Hakuba (白馬), located in the Northern Alps of Nagano Prefecture, is one of Japan’s most popular ski areas, offering good snow and several large ski resorts to choose from.
During the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, Hakuba gained world wide recognition as it hosted several olympic competitions, including alpine (downhill, super g, and combination) and nordic (ski jump and cross country) events. Today some of the olympic facilities remain in use, such as the Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium. There is also the Hakuba Olympic Village Memorial Hall, a small but interesting museum, located within walking distance of the ski jump.
Although the Hakuba Valley is most famous for its winter beauty, it has long been a beloved summer destination for both Japanese and overseas lovers of nature and traditional Japanese scenery. While the spring brings an end to the long winter, many of the Hakuba Valley’s ski areas are still open through to the beginning of May. One can ski in the famed cherry blossom season, a rarity in Japan. Alpine plants and flowers begin to bloom, and summer invites the hikers and trekkers to the 3,000 meter mountain tops. There are many outdoor activities to pursue in the Northern Alps, and when autumn arrives, viewing the brilliant autumnal foliage from an outdoor hot spring may be considered the highlight of the year for some.
With an elevation of 3,000 m, the peaks of the Northern Alps mountain range draw hikers and climbers from all over the world. The Hakuba Valley is one of the 3 famous snow valleys of Japan and contains Japan’s largest alpine flower garden. After a day of hiking, soak in the natural splendor of the mountains in alpine hot springs, accessible only on foot. For beginner hikers, easy trails can be safely reached by ski lift, which run all summer long at some resorts. No matter what your age or skill level, everyone can enjoy the beauty of the Northern Alps throughout the whole year.