Freeriding, terrain parks and pistes
in Happo One
Happo-One is a powder junkie’s dream. With a ridiculous volume of snow falling each year and a rolling topography of tree lined gullies – powder key feature of the resort. Dramatic early season dumps have resulted in people literally drowning – so be warned, bring your transceivers, snorkels and big set back boards. This is the freeride destination in Hakuba.
The great thing about Happo-One is that is provides freeriding for both the advanced and intermediate rider. Those less confident in the pow can ride widely spaces trees off the side of the runs, or some of the obvious open faces within resort boundaries. Those more advanced riders can go back country with a guide and experience some steep faces and gullies and tight trees for a thigh deep Japanese powder adventure.
Two things you must know before you venture off-piste at Happo-One. Firstly ducking ropes to ride the trees between the runs is forbidden. However, of all the places we visited in the region the patrol at Happo-One seem most laid back about policing that rule – but be aware of the situation, passes can be taken if you are caught riding in the trees.
The second thing to know is that once you drop off the side or back of the resort you are on your own, and it is not the responsibility of the patrol to rescue you if you get hurt. This combined with the fact that Japanese mountain patrols do not exercise much in the way of avalanche control / bombing, means that it is best to make your off-piste adventures with a local guide, and of course with full avalanche safety gear.
Once you are locked and loaded with some local knowledge explore the area skiers left of the Alpine quad and any of the tree covered valleys off the side of the resort that provide a fluffy wonderland of pillows, drops and rolls.
Unusually for Japan Happo-One also boasts some more dramatic shoots and faces in the ‘backcountry’ outside of the resort that your guide can show you if you are advanced riders. You’ll normally find these spots untracked, even on a blue bird powder day. Which is precisely why we love Japan.
For all your back country guiding and equipment needs speak to the Evergreen Adventure shop at Happo.
Having filled in their pipe and removed their snowpark 3 years ago to build more beginner runs, management are now eating their words and moving into discussions about building a new park. In 2008 the prestigious US High Cascade camp bought a park to Happo for one week session, if this becomes a permanent feature in the future, it will complete Happo first class resort on a global scale.
Mind you with all the Japanese powder you’d be mad to be searching for a park anyway, head into the snow and practise launching some air off the natural drops and pillow lines. Much softer landings and much more fun then your average groomed snowpark.
In summary Happo-One isn’t the place for dedicated freestlyers – those looking for a park would do better to head to Hakuba 47 or Tsugaike.
Happo-One has great wide, well maintained pistes perfect for a bit of self indulgent euro carving. Check out the pistes under the Alpine Quad for some great wide turns, or ride top to bottom for a real leg burning on-piste shred, complete with steeps, rollers and the occasional minefield of moguls.
It is worth noting that there is not a beginner run to ride out top to bottom on. This can be frustrating for beginners who are going to either be struggling to ride out to the bottom of the gondola or down loading at the end of the day. For groups dominated by beginner riders Hakuba 47 is probably a more suitable destination.
However if you are a beginner visiting Happo-One, there are a few nice wide beginner runs accessed from short chairs and the bottom of the mountain that are perfect for learning on. The night riding is also located on these short mellow slopes so Happo-One is a great place for learners to get their flood-lit shred on.
English spoken snowboard lessons can be arranged but must be booked at the resort in advance.READ NEXT: Village life, accommodation & nightlife