All-Time Alpine & A Favorable Forecast

IMG_0456It’s no secret that Japan’s early season snowpack is a bit below average, but Hakuba’s alpine terrain is still delivering deep turns and big smiles. On December 16th, a storm rolled in and dumped nearly 40cm of low-density snow on the upper slopes of Happo One. The following morning, the sun popped out, allowing eager skiers and snowboarders to explore Happo’s incredible backcountry terrain. High winds deposited lots of soft snow on to the northeast aspects, and a few Morino employees and locals teamed up to power lap the mellower lines.

Consecutive bluebird days are a rarety in Japan; frequent storms make high-elevation skiing inaccessible for weeks at a time. Luckily, the sun stuck around after the most recent storm, and the peaks above Tsugaike held dry and wind-protected pow. Morino employees Rachel, David and Ian adventured into the alpine and got excellent goggle tans while making endless fluffy hippie turns! Temperatures rose later in the week, and the snow at lower elevations firmed up quickly and turned into creamy mashed potatoes. This warming trend will hopefully allow the next layer of storm snow to bond easily, strengthening Hakuba’s early season snowpack.  

Hakuba lacks a standardized weather model, so forecasting here can be tricky. Matt, co-owner of the Morino, has developed his own advanced, top-secret formula for predicting snowfall in the valley. His estimates indicate that Christmas will bring several days of consistent heavy snow, even at lower elevations. Matt’s weather projections for this week are confirmed by a few other local resources, so get ready for refills!


Escape the Heat with a cool Hakuba retreat.

Hakuba Lake Aokiko Panorama

Rainy season is “officially” over & the long hot Tokyo summer has set in. Temperatures in the mid to upper-30s & lots & lots of concrete = not much fun at all.

The good news is that Morino Lodge & all our Deluxe Chalets are open for the summer & Hakuba is full of fun & relaxing ways to cool off.

Here` a list of Morino`s top 10 things to do in the Hakuba summer;

  • 10Take a drive down the Azumino Art Line – With stunning views of the alpine landscape, & a dizzying array of cultural attractions, this picturesque piece of countryside is one of Japan`s best kept secrets.img49479d04206a9
  • 9 – Wakeboard in Lake Kizakiko – Wakeboarding is not as difficult as you think & Kizakiko`s smooth waters is the perfect place to do it.
  • 8 – Visit Miasa – Miasa is a charming little farming community about 20 minutes-drive from Hakuba. “Miasa” means “beautiful hemp” which is what they used to farm here. Nowadays it`s mostly soba & rice. Naturally, you`ll find some of the best soba restaurants in Japan here. But you should also check out Miasa Coffee a charming straw-bale coffee house on beautiful grounds….a fantastic place for a walk.
  • 7 – Tandem Paraglide – with a qualified instructor, sore amongst the majestic peaks of Hakuba.paraglider
  • 6 -BBQ – whether you do it at the edge of the Matsukawa river, on the shores of Aokiko or on the deck of one of our chalets, this is what summer`s all about. We`ve got the bbqs & we`ll take you to the local butcher with cheap “inaka” prices.
  • 5 – Take a Mountain Bike Clinic at Sweetridersor if you already know what you`re doing, rent a bike & we`ll show you some fantastic trails.
    Mountainbiking Hakuba
  • 4 – Take a walk – From short strolls in the valley to serious multi-day treks, the Northern Alps offer some of the most stunning scenery in Japan. There`s something for everyone. 1465345746_750_happo-ridge-070929-2-happo-pond
  • 3 – Take a nighttime Firefly Canoe Tour – A magical experience for folks of any age, this has quickly become one of Hakuba`s most popular summertime activities. night-hotaru-canoe-2
  • 2 – Go Canyoning with EvergreenRappel, jump, slide, swim, down a cool mountain canyon equipped with 15m waterfalls & deep fresh swimming pools. The ultimate refreshment! 523604_10151202923596041_321468196_n
  • 1 – Spend the day at Lake Aokiko – There is nothing better than this & if it`s the only thing you do here, you`ll leave refreshed & satisfied. The mountain fed lake is as pristine as it gets, the views are tranquil & the pace is slow. Swim, bbq, read a book, then swim some more. We`ll provide the lawn chairs, hammocks & other toys.

Honorable mention – Take a soba making class, Do the Ex-Adventure Course, Take the Gondola to the top of Happo, Play a round of mallet golf, Take an Evergreen one day Combo Tour, Ride a bike through the valley rice fields, Relax in an Onsen, Get the latest tricks dialed for next winter at the Water Jump, , Cruise the mountain hills on a long board.







① 白馬から長野市へ向かう道路近くの堀之内地区で倒壊した家屋。今回の地震ではこの地区の被害が最も大きかった。









Old storage sheds like these didn`t fair well. In total 53 "wharehouses" were totally destroyed.






Hakuba Earthquake Update

As many of you already know, last Saturday night (Nov 22 2014) Northern Nagano prefecture was hit by a pretty serious earthquake & Hakuba was at the center of it.  The Japan Meteorological Agency is calling it a magnitude 6.7 earthquake.

Firstly, I`d like to say thank you for all the thoughts & emails we`ve received. We really appreciate your concern.

The Morino crew & all of our Hakuba friends are doing fine. All of our lodges & chalets escaped without any issues, and indeed, most of the town, and the ski resorts, felt nothing more than a big shake….which is not entirely uncommon in Japan of course. We are all fine, and all we lost at the Lodge was a bottle of wine and a glass or two. No apparent damage at any of the resorts, the lifts, or anything else….

Not to downplay what happened however…. Some older houses on the far east side of the valley took it less well, and several were completely destroyed (see below), along with a few cracks in the roadway. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear any lives were lost & the number of serious injuries reported as of Tuesday were listed as just 4 people (with 19 people listed as slightly injured).

Damaged homes in the Horinouchi community.

Damaged homes in the Horinouchi community near the road leading out from Hakuba to Nagano City. This was the area hit hardest by the quake.

Aftershocks have become less frequent & decreasing in intensity & should be a thing of the past after a couple more days. I expect that this will have zero effect on this upcoming ski season, but of course… we will continue to monitor the situation.

Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any concerns as the time gets closer…. !!

I have to give big kudos to the Japanese emergency services` response to the quake. It`s been swift & thorough, bringing calm & confidence that the affected people are being looked after & damaged roads & infrastructure have been being dealt with since immediately after the quake.

I also have to make a note about the Japanese people in general; once again, in the face of adversity they remain poised, calm & totally dignified. No CNN induced hysteria here!

Finally, to reiterate, for the bulk of Hakuba, life has returned to normal. However, there are some people on the outskirts of town for whom this earthquake has been devastating. Hakuba Village office reports that a total of 27 homes were totally destroyed, 17 partially destroyed & 58 suffered slight-damage. If you include warehouses & rice storage sheds (Kura) then in total 224 structures experienced some damage.

At this stage i`m not aware of any relief fund to help get these people back on their feet but i`m expecting there will be something set up soon & will post about it then.

Thanks again for all your concerns.

Old storage sheds like these didn`t fair well. In total 53 "wharehouses" were totally destroyed.

Old storage sheds like these didn`t fair well. In total 53 “warehouses” were totally destroyed.

The response to the earthquake has been amazing. Damaged roads like this one are quickly being repaired.

The response to the earthquake has been amazing. Damaged roads like this one are quickly being repaired.

safe & warm in an emergency shelter.

safe & warm in an emergency shelter….& still smiling.

Get yourself enRoute to Hakuba.



Pink pants & powder.

For years i used to go back to Canada & try to explain to my ski friends the amazing experience to be had shredding in the Japan Alps….“It`s like heli-skiing in BC……..but off of lifts….& for 40 bucks a day!!” It sounded too good to be true & at best i got an “umhmm……..right” for a response. But “the word” (which the Scandinavians & Aussies have known for a while now) is definitely getting out in North America.

Proof! Hakuba is the cover story of this Octobers` enRoute Magazine (which is Air Canada`s in-flight publication).

Last February we had the pleasure of showing these talented BC boys some of Hakuba`s best restaurants, onsens, surrounding sites, & of course powder snow. The fruit of which is this lovely article that captures nicely, both the quirkiness & magic a trip to Hakuba has to offer….& great pic of Morino member Manami on the front cover! That was taken at Hakuba Highland Onsen (which has one of the best views in the valley) if you`re wondering.


Click below & scroll to page 79 or….Click here to go straight to the story.


Enter the Zen….or the big mountains.


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Monkey paparazzi & Tsugaike crepes.


Dinner at Shirouma So

Dinner at Shirouma So

Shirouma So is a lovely hotel near us with a private Onsen & traditional dinners. Ask us to book you in for either.

Our trusty K-truck.

Manami & our trusty K-truck.