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Happo, Hakuba.- March 28th.


Thanks again Snow Japan for selecting me as a winner for one of your first great giveaways of the 12/13 season. I received a ticket to use at either Happo, Iwatake or Tsugaike at the start of the season, but didn’t get around to using it until late March. Here is my review for Happo.


I decided to use the ticket at Happo, as I hadn’t been there for a few seasons. I was a Happo season pass holder for 2 seasons (three resort pass including Nozawa and Shiga) when I first moved to Nagano, and always loved Happo for it’s proximity to my house, ease to get to by car and easy access to the back country and high alpine environment.


The one thing I dislike about Happo, is the fact that you have to pay to park anywhere close to the Adam Gondola. There is free parking down the road towards the village, and up around the corner just down from the Evergreen building, but time is money, so I grudgingly parted with my 500 yen to get up there quicker. It is a whopping 1000 yen during peak season!


As we all know, March was a very dry month this season, and the lower slopes were already very patchy on this warm, cloudy day. On one run, I actually had to un-strap and walk over some dirty patches while trying to traverse from the Kokusai lift base to the Gondola station. I never remember having to do that in previous seasons, especially not in March!


Quite a few things seem to have changed since I used to frequent Happo. I remember there being a McDonald’s at the top of the gondola and a Virgin restaurant in the building beside the top of the Alpen Quad lift. Both seemed to have disappeared since my last visit. It was a weekday and the resort was running on spring operations, but I got the impression that Happo had scaled back a bit in the last few years.


So I started my day at around 9am, and began with two laps on the gondola, as the resort was pretty much empty and lift lines were not going to be an issue. I bombed the Central course and the Riesen Slalom course to get the legs in and get a feel for the snow. Due to injury I haven’t managed to ride much this season, so it was nice to have the runs basically to myself. The snow was pretty slushy, but still fun to ride on the soft corduroy.


It was a cloudy morning, but the sun came out every now and again to illuminate the spectacular peaks surrounding Hakuba. I was glad to be out there enjoying the day. I was riding alone and didn’t bump into anyone I know out there. There did still seem to be a handful of foreign tourists on the mountain, mainly in family groups. I guess they had booked early and were a little disappointed with how early the season was winding down this year. They looked like they were still having fun though.


The Happo Riesen Quad wasn’t running, so after another ride up the gondola I thought I would head up the Alpen Quad to go over to the other side and check out the park for a lap or two…… But neither the Alpen Quad nor the Tenbo Quad lifts were running. This means that the top of the gondola was as high as I was going to get today. Not quite a skeleton lift operation, but pretty close to it. I saw a sign indicating that the park was closed too. I remember the High Cascade Park being one of the best in the Hakuba area, second only to 47 (due to its lack of a half pipe), so I was a little disappointed that it was closed. This limited what was available for me to ride, so lapping the gondola, Central and Kokusai lifts was how I spent the rest of the day.


The Panorama course was the emptiest of all the runs on offer, so I did a fair few cruisers on that, barely seeing another soul the whole time. It was definitely thin on the ground down towards the bottom, but not quite bare so no problem riding to the bottom of the Kokusai lift. My second to last run was when I had to un-strap and scramble across the mud to get across to the base of the gondola. Another top to bottom cruiser on the Riesen Slalom Course was enough for me to end my day on a good note. I headed back to my car at around 2:45 and was on the road back to Nagano by 3 pm.


Overall, I really like Happo. The lifts are modern and get you up there quickly. They are also well linked when the resort is in full operation. The staff are friendly and most seem to be able to speak English. During peak season, Happo offers excellent access to the back country and high alpine environment from the Grat Quad. Of course it goes without saying to only enter the back country as part of an experienced group with all the necessary equipment. The ski patrol seem to be a little more relaxed at Happo than over at Goryu/47, which is great for experienced back country riders. I would recommend Happo to anyone, from beginners and family groups, right through to expert park riders and powder hounds.


I wish I could've had the chance to use the ticket earlier in the season, but I had a great day and I was glad I chose to go back to Happo. Thanks again for the ticket Snow Japan, and keep up the great work with the site!



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Probably a good thing McDump is gone to be fair. When I held a pass at Happo before I would eat there pretty much every time I went!

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