Yes, the powder days are more than likely behind us for this winter. And while you will probably not be in waist deep Hakuba powder any time soon, there are still plenty of reasons to keep the village in your sights this spring season. Here are my top 5 reasons not to write off Hakuba this spring.
1. It is the best time of year for family skiing
While mum and dad might love nothing more than crashing through bottomless powder, most kids may not – especially if they are still finding their ski legs. Do remember, what is boot high on an adult might be knee high on a child, and unless they are really adept in deep snow or simply used to skiing in these conditions, they might just prefer some sunshine, a brilliant blue sky and a fun groomed run. Not having to battle the cold, fumble with their gloves or continually pull up their neck warmer will certainly have its appeals – and with far less people on the slopes at this time of year, you will have entire runs to yourself. This is partially valuable for nervous skiers, kids and those that enjoy cranking carved turns down wide open runs.
2. It is the best time to challenge the bigger slopes
Thanks to solar radiation and the associated warmer temperatures, the snow it typically softer, smoother and more buttery come spring time. When the snow is of this quality – particularly on the high slopes – it is not only extremely satisfying, but makes steeper terrain more approachable in the absence of icy patches or hard, crunchy conditions under foot. Moguls, for example, can feel rather intimidating and unapproachable when they are enormous, rock solid and scratchy; but, revisit them in the spring time and they are as friendly as you will ever find them; soft, creamy, playful bumps. In short – your winter challenges can be less threatening in the light of Spring.
3. Bigger backcountry lines can be accessed
For those into backcountry skiing, spring is your season. With less frequent snowfalls and more consistent temperatures, the snowpack is typically more stable, and lines that were too treacherous to attempt during the thick of winter are often manageable come spring. Sunshine and blue skies are an excellent bonus too, as the scenery of Japan’s Northern Alps from the Hakuba backcountry is nothing short of draw dropping. As always, be sure to have the necessary equipment, knowledge, experience and training when venturing into the backcountry, or hire a guide that does. Northern Heights Guiding is one such company, with decades of guiding experience in and around the Hakuba Valley.
4. Apres atmosphère and non-ski options
Spring is the time to break for lunch in the warm sunshine – sun glasses on – and soak up some rays at a very comfortable temperature. Reminiscent of the European style, not much of this is enjoyed mid winter due to persistent snowfall, but March sees the tables and chairs dragged outside, as food smells and the apres atmosphere permeates the valley. Outdoor slope side lunching is especially good for families with young children, as the little ones can play in the snow for hours on end while you graze, relishing that you do not have to participate in the “eating out with kids” battle. Skiing aside, the warm temperatures and generally stable weather means that there are so many non ski options available in the region too. Both the Azumino Alps Parks and the Matsumoto Alps Park are great family day trips, and the variety of other sporting actives, shopping, and culture rich actives in the region is unending. Narai-Juku is a lesser known and very underrated day trip – just one and a half hours away by car – an old postal town that will immediately transport you – plunging you into old Japan.
5. Great deals
Let’s be honest, it has been a tough winter for the world, and Hakuba is no exception. Keen to see people come to this resort village, business and services valley wide will have some excellent deals on. Great for the consumer – not so much the business owners – Hakuba may never be this affordable again. Make the most of these opportunities, get out of the city, and become acquainted with Hakuba in a way that you never have before.
Nadine Robb is Owner and Instructor at Hakuba Ski Concierge. Hakuba Ski Concierge is a boutique ski school in Hakuba, Japan.
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