Lifts & Terrain
Gaijin visiting the Hakkaisan Ski Resort are most likely to be there for the amazing tree skiing and the consistently steep fall-line (except for the mellow part at the very bottom). Most of the locals go to Muikamachi
Resort to hone their skills on the mogul runs, which max out at a gradient of 38 degrees. That’s of course if the runs are not closed due to glide cracks because the ski patrollers haven’t done any proper avalanche work!
Despite there being trails for beginners, very few novices visit Muikamachi Hakkaisan Ski Resort
. Intermediates probably don’t go there either, considering the abundance of better suited Yuzawa ski resorts
just down the road.
The Hakkaisan Ropeway services almost the whole vertical of the ski area and thankfully it is rather fast with a speed of 7m/s. It arrives reasonably often and fits about 80 people, so lifting capacity is not an issue.
There is also a slow pair lift for those who want to lap the moguls (if they can be bothered opening it), and a double lift for those that want to do circuits of the bunny slopes, which thankfully has safety bars and foot rests. There is also another double chair in the middle and off to the side that’s generally only open on weekends and holidays (or for private rental) or whenever they feel like it.
There is generally plenty of Hakkaisan snow with an average of 10 metres of snow fall per season, however fresh is best. On a powder day the snow is generally awesome, but at times the Hakkaisan snow quality can be rather lacking. Whilst the top elevation at 1,147 metres is higher than some nearby Yuzawa ski resorts
, it’s not really that high. The ropeway faces southwest and some of the slopes even face due south, so the snow can be left to bake in the sun. The poor aspect also contributes to a short ski season. Of course it’s all relative! The Hakkaisan snow is often good, it’s just generally not the awesome powder goodness that can be found in other parts of Japan, especially Hokkaido.
Hakkaisan Skiing for the Beginner
The double chair that leads up from the day lodge services a few green runs that are absolutely ideal for learning. The trails are wide open and there are no other runs in the area, so it’s not possible to accidentally head down a black run.
There’s also a beginner-rated trail that snakes its way down the top half of the ski area, but it’s really just a narrow cat track, and beginners would also have to tackle a short intermediate pitch to be able to return to the base area.
Skiing Hakkaisan for the Intermediate
The Maekura trail is ideal for intermediates, but it’s serviced by the chair lift that’s only open on weekends or intermittently. The other red runs are really for strong intermediate riders only, because they may or may not be groomed, and a couple of them have a maximum gradient of 36 degrees. This is one of few Japanese ski resorts that actually under-rates the trail difficulty.
In the beginner area is a supposed terrain park. It consists of a couple of short lines of hits for learners, that’s of course if they’ve got around to setting them up.
Advanced Skiing & Snowboarding – On-Piste
The two black trails at the top that run adjacent to the Hakkaisan Ropeway are generally heaven for mogul lovers. Japanese dudes from far and wide come to ride these moguls. They don’t quite have the same cult status of the Mary Jane Winter Park bumps, but the locals do seem to get pretty excited about them!
When the bumps get too big on the Champion Trail, they sometimes send out the groomer to flatten them out.
Off Piste Skiing and Riding
Let’s leave the moguls to the locals because fat skis and powder boards are designed to ride powder! Some off-piste areas are roped off and some are not, but either way, off-piste riding is not permitted. If you want to chase powder you’ll have to be discrete (ie invisible) and accept the risk of losing your pass.
The tree skiing is so much fun and there’s a mix of tree species and spacing between the trees to provide plenty of variety. The consistently steep-ish fall line is also a highlight. The trees near the black runs are superb (but a little obvious to ski patrollers’ eyes), and the trees between the green snaking run are also very enjoyable and probably the first slopes to get tracks.
For those new to tree skiing, the middle lift (if it’s open) provides some nice trees.
Sideccountry & Backcountry
Unlike other ski resorts that ban off-piste riding (inside the resort boundaries) but permit out-of-bounds riding (at your own risk), Hakkaisan also prohibits sidecountry and backcountry riding. This is probably because the ski patrollers are in bed with a local guiding company that takes big groups out into the sidecountry (and who wants to ride with a big group?!). There aren’t that many ski patrollers around to tell you off for going in there, but the guides who “tri” to “force” the issue may dob on you!
The sidecountry terrain is rather impressive and includes a range of steep trees as well as some very rocky terrain in the form of cliffs and chutes. If you head out to skiers right, to avoid the big rocky areas, either stay really close to the resort boundary line, or head much further skiers’ right. Depending on the snow base you’ll need to navigate a big gully but otherwise egress is rather easy.
As with any backcountry terrain, only go in there if you have avalanche safety gear
and backcountry know-how and/or a guide.