Do you do group lessons?
As a private ski school our focus is exclusively private lessons and guiding. This enables us to give 100% of our attention to your safety, needs, interests and goals – as well as providing assistance to you whilst planning your trip and once on the ground. If you are more interested in booking group lessons, we would be glad to assist you in doing so with Hakuba’s most reputable larger ski school.
This is my first time skiing/snowboarding – what equipment do I need?
- You will need some good quality base layers (Merino Wool is great but synthetics can also be very effective). Avoid cotton as this does not dry quickly should you perspire and can leave you cold and damp.
- A mid layer jacket or shell if you are visiting mid-winter. This will provide an extra layer of insulation. Down jackets provide great warmth, but synthetics are effective also. Be sure to choose something that is breathable.
- Outer layer jacket & pants. These must be water proof, and ideally wind proof. It is up to you if you’d prefer an insulated jacket or just a shell. A shell with zippered vents allows you to regulate your temperature easier, and if you have an insulated mid-layer than padding on your outer layer in not necessary.
- Waterproof gloves or mittens. Mittens are warmer and better suited for small children (less finicky too!). Often you get what you pay for here; the more you spend the better quality you get.
- Ski socks, a few pairs. Merino wools provide great warmth.
- Neck warmer if you are visiting mid winter. This is optional but if you are prone to the cold or have small children, the extra layer over your neck and chin provides some comfort in a snow storm.
- UV protective goggles that provide good visibility in overcast or snowy conditions and strong protection from the sun on bright days. Cost is an indiction of quality, but there is no need to break the bank with these as many mid-range goggles do a great job too.
- Helmet. Hard snow and ice can be like concrete; do not take the risk and waive a helmet – make sure it is on your list. As an added bonus it will also provide warmth and protection from the elements when it is cold (cosy ears)!
- Ski/Snowboard Boots – a rental or retail shop are best positioned to advise on these based on your feet shape and walking habits
- Skis/Snowboard – a rental or retail shop are best positioned to advise on these as you age, height, weight and ability level will impact the type of skis that you should use
- Poles if you are not a first time skier. For first time skiers these are not necessary but are often included in your rental package for no extra cost. If you bring them along then you will have the option to introduce them to your skiing if you’d like to. For children under 7 you need not bring them unless you would really like to
- Lift ticket or ability to purchase one. We can also assist and advice, or may have already done so through the booking process.
- Some pocket change. Japan is still a cash culture and it is always a good idea to have some change on you just incase. If you are staying at the mountain for a full day you will want to purchase lunch and not all establishments accepts cards.
- Accommodation name and contact details
- You will NOT NEED to bring any travel documents such as passports with you, or any expensive electronics that could get easily broken should you take a tumble. Cell phones are generally rather resilient and should be safe in a pocket (perhaps not your back pocket).
- For children – a bit of change for snacks or lunch – or a lift ticket if they do not have one
You may also find this blog piece on equipment useful.
I need to rent equipment – where do you recommend?
There are several good options in Hakuba, so you are likely to find what you need wherever you go. That said, we do give Rhythm Hakuba our full endorsement and recommendation for the following reasons:
- Enormous selection of tried and tested equipment. As snow sport enthusiasts themselves, their team personally demo and subsequently hand pick their fleet – ensuring that the best and most user friendly equipment is available to you.
- Large store front, meaning that even during Peak Season arranging your rentals need not be a crowded, stressful experience.
- Great guest service. A friendly, ready to help team is on the ground to ensure a seamless and smooth experience, noticeable from when you first enter.
- Refreshing attitude; as much as we all love things to go perfectly all the time, hiccups can still arise. Their staff and management are always ready to listen and resolve any issues that you may have – as their primary goal is guest satisfaction.
- Complimentary pick up/drop off service, allowing you to call them once you have arrived in Hakuba for a pick up to their store. This is a great way to avoid eating into ski time the following morning.
- Easy to book online and with great Early Bird Discounts.
- Great coffee available in store to start your day off on the right track
- As a guest of ours you are able to access a discount on your rentals when booking through Rhythm. Be sure to ask us about this when making your booking. Alternatively you can view their range and book online with them directly at https://www.rhythmjapan.com/locations/rhythm-hakuba/
Are private lessons good for kids?
While we mostly associate private lessons with adults, there is no shortage in benefits when putting your kids into a private lesson. Due to the 1:1 instructor/child ratio the learning progression is significantly faster when compared to group lessons, also allowing for more terrain to be explored and a great rapport to develop. For more about putting children in a private lesson – please see our “Skiing With Kids?” page.
I am a different ability level from those that I am travelling with, can we share a lesson?
Anyone planning to share a lesson with one instructor should make sure that their levels are similarly matched. Of course, we can accommodate larger ability splits, but please always know that the lesson will be taught to the lowest ability level. Instead, what we recommend in these situations is that you split the time of the lesson into two or three separate sessions. As an example, a Full Day could be split into two halves – with the instructor focusing on one participant in the morning whilst the other practises or free skis, and then switching for the afternoon session to focus on the other participant. The time is yours – so you can certainly decide how you would like it to be spent. Please do give us as much information as possible during the booking process, and we will gladly recommend what will be best for your situation. Ideally hiring more than one instructor for a group with differing abilities is the ideal, but sharing the time is certainly a good alternative.
Can skiers and snowboarders go together in one lesson?
As the instructor themself can only be on either a pair of skis or a snowboard at any given time, it is not possible to teach both together at the same time. That said, we can split the lesson time into two separate lessons – one for skiing and one for snowboarding. In order to do this we do need to know that you would like to do this at the time of booking so that we assign an instructor who is qualified to teach both, and that they know to bring both sets of equipment to the lesson with them. The shortest lesson length that you can book for this arrangement is 4 hours (Powder Discovery Half Day), though a Full Day is preferable.
Is lunch included in the Full Day?
The time itself is inclusive, but the lunch itself is not. This allows our guests to decide where, what and how long they stop for lunch. While some may choose to maximise every moment on snow with a brief 30 minute stop on the mountain, others may opt to take advantage of the complimentary private transportation and head into town for a larger choice or more specialist cuisine experience. If your children are taking Full Day Lessons then please do make sure that they (or you can give it to their instructor for safe keeping) have some money on them for lunch.
Is Hakuba47 a good mountain to learn at?
As an official ski school of Hakuba47 we are a little biased, but in our opinion it is the best for the following points of difference:
- It is the ONLY resort in the valley to give lift line priority to it’s official ski schools, which during busy periods is an immeasurable bonus as you need not waste any of your lesson time waiting to get on a chair lift. While other schools may visit Hakuba47 as guests – the same privilege is not extended to them and their guests.
- It is north facing, giving it the longest season in the valley for top to bottom skiing – which is really handy on low snow years and/or early and late season lessons.
- These north facing slopes also make the snow quality better than other resorts, as the cooler temperatures and reduced solar exposure preserve it.
- It’s beginner terrain is mid-mountain, again very convenient for low snow years or early season lessons. While other resorts have their beginner areas at the base of the mountain, those areas will either be closed or very challenging when snow is scarce – forcing beginners up onto steeper slopes that may not be suitable. Having beginner terrain higher up is a big advantage.
- It has a great beginner progression with a handful of runs mid-mountain that gradually increase in pitch as you hone your skills.
- It is physically connected and under the same ticket as two other resorts – Goryu & Iimori – giving you an enormous amount of terrain, variety and options!
- It has great variety; while other resorts may have an overriding trend of being either `steep` or `flat` ski areas – Hakuba47 truly has slopes for every interest and ability level. From its beginner terrain to long groomed red runs, to Double Black Diamond mogul runs and even a Tree Riding Zone that boasts Hakuba’s most steep and technically interesting in-bounds tree runs.
- Hakuba47 has also won awards for its on hill dining options, and has great view of Japan’s Northern Alps.
- It also avoids some of the overcrowding that better known resorts can fall victim to during weekends and holidays.
We are also an official ski school of Iwatake – another of our favourites – which offers the best views in Hakuba, an extraordinary bakery and coffee shop (Hakuba Mountain Harbour) and wonderfully wide, open, well maintained slopes. It’s lower level runs are also located higher up, and the way that it is positioned in the valley means that it is the only resort you can get a full panoramic view from and is often sheltered from poor weather.
We do conduct lessons at other resorts within the Hakuba Valley, so please do let us know at the time of booking if you would like to visit somewhere else. Please note that from last season we no longer offer lessons at Happo One. For more information on the resorts within the valley and what the strengths and weaknesses of each are, feel free to check out this blog piece.
I am yet to book my accommodation, where do you recommend?
There is so much choice in Hakuba when it comes to budget and style of accommodation, that without knowing your personal preferences and goals it is hard to say just one. All accommodations on our Preferred Partner page have our full endorsement as being reputable, quality and well managed establishments – and we would be happy to further help you zone in on some options if you’d like to tell us more about what you’re after through our Contact Us button.
What is the best way to get to Hakuba?
This answer will largely depend on your personal preferences and travel situation; there are various options as laid out below, some being faster, while others more direct, and others more economical.
- Nagano Snow Shuttle; if the timing aligns and you are comfortable to share a bus with others, then this is the most direct and hassle free option. Leaving directly from the airport and going straight to Hakuba, this option means that you need not worry about navigating public transport, timing trains or carrying your luggage. You can simply get on and then enjoy the drive to Hakuba. This option is also economical for the distance covered. The downside of this option is the timing (approximately 6 hours) and that they run on a fixed schedule throughout the day that may not precisely line up with your flight time, leaving you waiting an hour or so for the next one.
- Trains; this combination is the fastest, but does involve several changes and navigating some of the larger stations in Tokyo. If you plan to spend time in Tokyo before coming to Hakuba, then this is the option you will use. If you arrive at Narita, you would take the Narita Express or Skyliner to Ueno or Tokyo station, before getting on a bullet train to Nagano station. This is a fun experience if the bullet train is on your bucket list, and these trains do run regularly so you will never be waiting too long. Some stop less than others – so do check the duration before choosing your train; an earlier train doesn’t mean an earlier arrival. Once in Nagano you can take a bus the final hour to Hakuba, or a taxi. The cost of taking the trains + bus is much higher than the Nagano Snow Shuttle, and a big downside would be walking through stations and finding where to go after a long flight/small kids/big bags. If you do choose this option and have more than carry on luggage, we recommend that you ship your bags from the airport to your accommodation using one of the shipping services: Yamatoya Transport/Kore Neko are both fast and reliable. http://www.hyperdia.com/ is a great tool for planning trains, times and stations.
- Chuo Taxi; this option is the most expensive per person but has a lot of advantages. Essentially it is a taxi service that will take you directly from the airport to Hakuba in a comfortable 10 seater Hiace Van. There may be others in the taxi with you, but they are never crowded. As with the Snow Shuttle it is hassle and stress free and you can relax knowing that you are in good hands. The disadvantage to this is the time factor, and you can end up waiting some time at the airport for other traveller`s flights to arrive and/or go on a short detour en route to Hakuba to drop other travellers off. You will need to book in advance online or by phone as they do not take impromptu reservations.
Why should we choose Hakuba Ski Concierge over other ski schools in Hakuba?
Once again biased, but here are a few points that make us stand out:
- Our employment requirements are the highest in the valley for new instructors looking to join our full time team, so you are guaranteed a very experienced, professional and personable instructor or guide.
- Over half of our team are permanent Hakuba residents and parents themselves – putting them in the best position to share local knowledge with you and take care of both adults and kids alike.
- We are fully insured, registered and resort approved; as unfortunate as it is, there are rogue operators in the valley. Though their prices may seem more attractive, they will likely be uninsured, un qualified and not incentivised to stick around should you experience an injury. They also do little to contribute to the local community and can leave guests with a poor impression of Hakuba. For more on this subject, you may find this blog piece of interest.
- We are one of two International Ski Schools (both on Hakuba47) that have lift line priority for our guests – extremely valuable during peak season, and a privilege that is not extended to visiting ski schools.
- We are well established (approaching our 5th winter) with an excellent reputation for delivering quality lessons and great service (feel free to check out our Trip Advisor page).
- We are the only school to provide full private transportation for every one of our services
- We are the only school to provide full assistance with other local services and offer this level of customised experiences.
“We dropped by Hakuba for some spring skiing, and really enjoyed our time with Nadine and Hakuba Ski Concierge. She knows the many resorts in the region like the back of her hand, and guided us around the mountains based on that day’s conditions – great runs, great food, great experience!”Joseph L, Hong Kong