Shayne Coomber has been living in Hakuba Valley for 10 years – making him the local authority on all things Hakuba-related. This is his Insider’s Guide.

Shayne runs International Snowsports Japan (ISJ) and Allure (hotel and restaurant) so make sure you drop in and say hi if you find yourself neck deep in powder in the Hakuba Valley.

What made you choose Hakuba?

After many, many back-to-back winters between Australia, Europe and North America, we finally made it to Japan. After seeing resorts across Hokkaido and Honshu, we arrived in Hakuba and wondered why we wasted our time anywhere else.

Favourite ski run

My favorite single run each year would be the Happo Reisen Slalom, which is basically half SG, half downhill and is a ski race that has been run for about 70 years. It runs from the top of the Happo Gondola to the bottom of Nakiyama. It draws about 800 entries and is held on the first Thursday and Friday in March each year. Average speeds for the guys in the top 15 are around 90km/hr. It is soooo much fun.

Favourite spot on a powder day

I am pretty lucky, as I would usually be teaching a powder clinic or be coaching ski racers with a high ability level so we head off piste. Regularly, guests want the full Cortina experience though, so that might be a starting point.

Favourite apres spot

Hakuba has a host of options and it comes down more to what you are into. A more sophisticated guest might want to enjoy champagne or cocktails at the Tokyu Hotel’s lounge close to Happo-one. Younger couples and families tend to love the Hakuba Brew pub in Iwatake. Singles and groups of friends love the strip in Echoland which has a whole food and drinks district with happy hour at the Lobster Shack or cocktails at Goldilocks being favourites. For a longer night, Mockingbird in Echoland and The Pub in Wadano (near Happo) are very popular.

Favourite on-mountain dining

The best lunch in snowsports is at Pilar at the top of the Alpen Quad in Happo-one. I have guests who will ski at their resort of choice in the morning and then transfer to Happo-one for the afternoon, exclusively to dine at Pilar. There are only 5 tables and some window seating, so do not expect to get a table without booking.

Favourite village dining

Best French – La Neige. Best Japanese – Manyo at Tokyu Hotel. Best isakaya – KiChonChon. Best sushi – KiKyoYa. Best soba – Zen. Best tepanyaki (a teppan is a hot plate at your table, not a chef throwing food at you) – Emu. Cheapest, most filling meals in town – Ooshimo.

Best hot chocolate

Top Notch café at Sakka base at Happo. For the adults, add 50c for a shot of your favorite spirit to spice it up.

Best breakfast

Sounds Like Café and Bears Café in Echoland, Base in Goryu. The latte art that comes with a coffee at Cortina is a must before you start your day as well.

Favorite non skiing/boarding activity

Mountain Biking. Hakuba is MTB heaven.

Favourite date night

Hakuba Hifumi is where I do take my wife for date night. Great traditional Japanese food from amazing hosts and your own private onsen in your room. It is just a divine escape right here in Hakuba.

Best activity in resort or town for kids/families

Snowsports lessons with ISJ during the day, kids snowmobiling at Cortina while mum has an Onsen in their 7 pool indoor outdoor onsen, snowmobiling with lion adventure, Hakuba cultural experience which incorporates Kimono wearing, soba Making and tea ceremony and if the kids are a little older, Hakuba Heat, and the air soft ‘combat range’ where you can team up or against each other for a true battle experience with airsoft guns.

Where do you take visitors to impress them?

Suwa Jinja Shrine with its 1000 year old tree. Pilar for lunch in Happo. Snowmobiling in a secret location (shhh!). Cortina for the gobsmacking hotel. Hakuba Highland hotel for the outdoor onsen overlooking the whole valley, while it’s snowing.

What should visitors not leave your resort without doing?

Ride every ski lift in the Hakuba Valley! It is a great fun challenge that is difficult to achieve within a week.

What item should visitors take back with them?

Photographs, cherished memories, new friendships, a goggle tan, a serious Hakuba powder addiction and a booking for next year’s snow trip!

Big mountains, big luxury: Japan’s best-kept secret resort


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