Hakuba VS Madarao?

Discussion in 'Japan' started by Lan-gee, Oct 9, 2018.

  1. Lan-gee

    Lan-gee First Runs

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    G'day,
    My bro and I are looking into a week trip in early-ish Feb on Honshu. He boards, I ski. He's super keen on off-piste, I'm more 50-50 piste, off-piste. I'd pitch us at lower advanced level. I'm currently liking Hakuba (Happo or Cortina) and Madarao. He's been to Jap before, I haven't. He's gung-ho, I'm happy to push myself but want to get home to my 4 little-ies in one piece! We're not fussed on night-life, just want to maximise the mountain experience when we're there.
    Thoughts and tips would be greatly appreciated :)
     
  2. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    WRT snow you will be happy with either.

    If you want a different resort everyday, Hakuba may be better. You are probably closer to more resorts at Madarao as it is between Mt Myoko, Shiga Kogen and Nozawa Onsen. But it is not well set up wrt shuttles between them.

    I have to declare my bias as I own a lodge at Madarao, and have only skied Hakuba 47. My experience was that for off piste Madarao is easier as it is 60% ungroomed and you can go almost anywhere between Madarao and Tangram. And you can get great access to the slopes at Madarao. We are genuine ski in ski out and there are quite a few other places that are a very short walk to and from the slopes. Biggest downside for Madarao in the past has been the lack of restaurants and nightlife, but that is changing, rapidly!
     
  3. M_G

    M_G A Local
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    For only a week I'd go Hakuba only. If you had longer then you could tack some time on for Madarao.
     
    #3 M_G, Oct 10, 2018 at 3:01 AM
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018 at 1:53 AM
  4. Lan-gee

    Lan-gee First Runs

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    What's the main reason/s for your approach? Does Hakuba have better skiing for what we're after? Some sites seemed to indicate that off-piste at Hakuba can be pretty gnarly. What's your thoughts on that? Cheers.
     
  5. Lan-gee

    Lan-gee First Runs

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    Thanks. I wasn't thinking of changing ski areas much over the space of a week. Perhaps just go over to the next valley. What's more important is that the skiing is suited to us. What's the ability needed for off-piste in Madarao VS Hakuba?
     
  6. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Madarao is one mountain....Hakuba is a long valley with 8 mountains.

    Hakuba will keep everyone busy for a week easy.
     
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  7. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    If you are happy to ski the same place Madarao/Tangram would be fine. The appeal of Haukuba is that it has multiple resorts with regular shuttle buses running between them. And it has more apres stuff happening.

    I cannot really comment from personal experience as I cannot ski powder - yep still struggle with it even though I can ski sheets of ice. And I have not skied enough places in Hakuba to give you good advice. Wehn we were at Hakuba 47 you had to get a bib, and pay?, to be allowed to ski outside the groomed runs.

    Personally I think it would be better to look at the accommodation that is available and decide based on what you can find that suits you best.

    With respect to skils, where do you normally ski? That will give people a better idea about what will suit you.
     
  8. M_G

    M_G A Local
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    Basically what Crispy013 said below. As much as I love Madarao, for me there's not enough terrain there to keep me occupied past 3-4 solid days, esp. if there's no fresh. Yes, there is some fairly serious off-piste at Hakuba but it's certainly not all like that.
     
  9. Zimbooo

    Zimbooo One of Us

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    Madarao is absolutely great for a week ............ as long as it's snowing.
    It really offers you everything you want.........as long as its snowing.
    If your unlucky and are in Japan in a week between storms you and your brother will most likely get bored quickly in Madarao.
    Hakuba safer bet for variety and yes if its really snowing you'll get plenty of powder in Hakuba.
     
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  10. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete Addicted

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    If you snowboard there are better resorts to ride than Happo and I would think twice about staying at Cortina as its a long way from anywhere, especially if you plan to go out. Having said that Hakuba offers a huge range of terrain over 9 resorts and seems like a solid option from what you described. Please understand that if you are riding off piste that all areas in Japan are prone to avalanches among other risks and you need to gear up and get educated before venturing off the resorts, ANY resorts. TBH if you get your act together and get up early, do some research and have a good attitude there is plenty in bounds riding that is epic and offers a much greater safety margin. That is what I generally do :)
     
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  11. Lan-gee

    Lan-gee First Runs

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    Great. Thanks.
     
  12. Lan-gee

    Lan-gee First Runs

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    Okay, I'll check into what's available in Hakuba. From what I've read, it seems like Cortina and Happo are the places with the best off-piste. I been busy making kids so haven't skied in a decade. My last experience was the whole season in small village in Austria. I mostly stuck to the piste but started to get into off-piste more and more as the season wore on.

    My bro has boarded a few times on Hokkaido, he's pretty gung-ho and keen on off-piste powder.
     
  13. Lan-gee

    Lan-gee First Runs

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    Great. Thanks.
     
  14. Lan-gee

    Lan-gee First Runs

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    Where would your preferred choice of location be?

    Yeah, I'm not keen on avalanches. I was reading about taking avi gear in parts of Hakuba and thinking, bloody hell - that doesn't sound like the kind of skiing I'm up for! Is there much tamer, safer off-piste powder in the areas. I'm all up for getting home to my four kids with a smile on my face!
     
  15. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty!
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    Off piste inbounds is the way to go then. You still need to take care - I stacked it in nipple deep on piste in the middle of a ridiculous week of storms in Hakuba and ended up fully buried, head down hill on my back, not something I care to repeat if avoidable - but anything with a significant slide risk inbounds will be closed.

    Yes you can find some fun stuff to play in without heading backcountry.
     
  16. geeoff

    geeoff Hard Yards

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    You need to take care when considering the term “inbounds”in relation to Japanese resorts. In North America and Australia the resorts usually have defined ski area boundaries which are shown on their trail maps and fenced/ signed as OOB. So it is usually clear when leaving the resort and going “back country”. Anything inbounds is usually then avalanche controlled unless closed off.
    In Japan, much like in Europe, there are usually no defined boundaries and only the pisted runs are controlled, unless the adjoining “off piste”
    area may slide onto the run.
    Unlike Europe where there is no rule against skiing in these off piste areas, in Japan they have traditionally been signed/fenced/patrolled to prevent access (sometimes for safety and also because of “forestry” or other regulations).
    This has slowly changed and Madarao and Cortina are 2 resorts that have been more liberal in opening off piste areas between marked trails. Some of the other areas in Hakuba Valley are now also opening “off piste” areas in specific places.
    Once you leave a trail in Japan you need to excercise care and not assume it is controlled or safe. There are some steep gullies or other terrain features in most areas that should be avoided either generally or in certain conditions.

    As for your questions (and repeating some of the other posters observations in part):-
    1. Whilst there are gnarly/avalanche prone areas in Hakuba these are generally in the alpine areas above and to the side of the resorts, particularly Goryu, Hakuba 47 and Happo.
    2. Happo in my opinion does not have a lot of tree skiing between the trails. There are some areas along Skyline ridge but these tend to track out early. On the other hand it has some nice steepish groomers which are great on a clear day to cruise around. The steep alpine area above is world class but also dangerous and should not be attempted without knowledge and the correct gear.
    3. There are other resorts in the valley such as the top section of Tsuaike Kogen where you will find nice tree skiing in designated areas without the crowds of Happo.
    4. You will have to catch buses in Hakuba to get around. Get the first bus to the resort you are going to and you will avoid the crowds. Take the bus routes into account when deciding where you stay. The Wadano area tends to have direct buses to most resorts and walking distance to Happo lifts.
    5. Madarao will not require travelling around the valley floor to access the resort (unless you day trip to Myoko or Nozawa- which is definitely an option) but is relatively small and does not have the range of restaurants and bars as at Hakuba.
    6. Hakuba is more western “influenced” mainly around Wadano, Happo village and Echoland. Some consider these areas to be more vibrant at night as a result, others complain of loud groups of drunk westerners! I have not found this a problem but tend to go to an Izakaya, have a meal and some Nama Biiru and avoid the night spots! These areas are noticeably more busy than Madarao.
     
  17. Sage Oya

    Sage Oya Like the herb, lover of Pabst
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    Hakuba is excellent for a wide range of choices resort wise as well as the shuttle service that use can use to take you between resorts. If you end up in Hakuba, staying with in walking distance of the Happo bus terminal can be good as this is where the majority of the alpico buses depart from to take you to the resorts (the shuttle service varies over the season so best to check the schedule for what's running when you plan to be there 500 yen each way or free if you have an all valley pass). You'd also then be close to the Lawson's for konbini-ence if you want to buy food (or breakfast chuhai) and take it to the mountain with you.

    Powderhounds give a pretty accurate assessment of the resorts in Hakuba.

    http://www.powderhounds.com/Japan/Honshu/Hakuba.aspx

    Resort wise my picks are:

    Happo-one: Large (ski orient) resort, favours those who like moguls or groomers. No tree riding inbounds. Great on mountain ramen at cha cha in usagidaira. Has an interesting transfer 'happo banks' but no real park. Doesn't have tree riding.

    Tsugaike: Our favourite. Fun on skis, boards or a snowscoot if you're game. Long run from top to bottom, fun park. Gonodla to take you 90% of the way up takes 20 minutes. Tree riding available inbounds though some of it is gated and you're meant to be part of DBD to access it though it didn't seem to be enforced when we there. Lots of side hits, only had moguls on the uma-no-se course. Majority of runs not technically difficult unless you're flying through the trees.

    47: Decent park with olympic sized halfpipe. Long runs, tree runs though some gated with access for 'members only'.

    Iwatake: Small but fun, DC park, not a lot around the base of the resort but the hakuba brewery is good.

    Cortina: Majority of runs black but a fairly small resort, not alot for beginners. Lots of trees with a general ride at your own risk policy, busy on pow days. Out in the middle of nowhere with not much around, not many food options, dont miss the last bus back to happo. Funky hotel at the base. Worth it if the snow is good.

    TBH i enjoyed skiing everywhere in Hakuba but if i had limited time and the snow was good everywhere id do Happo-one (if im on skis), Tsugaike and Cortina. Otherwise id just go where the snow was likely to be best on the day.

    My trip report from this year

    If you haven't been to Japan before I'm sure you enjoy wherever you go though :p
     
    #17 Sage Oya, Oct 11, 2018 at 12:11 AM
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018 at 1:55 PM
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  18. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete Addicted

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    Cortina has great inbound riding as does Tsugaike which you may be confusing with off-piste. The latter of those two is better in my view. Do the DBD course (free and quick) and its a great place to learn how to ride trees but please do not drop out the northern gates without crew that have been there before and gear. People have died there before and may possibly do so again. The southern gates are somewhat safer but be aware there are cliffs, holes etc and still the possibility of more in some places. Please do not ride out the gates without the DBD course. This is a new process that has allowed a lot more great riding to be opened up and observing a simple set of rules will help even more to open. Pissing off Patrol doesnt help that.

    Finally quite simply you should not ride off piste here without gear, training and friends with the same. Dont get freaked out by this, just get it together if that is the style of riding you want to do, anywhere in Japan or the world for that matter is the same. Each winter we see an increasing number of numbats breaking fundamental rules that will only end one way one day. Dont be that guy :)

    Come to Hakuba, if you are youngish stay in Echoland or Happo, get up for the 1st shuttles and you will have a great time!
     
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