Snowboarding in Hakuba

Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Since I first began snowboarding many years ago, Japan has always figured as a holy grail when it comes to perfect conditions and snowboard-hype in general. And finally a dream came true, well after a train ride or two..

Me and Joe with our rental-snowboards on top of Hakuba Goryu/47, Japan
Joe and I had heard rumors, that snow had fallen early this season allowing snowboarders to head for the mountains and hit the slopes. An opportunity we could and would not us let pass by. As we had bought the 7-day JR Pass (33,000 yen), we were free to roam the train-lines across the country.

A river passing under the railway on the way to Hakuba, Japan
We headed to Tokyo Station first thing in the early morning, from where we caught the famous Shinkansen (or Bullet Train) to Itogawa Station on the north coast of Japan. A mere 2-hour ride. From there we caught the local trains first to Otari and then to Kamishiro Station. A beautiful ride through the Autumn imprinted landscape. And a first time in Japan we got some attention for being foreign.

The Mountain Range appearing near Hakuba, Japan
At Kamishiro Station we had planned to grab a free shuttle bus to the skiing resort area Hakuba Goryu/47, but as we arrived during pre-season the busses hadn't begun to shuttle back and forth yet. Eager to strap some boots into some bindings we grabbed a taxi for 800 yen.

Kamishiro Station near Hakuba Goryu/47, Japan
The people working at Hakuba Goryu were super friendly and helpful. And a bit surprised to have two Danish guys visiting, as mostly Japanese snowboarders and occasionally Australians visits these mountains. We'd arrived with basically no gear whatsoever, and had to rent everything. 8,300 yen for board, boots, jacket, pants, helmet, goggles and gloves (which we got to keep) - not too bad! And a 1-day pass for the lifts was only 4,000 yen. If a flight ticket to Japan wasn't so expensive, I would spend all my snowboarding holidays here.

Finally on the slopes of Hakuba Goryu/47, Japan
As we finally made it to the slopes, the conditions were close to perfect. Sunny skies, just below 0 degrees celsius, newly fallen snow, no waiting lines at the lifts. Any snowboarder's dream-scenario and completely beyond comparison.
55% of the people visiting Hakuba Goryu are snowboarders. Not something we're used to in Europe, where most people on the slopes are skiers. On the day of our visit we saw very few skiers and possibly close 90% snowboarders. The area also hosted a single restaurant in which we enjoyed a satisfying mid-ride Japanese meal at a reasonable price.

Cruising and enjoying the view at Hakuba Goryu/47, Japan
As the sun disappeared behind the mountain tops, we headed back down and couldn't leave before we'd gotten our hands on a few souvenirs. After walking 20 minutes back to Kamishiro Staion, we then headed off in the afternoon towards Nagoya. A distance only made possible by the Shinkansen and our JR Pass. See you soon Hakuba!

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