A Ski Season in Japan

Our ski season in Japan is slowly coming to an end, so we thought we’d share the ups and downs of our time spent in the Hakuba Valley. Overall I cannot recommend Japan enough as a country for skiing, especially for powder lovers, but here are our pros and cons of being seasonaires…

Pros

  1. Snow – I don’t know the exact snow fall for the 14/15 winter season but it has been a hell of a lot! When it snows in Japan it snows hard. It has been hands down the best powder I have ever experienced in my life and there are no more words to describe it.

    And this was in late March!
    And this was in late March!
  2. Onsen, onsen, and more onsen – not only is soaking in the hot springs of Hakuba good for your body and soul but I also think for humankind.
  3. Back country – it has been a real privilege to live and work with skiers and riders with far more experience than us, who have been happy to take us under their wings and introduce us to the backcountry. It is genuinely the most satisfying feeling to hike under your own steam and reach untouched areas of terrain for the best lines. This is something I hope to do more and more of in the future. Big thanks to Fleur, Robi, Brian, Emmanuelle and Cami!

    Ski touring in Tsugaike
    Ski touring in Tsugaike
  4. Heated toilet seats – what a genius invention for cold ski bums! They should be introduced to ski towns worldwide.
  5. Cheap gin
  6. Japanese people – they are just so friendly and happy to go out of their way to help you.
  7. Great friends and colleagues – we have met so many awesome people from all different walks of life! Deciding to do another gap year in our late twenties seemed a little bit like a silly idea but was so worth it for all the friends we have made and the great times we’ve had.

    The Evergreen Crew
    The Evergreen Crew
  8. Food – the food is delicious and so cheap compared to the price you pay in the French Alps. And beer is only ¥400 – ¥600 (£2.25 – £3.40) which is almost unheard of in France!
  9. Empty resorts – apart from the Christmas week and Chinese New Year the slopes in Hakuba are so quiet. You see a bit of an increase over the weekends but I have barely queued for a lift all season.
  10. Free stuff – I won a snowboard and a splitboard in one season! Definitely can’t complain about that.

    Won a Windlip splitboard!
    Won a Windlip splitboard!

Cons

  1. Nothing has been updated since the 1998 Olympics – Hakuba valley must be home to the slowest chair lifts in the world. The infrastructure of the resorts feels a bit dated and no new chairlifts have been built for a very long time…
  2. No double glazing or insulation!! This really did baffle us when we first moved in. For such a high tech country we still can’t believe they heat their homes with kerosene in Japan. Errrr kerosene heaters….kerosene heaters in japan
  3. Australians… – much like how the Brits have taken over Meribel, the Aussies have really taken over Happo One!
  4. Pay is pretty low – again much like most season work I guess! We had hoped to at least cover our living expenses but this has not been the case…
  5. Buses between resorts – it has been great to be able to try out all of the resorts in the valley but the bus service definitely could do with improvement. They are just not designed for tall people or 2m long powder skis!
  6. Lack of Apres Ski – such a disappointment! There is nothing that comes even close to the Apres Ski scene in the French Alps, no sun terraces, no 4pm live bands and no dancing on tables. That said the end of season Splash Jam was probably one of my best days ever!

    Evergreen's Splash Jam Competition
    Evergreen’s Splash Jam Competition

In summary – we’ve had an incredible ski season and feel so lucky to have experienced life in the Japanese mountains!

Enjoying a beer in the foot onsen at Tsugaike
Enjoying a beer in the foot onsen at Tsugaike

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