Since the season kicked off in early December we’ve been itching to head over to Cortina. The furthest resort in the Hakuba valley with the steepest terrain, most tree runs and highest snow fall – often described as a mecca for powder hounds. However also due to these superb conditions it regularly closes for avalanche precautions as we found out on our first visit…
Second time lucky – we woke bright and early to catch the bus to Cortina from Happo One. The journey takes about 40 minutes and costs ¥500. Result – the resort was open and it was turning out to be a blue bird day!
Cortina is basically a big bowl serviced by two main lifts – no.4 and no.5, from there it is a cat track that you can follow round and drop in to the bowl at any point you fancy. Mainly through tightly packed trees and deep, deep powder. For us it was great fun, we had no idea where we were going but could be confident that gravity would always bring us out where we started and we weren’t going to get stuck the wrong side of the valley!
The bottom of Cortina is dominated by the absolutely massive Green Plaza Hotel which is bit of an icon and eyesore wherever you are in Cortina. The best bit is though that they offer a great value day pass which includes your lift pass for the day, ¥1000 voucher to spend on pizza at lunch (very Japanese I know) and the use of the hotel onsen all for just ¥4000 (roughly £22).
We had a fantastic day in Cortina and will definitely be back throughout the rest of the season. It was unlike any resort I have ever been to before in the fact that there were hardly any groomed runs and hundreds of different ways to make your own way through the trees. I’ve not really come across tree runs that much before so it was very challenging but felt like way more of an adventure than just following everyone else down the same piste. And as for the onsen – I can’t recommend it highly enough, it is the best thing after a hard day riding so overcome your inhibitions and give it a try if you get the chance!