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 M_G_ = Make skiing great again
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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
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
  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 M_G_ = Make skiing great again
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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 One of Us

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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
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  18. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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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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  19. Lan-gee

    Lan-gee First Runs

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    So, my bro and I are booked for early-ish Feb at Goryu. Turns out he has a contact there at Bears Den. However, we could only get 5 of the 7 nights there so we need 2 extra nights somewhere else. From what I'm hearing, Cortina is pertty busy and further out of the way from the other resorts in the valley. There's been some suggestion to go to Tsugaike which sounds interesting. Anyone have any recommendations for accommodation? What should we expect to pay for price? We're not fussed on mod-cons or opulence but it has been said a decent drying room, proximity to runs and ability to access food without paying over-inflated hotel prices is handy.
     
  20. Beerman

    Beerman One of Us
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    Good pick, Hakuba hands down over Madarao IMO.
    If staying away from Happo/Echoland/Goryu, I'm thinking you should be able to walk in to accom ask if they have a room for a couple of nights and go from there, you won't have to look too hard. If the first place you ask is full, in typical Japanese style they'll likely know a place that has vacancy, you cant go wrong if there is only a couple of you. As mentioned above, Tsugaike, Iwatake and others are not so busy and therein lies the beauty of Japan, the less frequented places are gold. Explore and enjoy.
     
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  21. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again
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    Early Feb is leading into CNY and Foundation Day holiday (11 Feb). I wouldn't take the chance.
     
  22. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    Madarao(75ha) + Tangram(50ha) is only a fraction bigger than Iwatake(120ha) at Hakuba, to give you an idea of scale.

    If you want easier access to the whole valley, there's better areas to stay than Goryu. It's up one end, and my preference is somewhere more central. At Goryu/47, if you catch the shuttle, you may have to change shuttles at the Happo bus terminal to go to places like Tsugaike, Cortina/Norikura.
     
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  23. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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    Yep stay in Happo by the bus terminal or Echoland for your last couple nights. Lots more buses leaving from the Hakuba Snow Shuttle terminal in Echoland this year including buses to Cortina that will get there before their own buses do and you can pre-book a ticket.

    BTW Bears Den is really nice. Lesley the owner/manager is a champ!

    Off the back of Goryu is some of the most serious BC riding in the valley but your brother will need to be with some very serious people to access that safely. Depending on conditions there is somewhat less extreme BC terrain at Goryu but there are obvious avalanche areas often with moronic numbats riding it. Caution is the word.

    If you get really lucky Seppuku Pistols play once a year at Tracks and are an awesome band to see.
     
  24. Lan-gee

    Lan-gee First Runs

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    Great. I'll check out Happo and Echoland. Any recommendations for accommodation there?
    My bro's wife knows Lesley somehow. She does sound like a champ!
    So sounds like BC in Goryu needs to be guided or have someone who knows the area really well.
    I'll keep an eye on Tracks Bar too. Seppuku Pistols sound pretty Rock 'n' Roll!
     
  25. Lan-gee

    Lan-gee First Runs

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    Is getting around on the shuttle buses pretty straight forward and do they run quite frequently? I've heard it said to get a 'valley pass' so that you can use the shuttles for free. Suppose we decide to head to Cortina (which seems to be the furthest resort away) from Goryu for a day, how long would it take using the valley shuttles?
     
  26. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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    For Echoland Accomm. Really nice = Tony @ Whitehorse (where I stayed every time). A little less $ = Money Rider managed again by Tony. Nick @Hakuba Powder where a lot of the guests are very serious about their riding. Back Packers = Mt Hakuba Backpackers. For transparency sake all these guys are friends of mine but they have quality products.

    I have spent a little time this morning helping Goryu with some English on their new piste maps. There will be new areas open (subject to Avie conditions) on the side of the resort which have been getting ridden in the past which will be FUN. The heavy areas though need a guide or local knowledge and experienced friends and I wouldn't be in there without an Avie air bag but not everyone thinks that way.

    Your best bet to get to Cortina from Goryu is to catch the train from the bottom of Goryu (Kamashiro) to MinaOtari. Cortina have buses waiting there. It leaves early, well before 7 although not sure on the time but Lesley will know. You want to be there the earliest you can. IMHO Cortina can be epic but so can the crowd.
     
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  27. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room
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    I never go to Cortina on a big powder day.... All of the Aussies are there, and it's super crowded, tracked out by 10:30am
     
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  28. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    Some of these guys post on here or have in the past. Have definitely given some great advice over the years.
     
  29. blowfin

    blowfin One of Us
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    Indeed, serious terrain with serious consequences, Get a guide if you do that. My advice would be getting your tree riding Bib at the base of 47 and smashing the inbounds tree zones there. New areas opening up there this season too.

    I stayed at Snowbeds B&B last year. It's a hostel style lodge with some shared rooms, but there a couple of private ones too. Cheap and cheerful if that's what you want, and right next to bus stops.
     
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  30. Lan-gee

    Lan-gee First Runs

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    Yeah... that could be a bit of a problem! The dice is rolled... will await the outcome of chance.
     
  31. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again
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    You'd get something if booking now. I wouldn't leave it until you get there. This year it was HORRENDOUSLY full in Myoko on Foundation weekend. So many people looking for rooms. I know some people had to stay in Nagano or Joetsu or further afield because they simply couldn't find anything.
     
  32. skichanger

    skichanger A Local
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    Yeah we were booked to over flowing at both Chalet Madarao and Chalet Myoko that weekend last season. We had to move a couple between lodges, shuffle people around and even find beds somewhere else for some people for 1 night. Admittedly both couples we struggled to accommodate had only decided to come to Japan about 3 days before that. So that is a time where it would not be wise to leave booking till the last minute.
     
  33. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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    If your dates fall over CNY book your Echoland accomm ASAP. We are already sold out for that period and many others would be too.
     
  34. Lan-gee

    Lan-gee First Runs

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    So, I arrive in Narita at 17:40 on Feb the 8th. Thoughts on the best way to get to Goryu to get on the slopes as soon as on the following day - the 9th? Have heard options such as direct taxi to Hakuba (very expensive), Shinkansen/standard rail, ski bus to Hakuba. Give the early evening time of arrival, getting through customs, etc. I figure it might be worthwhile to simply get somewhere in the direction of Hakuba out of expensive Tokyo and stay overnight at a Air B&B equivalent along the railway line. Then get up early and get going to Hakuba the on next morning. Thoughts?
     
  35. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room
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    If you need to ask then I strongly suggest you dont go out of bounds.
     
  36. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local
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    Using Hyperida I punched in your dates. As long as your flight is on time and there are no delays at customs/immigration you could get all the way out to Nagano if you wanted and stay at a hotel around the station. Then get up early and get a bus up to Hakuba, leave your bags at your accomm and have a day on the slopes.
     
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  37. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again
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    If you're going to go to Nagano there's a N'Ex that goes to Omiya about an hour after you arrive. Take that and change in Omiya.



    You can also catch the Super Asuza from Shinjuku and stay in Matsumoto.

    Looking at hotels I think there's a slightly better range in Nagano close to the station though rather than Matsumoto
     
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  38. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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    As the others have suggested get as far as Nagano, stay there the night and get 1st bus across in the morning. Will be quicker than staying in Matsumoto. There is a nice hotel in the station complex. Will try and recall its name but I think its Metropolitan?
     
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  39. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle
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    We've stayed at the Tokyu REI Hotel in Nagano. It's just across the road from the station. Cheap and cheerful.
     
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  40. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    I think you'll be earlier than that.
    My best on the JAL flight at 5.45pm is buying my ticket at 6.02pm.
    However you should easily make the NEX at 6.52pm ..which will mean the shink at 8.12pm
     
  41. zarik

    zarik Hard Yards

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    Chuo taxi is amazing, as long as you can get accommodation to accept you there around midnight you can be there for first lift

    http://chuo-taxi.net/1-nagano.htm

    I use them when traveling a lot(live near Matsumoto). Get out from customs, go to their waiting spot. Sleep on the taxi, they stop at some michi-no eki, so you can buy stuff to eat.
     
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  42. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again
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    Sleep on the taxi? Not a hope in hell in that happening for me!
     
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  43. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty
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    Ditto
     
  44. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again
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    Get up at 3am Japan time to get ready and go to the airport, two flights to Japan (13-15 hours inc. change of flights and customs). Probability of sleep on the plane = maybe 10%. No way I'm jamming myself into a taxi for another 5 hours or so. Done it once in summer and once was enough, even without a packed taxi. In a worse case scenario I'd book a taxi from Nagano to Myoko to get home that night.

    But truly, you get into your lodge/hotel completely buggered. Are you then going to get up at 7am for brekky and first tracks? Stay in Nagano and you can still be skiing early. We had one crew who got a 6am train from Nagano, turned up just after 7am for breakfast at RW, then still made it out for first tracks.

    If you're the type who can sleep easily on transport then it works.
     
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  45. Nozawaman

    Nozawaman A Local

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    Just to confirm ....Chuo taxi charges 1000yen for a name sign , and you must book it if you can't talk to them in Japanese . 16,200 yen Narita-Nozawa Onsen
     
  46. zarik

    zarik Hard Yards

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    Ya it depends on person, I tend to sleep ok on planes, Mask(for humidity), eye mask, earplugs. And sleep really well in the car. So I find it worth it.
     
  47. hotsaki

    hotsaki One of Us
    Ski Pass: Silver

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    Yes it is the Metropolitan.I tried to get a cab from the station to the hotel.He wouldn't drive me the 100 metres!
     
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  48. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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    You just walk through the new Midori section on 2F now, dont even leave the station. :)
     
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  49. Lan-gee

    Lan-gee First Runs

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    Alright, after arriving in Narita late in the arvo, it sounds like getting to Nagano and staying overnight is the best option before busing out to Goryu in the morning. How easy is it to find Hakuba bound buses from Nagano, and what price should I expect to pay? I take it that a bus out from Nagano wouldn't be included with lift-passes/valley pass, given the distance and travel time?
     
  50. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again
    Ski Pass: Gold

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    Froff Life and Lan-gee like this.