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Hakkoda: Insider Ski & Snowboard Tips
It almost seems redundant trying to provide insider tips to skiing Hakkoda, it’s just that simple. Take the 101-person ropeway to the top of the 1,324m peak of Mt Tamoyachidake and decide if you want to go left or right on the way back down. They’re both as good as each other so there really is no right or wrong way to do it.
Perhaps the tips we should give then, are certainly don’t go to Hakkoda expecting manicured piste or a crisp terrain park. Why? Because to the best of our knowledge the Hakkoda ropeway company don’t actually own a grooming machine, nor should they want to, and the terrain park, well that’s just the entire mountain. The resort is a freeskier’s playground, as non-prescriptive as they come, as close to backcountry skiing as a ‘resort’ can get. This leads us to our next ‘tip’ which is, as good as the designated runs are – i.e. the frontside of the mountain back down to the ropeway – there’s an almost limitless amount of terrain that spans above and around Mt Tamoyachidake, enough to keep a backcountry skier busy for weeks, if not years. Naturally, we recommend hiring a guide and heading out to discover it for yourself. There’s also terrain out there to accommodate even a beginner or first-time ski tourer, with some shorter tours possible and a road at the bottom of the popular runs where you’ll be met by one of the guiding outfits own vehicles, so you’re saved skinning back up. It’s backcountry skiing on a silver platter.
Hakkoda is located in the Aomori prefecture, the most northern part of Honshu, Japan’s main island. Getting to Aomori is a relatively painless exercise and despite it being much further North than Nagano for example, it’s arguably more accessible. When we visited, we took a domestic flight from Haneda to Aomori Airport which took only 1 hour. Alternatively, if flying into Narita Airport, you can take the Narita Express to Tokyo Station (1 hour), then the Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin Aomori Station (3 hours). You can also fly into Aomori Airport from Seoul Incheon Airport (2 hours 20mins).
Once in Aomori city, there are JR buses bound for Sukayu Onsen which are only a 60-minute ride and very affordable at <¥1,100. There are also taxis which take under 45 minutes.
It’s worth noting that due to the tremendous amounts of snowfall that Hakkoda receives, the road connecting Aomori city and the resort is typically closed between 9pm and 7:30am during the winter time so it may be ploughed. In which case, if arriving after 9pm a night in Aomori city might be mandatory.
Aside from the world class freeride terrain suspended above it, there’s not much at the base of Hakkoda ropeway as far as a village or bustling nightlife is concerned. Naturally then, it’s important to find some accommodation that’ll keep you entertained once off the hill.
Two places come recommended by Mounntainwatch to suit two slightly different tastes and budgets. The first is Hakkoda Resort Hotel, located at the base of the adjoining ski resort, and is practically ski-in ski-out. The hotel comes fully equipped with both Japanese and western room options, a buffet style breakfast, also with western options and serves an elaborate traditional Japanese dinner. The Resort’s Onsen also comes highly recommended and you’re more than likely to have it, as well as the resort, seemingly to yourself – as is the general trend throughout Hakkoda.
Alternatively, if you’re willing to spend the yen and a five-minute bus ride to and from the hill each day doesn’t dissuade you (nor should it), then you’ll be hard pressed to beat the Hakkoda Hotel. This place more than errs on the upscale side of things and was a real treat to stay at, not least because it felt like we had it to ourselves. Built some 30 odd years ago during Japan’s ski resort heyday from cedar logs imported from Canada no less, Hakkoda Hotel actually feels reminiscent of a remote log cabin in Canada’s interior BC somewhere. But instead of poutine, they’re serving up the finest Japanese fare you can think of and instead of moose we saw a Japanese Marten scamper through the waste deep snow by the window as we had dinner. While the hotel comes equipped with a beautiful in-house Onsen, it’s also only 650m from the famous Sukayu Onsen, which you’ be remiss for not visiting.
Hakkoda: Restaurants & Apres
As above, the restaurant and après scene in Hakkoda is virtually non-existent. This will be either to your delight or disappointment, but we think it should be the former as it means very, very few people on the hill. Fortunately, the two hotels above do an ample job dishing out traditional Japanese cuisine and sourcing local ingredients to that end.
As far as après is concerned… we hope you like the people you’re travelling with and vending machine beers. Who doesn’t though right?
Hakkoda: Non-Skiing Activities
Yep you guessed it. We don’t advise going to Hakkoda if you don’t plan on skiing or boarding. Unless that is, you’re very, and we mean very, passionate about Onsens and don’t mind spending 6 hours per day in the same one. That said, Hakkoda proved a popular destination for some older generation Japanese and Chinese visitors who ascended the ropeway on a single trip lift ticket to come face to face with the snow monsters (snow and ice rime caked pine trees) uniquely found at the top of the 1324m peak of Mt Tamoyachidake.