Nearest airport: Tokyo
Hakuba 3 hours
The Hakuba ski area consists of 10 separate ski resorts and is otherwise known as the Japanese Alps. It is situated on the southern island of Honshu, just 1 hour and half from Tokyo. It receives a staggering 11 metres of snow each winter, and due to the number of ski areas, it ensures that skiers of all abilities will head home happy. Shuttle buses are provided complimentary by hotels to the local resorts, but if you want to try one a bit further a field then there are buses to all of the resorts costing around £2 or £3 return.
Hakuba is quite simply the skiing mecca of Japan. 10 resorts and 200 runs, of which several have been used in the 1998 Winter Olympics; it is hard not to be impressed. Hakuba offers some of the most demanding ski terrain in Japan, making it far more than a cruising paradise found on the northern island. Happo-One boasts over 1080m of downhill vertical which compares favourably to many North American resorts, while Hakuba-47 and Goryu-Toomi are excellent all round mountains. Beginners and lower intermediates should head to Tsugaike and Iwatake which offer long flowing trails from top to bottom. Heli-skiing is also available in Hakuba and is something that can’t be missed when you have some of the world’s driest, lightest powder on offer.
The local town offers an excellent mixture of both western and Japanese restaurants and bars to ensure that everyone is catered for. Hakuba has one of the best après scenes in Japan, with hotels often having lively bars to begin the evening, before moving on into the bars which have live music and dancing into the early hours. You can also take advantage of the snowshoeing tours, toboganning, snow rafting or snow tubing which are all on offer at Hakuba.