…when people talk of skiing in Japan. With storms originating in Siberia, picking up massive moisture over the Sea of Japan and finally dumping their load upon contact with the Japanese Alps… average annual snowfalls in the 10 to 14 metre range are not uncommon for Japanese resorts.
For many Westerners the focus has been primarily on the North Island of Hokaido, however Section 8 has chosen two areas within the Nagano Prefecture of Japan’s main island, Honshu. Aside from a rich history and rugged mountain scenery, most folks are familiar with Nagano for hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics, which gained the prefecture some well deserved recognition as a world-class winter sport destination. Interestingly it was in 1996 just as Nagano was setting up for these Olympics that Section 8’s Director first travelled to this area and fell in love with the culture and landscapes…
Running a camp here has been a long time coming!
Section 8 has planned a journey we feel will give us an opportunity to experience the best Japan has to offer. We’ll begin with the stunning mountain scenery, vibrant atmosphere and huge expanse of interconnected resorts in the Hakuba Valley. Then we’ll take a shuttle back in time to one of Japan’s first ski areas and an amazing cultural immersion in the quaint hot springs village of Nozawa Onsen.
Hakuba was host to many events during the 1998 Winter Olympics including, downhill skiing, ski jumping and the super G. It is home to 11 ski resorts, over 200 runs and 139 lifts offering Section8ers a huge expanse of terrain to choose from.
The Japanese tend to be fanatical about technical skiing and absolutely adore moguls… so in Hakuba we’re certain to find plenty of long immaculately groomed runs with fantastic fall-line and exquisitely shaped bumps. Hakuba also hosts several Terrain Parks and at the Southern end of the Valley we’ll find the small resort of Cortinia, which thanks to a more relaxed off-piste policy has become a freeride and powder skiing mecca. The backcountry skiing opportunites are also fantanstic in Hakuba making a guided ski tour a great option for your day off.
A number of small villages are spread throughout the valley with the center of all the action being the Village of Happo which sits at the foot of the Happo One ski slopes. In Happo there are plenty of shops and amenities as well as a lively nightlife and restaurants to cater for every taste.
Section 8 will be in the centre of it all just a short stroll from the lifts of Happo One Ski Resort. We’ll be staying at Ryokan Shirouma-so. Shirouma-so offers elegant traditional Japanese style rooms, stunning views of the Japanese Alps and it’s own private onsen (hotsprings baths).
…but is almost takes a back seat to the enchanting village at it’s base. Nowazawa is famous for it’s plenitude of hot springs with steam rising everywhere amongst the cobblestone streets, cozy shops and traditional ryokan inns.
The village has a long history, being founded in 724 by a Buddhist monk, however, however ruins of Stone-Age dwellings and pottery dating back at least 3000 years have been uncovered in the village suggesting a much deeper history.
Nozawa is truly a place to lose yourself in relaxation and rejuvenation. In addtition to the traditional architecture, fascinating culture and the 13 public onsens which the townsfolk provide for visitors, the Japanese cuisine is a highlight of Nozawa with plenty of restaurants and Izakayas to tease the sophisticated palate.
The skiing culture at the Nozawa Onsen is also historic. Being introduced by an Austrian in 1912, it is considered by many to be the birthplace of skiing in Japan.
Unlike Hakuba and many other ski areas in Japan, Nozawa is only made up of one ski resort, however it is one of the largest in the country with 300 hectares of terrain, over 50 kms of trails and an impressive vertical drop of 1,085 metres.
The resort has a good variety of terrain suited to everyone from beginners to experts and highlights some nice steep in bounds tree skiing which is often forbidden at many other resorts throughout Japan.
Section 8 has selected Kiriya Ryokan for our Nozawa accommodation which sits in the historical heart of the village just minutes from the ski hill. Kiriya has been owned and operated for five generations by the same family and our host Ko has promsied to guide us through a unique cultural journey during our stay there.
Most international flights arrive at Narita Airport near Tokyo so adding a side trip to visit the sights of the big city are highly recommended either before or after your ski adventure with Section 8. From Tokyo it is fairly easy to make your way by either train or bus to Hakuba Station where we’ll arrange a shuttle to take you to the hotel. Detailed information on travel to Hakuba Station will be outlined in your course package.