Alpine Alternatives

Hakuba provides an abundant variety of alpine alternatives and adventures for everyone to enjoy. Groomed cross-country courses wind their way through some of the most spectacular terrain to be found in the Japan Alps. Ski the Olympic cross-country courses or the scenic nordic courses at Minekata and Tsugaike ski resorts. Experience guided ski/snowboard and snowshoe tours in the Alps or try out snow tubing, tobogganing, snow rafting and spring heli-skiing that is available at various resorts in the valley. For those wanting to have a break from the Alps, take in the history and culture of Nagano with tours departing from Hakuba to Matsumoto Castle, Nagano's famous Zenkoji Temple and the snow monkeys at Jigokudani hot springs.


An Onsen is a Hot spring where you bathe. Hakuba has a large number of public onsens and most hotels have their own private onsen. The hot comes from volcanic rock and the springs are natural water flows either from underground or river water squeezed through lava rocks. Hakuba is cold, the skiing is fantastic – and relaxing in an Onsen with the sound of rushing water and steam all around is very calming, it’s a perfect potion to relieve the tiredness and aches of the day.

A simple Guide ‘How to Onsen’

Using an Onsen can be a daunting, challenging experience for non-Japanese. It is less daunting if you know a few pointers in advance. This is a generic list of what to do, there are thousands of Onsens in Japan and the design, layout, facilities do vary.
  1. Pay your fare at reception, you will be given a small towel/ wash cloth and possibly key for a locker. If there are no lockers at your onsen, valuables can usually be left with reception for safe keeping.
  2. Shoe/ no shoe zones. This is really a soil/ no soil zone.
    At the entrance to the room leading into the onsen – remove your shoes! Don’t walk into the change area or other ‘clean’ areas with your shoes on. Also don’t remove shoes/ walk around outside the change room with bare feet or socks on. You would be soiling the clean area when you walk into the change area. Put your shoes into the rack provided.
    In the change areas there will typically be lockers or baskets where you should fold and place clothes. Resist the temptation to dump your clothes in any old open space.
  3. first, modesty next (no swimsuits allowed).
    You have to wash before you can go into the springs, Use the wash cloth provided to cover your private bits and go to the washing area. This is usually through another door and is typically a row of temperature controlled taps with soap, shampoo provided. Grab a plastic stool and basin from the stack, take a pew and start scrubbing – thoroughly, do use the towel to scrub your back. The tap – left and right adjusts the temperature, usually you depress the tap and this releases enough water to fill your basin. Once you are clean all over you are free to enjoy the hot springs. Don’t bring soap into the springs, make sure you rinse any residual soap out of your towel as well.
  4. Getting Dry and other tips.
    From here on the rest is up to you, you now have the basics.
    Many purists will wash twice, a second time after they have entered the hot springs once. The first wash removes the soil, the hot springs opens and loosens the pores, the second wash is a sort of exfoliation.
    How do I get dry with this tiny cloth? Simple, surface tension, wring it out as often as necessary, rub briskly. There is often an area between change and wash areas which is warm, free of steam and ideal to get dry in.
    Nobody will blink if you bring a bath towel and put it in your basket, but do towel off most of the moisture before returning to the dry area where your clothes are. Some onsen also provide a bath towel, or have them as an extra.
    Shampoo, if you are particular you can take your own.