) all have onsen that will rejuvenate your tired body and get you ready for another day on the slopes.
When you get hungry, there are many small izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) on the main road up to Goryu. Echo Land has outdoor sports shops, gift shops, bars, izakaya, restaurants, convenience stores and a gym with an indoor bouldering wall (if you’re not thoroughly exhausted from skiing all day).
On the weekends, stop in Garage 902 board shop in Echo Land to find out which DJs and bands are playing.
By Express Train: Taking the JR Chuo Line Super Azusa direct from Shinjuku or Hachioji to Hakuba is by far the easiest way (three hours and a half).
By Shinkansen: Take the Asama direct from Tokyo to Nagano (an hour and a half), then transfer to the Highland Shuttle to Hakuba from the East Exit bus stop (one hour) or contact Hakuba 47 to find out about the free shuttle for customers.
By Highway Bus: This is the cheapest way and takes about four and a half hours from Shinjuku to Hakuba.
By Car: Take the Chuo Expressway to Toyoshina I.C., continue on to Omachi where you will turn right on Route 148 and continue to Hakuba. Follow signs to Hakuba 47 / Goryu (three and a half to four hours from Hachioji I.C. to Hakuba).
FACTS & FIGURES: HAKUBA 47 & GORYU
Season: Early December to early May
Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Night Skiing: 5-10 p.m.
Number of Lifts: Gondola 2, Quads 4, Doubles 13
Number of Courses: 25
Longest Course: 6.4 km.
Steepest Slope: 35 degrees
Average Annual Snowfall: 650+ cm.
Average Max Base: 350 cm.
▲ Beginner: 30%
• Intermediate: 40%
♦ Advanced: 40%
1-day (Adult): ¥4,500
1-day (Youth): ¥3,500
1-day (Child): ¥2,500
1-day (50+): ¥3,500
1-day (70+): ¥2,500
2-day (Adult): ¥8,000
2-day (Child): ¥4,500
1/2-day (Adult): ¥3,500
1/2-day (Child): ¥2,000
Nighter (Adult): ¥1,800 Goryu Tohmi
Nighter (Child): ¥800 Goryu Tohmi
Season Pass: ¥58,000
Spring Pass: ¥32,000
5-day open: ¥15,000
Ski/Board rental: Yes
High-end rentals: Yes
Ski/Board school: Yes
On Resort Guide: Yes
Artificial Snow: Yes
Terrain Park: 3
Half Pipe: 1
Fun box: Yes
Quarter Pipe: 1
Web sites: www.hakuba47.co.jp (English)
Tel. Hakuba 47 (0261)-75-3533
Goryu limori (0261)-75-2636
Goryu Tohmi (0261)-75-2101