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Happo One, Japan

Written by Jack Lee • Last updated Oct 28, 2017

With Olympic heritage, a mammoth 26,250 foot top to bottom run, and some of the finest powder on earth, Happo One (pronounced oh-neh) is without a doubt the most popular of all the Hakuba Valley ski resorts. The official resort numbers state that the ski area covers a total of 543 acres, but this doesn't factor in the extensive sidecountry between the runs, which provides the perfect introduction to riding powder for skiers and snowboarders who are ready to go off-piste! Enjoying a healthy 3,514 feet of vertical drop and the steepest slope coming in at 35 degrees, it’s by far the best choice in Hakuba for advanced mountain riders. With all this and much more, Happo One quite rightly earns its status as one of the best ski resorts on the main Japanese island of Honshu!

View from the top of the Central Course, Happo One

Finding negatives to a ski vacation in Happo One isn't easy, but beginners might be disappointed to find there aren’t a huge variety of runs for them to cut their teeth on. Also, when it comes to sheer quantity of the white stuff, Happo One (and Hakuba in general) is trumped by Japanese ski resorts like Niseko on the northern island of Hokkaido, though not by much. The same sub-zero Siberian winds blow across the Sea of Japan, picking up moisture and transforming it into magically soft snow. The average annual snowfall here is 36 feet, so there’s still plenty to be happy about at Happo One!

It was right here that the ski jumping, downhill, and super-g slalom events of the Nagano 1998 Winter Olympics were held! You can still ski the downhill and slalom courses to unleash the inner racer in you, and the annual Riesen Slalom Competition gives you exclusive access to the famous course. Perhaps due to its international exposure, Happo One is particularly well suited for overseas visitors, with many hotels, restaurants, stores, and other facilities having English speaking staff. That doesn't dampen the traditional Japanese culture one bit though, there’s plenty to surprise you here, from snow monkeys bathing in hot springs to the sake-soaked Fire Festival!

The Hakuba ski jumping stadium still holds regular competitions, you can also catch a Chairlift for a small fee to see it from the top. 

The Mountain

Are you ready to take on Happo One?

Straddling the base of the mighty 8,845 foot high Mount Karamatsu, the Hakuba Happo One Winter Resort has four main base areas, namely Nakiyama, Shirakaba, Kokusai and Sakka. They are close enough to one another for the snow quality at each to be practically identical, but the deepest untouched powder is always found at the higher extremities of the mountain. From the base elevation of 2,493 feet, lifts will take you up as high as 6,007 feet, way above the tree line where the grand peaks of the Northern Japanese Alps are a truly dramatic backdrop!

Pistes are perfectly groomed at Happo One, besides the few ungroomed areas marked on the trail map, and in general the higher up you go the steeper the runs become! The official resort numbers state that the ability level of the ski runs is a split between 30% beginner, 50% intermediate, and 20% advanced, although beginners will find better options at other resorts in Hakuba Valley. Long, continuous intermediate to advanced runs are what Happo One has a fine reputation for.

View from the top of the Kokusai 3 Chairlift

Blustery wind can close lifts on the upper part of the mountain, but the truth is that it doesn't happen very often, averaging between 5 to 10 days over the entire winter season. With practically no cover up there, gusts can quickly reduce visibility to little more than your hand in front of your face! Lower slopes below the tree line are much better protected when the seriously chilly wind does start blowing. Also, another thing to note is that the runs aren’t really named here, instead they are usually just called the same as the lift that gets you to the top of a run. This can be a little confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it!

When to Go

The slopes open as soon as the snow starts falling in Happo One, which can happen by late November! From then on it just keeps coming, with January and February the prime months for powder days. By March things start warming up a bit, with more blue bird days than white outs, but generally the ski season doesn't completely wind up until the first week of May!

Visit anytime time between Christmas and April and you’re pretty much guaranteed top quality, fluffy, soft snow, but there are a few dates you might want to avoid. The Christmas and New Year holidays, along with the Chinese New Year, are certain to have the resort working at full capacity. Also, weekends, especially after a big dump, can see the pistes get packed.

When picking your dates, it’s worth noting that from around December 20th to the end of February accommodation in Happo One, and Hakuba in general, will charge peak season prices. Any time before and after those dates could see you save up to 20% off your accommodation costs!

Getting Tickets

The variety of lift tickets on offer at Happo One is kept relatively simple, and with no connections to other resorts so you won't find yourself skiing into an area you haven't got a lift pass for! The lift pass for Happo One covers the entire mountain, plus you can also buy one way and return tickets for individual lifts, if you’re heading up the mountain for lunch (not skiing) or are off on a backcountry escapade! Another option is the Hakuba Valley lift pass, which covers a whopping ten resorts operating within the valley.

As for prices, one day at Happo One costs 5,200 yen for an adult (13 years old and over), 4,700 yen for a senior (60 years old and over), and 3,000 yen for a child (6 to 12 years old). If you have little ones under 6 years old they get a lift pass for free! Off peak lift passes, covering roughly the first and last month of the winter season, are a little cheaper, at 4,000 yen for an adult and 2,300 yen for a child. If you want to go for a Hakuba Valley lift pass, adults pay 5,700 yen for a day ticket and for a child it’s 3,200 yen.

It’s worth checking at your accommodation whether they have any discounted lift passes for sale, as some hotels do offer these. Another type of lift pass you could come across are packages that include lunch, a visit to an onsen, and night skiing too, which cost 5,500 yen for an adult and 3,900 yen for a child. Buying up multi-day passes can save you a little, around 10%, but don't expect a refund if the lifts are closed later in the week!

We often have great ski packages going to Happo One and Japan.

Elevation

Base
2493 feet
Base
Summit
6007 feet
Summit
Vertical Drop
3514 feet
Vertical Drop

Lifts

Gondola & Tram
1
Gondola & Tram
High Speed Quads
5
High Speed Quads
Triple Chairs
3
Triple Chairs
Double Chairs
14
Double Chairs

Terrain

Beginner Runs
30 %
Beginner Runs
Intermediate Runs
50 %
Intermediate Runs
Advanced Runs
20 %
Advanced Runs
Expert Runs
0 %
Expert Runs
Total Runs
13
Total Runs
Terrain Parks
1
Terrain Parks
Longest Run
5 miles
Longest Run
Skiable Terrain
437 acres
Skiable Terrain

Opening and closing dates

Season Open Date Close Date
2017/2018 11/21/2017 05/07/2018 (estimated)
2016/2017 12/08/2016 05/07/2017
2015/2016 11/28/2015 05/03/2016
2014/2015 12/14/2014 05/10/2015

Lift ticket and season pass prices

Category Age restrictions Price (USD unless otherwise stated)
Adult 13 - 59 $46 (5200 JPY)
Child 5 & under Free
Child 6 - 12 $23 (2600 JPY)
Senior 60 & over $41 (4700 JPY)
Season Pass
(Hakuba Happo-One 2017-18 All Season Pass)
$616 (70 JPY)

Overall Rating

4.5 / 5 Fabulous

based on 40 reviews

How accessible and convenient it is to get to this resort from a major destination

Accessibility

Availability, quality and pricing of lodging

Lodging

How well the resort caters for beginner skiers / boarders

Beginners

How well the resort caters for intermediate skiers / boarders?

Intermediates

How well the resort caters for advanced skiers / boarders

Advanced

Quality of the off-piste terrain

Side/Backcountry

Overall value for money of the resort

Value for money

Quality of lifts, lift speed and lift layout in the resort

Lifts

Quantity and quality of the snow

Snow

How uncrowded is the resort

Uncrowded

Après ski and dining options

Town

Services and facilities e.g. child care, tubing, health care, equipment hire

Facilities

How family friendly is this resort?

Family Friendliness

Latest reviews

Score: 4.9 / 5Dec 12, 2017
Happo is an icon in Japanese ski history! Olympic status, fun runs, and unforgettable views from the top. Great village with fun restaurants and bars. Check out happy hour at The Lab! ... More
Stanley L. expert snowboarder
Score: 4.3 / 5Dec 11, 2017
Happo One is like a magical, powdery, pretty, spectacular Japanese oasis. Riding Happo does not compare to any other mountain; the culture, the food, the snow is all out of this world. It's also one of the most rewarding and funnest mountains to ride... in the world!!! ... More
Joel G. advanced skier
Score: 4.7 / 5Dec 10, 2017
This is a fantastic resort. Clean modern. Makes a really enjoyable holiday! Highly reccomend. Value for money. Not overly busy. There is some fantastic food around the area and some great places to have a couple of drinks! ... More
Ryan A. intermediate skier
Score: 4.8 / 5Dec 09, 2017
Great ski hill within easy walking distance from hotels to lifts. Great places to have dinners. Great natural spring onsen at hotel we stayed at. Will go back in a heartbeat. ... More
Cal T. advanced skier
Score: 4.6 / 5Dec 09, 2017
Happo one being the premier resort in hakuba is filled full of all the bells and whistles, great atmosphere, arrived early season still plenty of snow to be seen and hung out with all the staff and locals before it got to busy. Was a great experience, the mountains where ... More
Owen C. intermediate snowboarder
Score: 5 / 5Dec 09, 2017
Extreamly friendly and great staff. Very neat, tidy and spacious rooms. Perfect transportation. All staff are very knowledgeable about the surrounding areas on where to ride and eat and drink Im just here for the competition. ... More
Matt P. advanced snowboarder
Score: 4.6 / 5Dec 09, 2017
Great access from Tokyo, perfect for a fun cruisy day of skiing with enough difficulty to end the day with sore legs. Something for everyone and some amazing restaurants on and off mountain!!! ... More
Matthew O. intermediate skier
Score: 3.9 / 5Dec 07, 2017
It is the best ski area in Japan. The largest ski area as with awesome mountain seanery and variety of skiing course. It is valuable enough to visit just to see mountain view. You can enjoy high speed skiing on gloomed course especially early in the morning and deep snow a day ... More
Toshio O. advanced skier
Score: 4 / 5Dec 07, 2017
Great place for enjoying the snow in close proximity to dining accommodation and entertainment. We had a great time here and found the area easy to navigate. As you can expect anywhere in Japan the locals were friendly and helpful and the resort facilities were excellent. Can't ... More
Tom L. advanced snowboarder
Score: 4.5 / 5Dec 07, 2017
great powder, great runs, great lifts, great staff and very little queues, what more could you ask for :-) Oh yeah and great lift ticket prices, you can't ask for more than that ... More
Dale F. expert skier