Hakuba Splitboard Trip, Day 1
Words: Erin Bruhns
Photos: Matt Bruhns
January 11, 2024
We’ve already been in the Hakuba Valley for a day before we meet up with Lars from Whitecap, hoping to acclimate to the local time zone. The morning of the 11th, we’re up and at ‘em and on the doorstep of our hotel by 8:00 am awaiting his arrival to transfer us to our accommodations in one of Morino Lodge’s chalets.
We toss our gear in the amply sized van and wind our way down through the narrow roads of Hakuba, then up the hill on the other side of the creek that bisects the town. It’s a quick and efficient transfer, leaving us plenty of time to head out for a half day tour. As we don our gear, Lars sneaks out to position the van at our end point for the day.
It’s a short walk from the Alps View chalet to the Happo-one gondola where we buy one-way tickets for the Happo Alpen Line. We have a high ceiling of clouds that’s clearing and mild winds as we wind our way higher along a wide ridge into the alpine. We pass through groves of crooked birch trees and crane our necks this way and that, gawking at the magnificent Japanese Alps that surround us. We spook a ptarmigan and snowshoe hare as we traipse along on our splitboards toward our lines for the day.
The first few turns down the ridge are deep, and a smile erupts across my face as I get face-shot after face-shot. The snow is like nothing I’ve ever encountered before – deep, supportive and blower, all at once. We finish our run in a shady gully and transition for a short walk to the next pitch. This line delivers more deep turns, then drops us to the valley bottom where we navigate a few river crossings and ride right to the van.
It’s a quick shuttle back to the chalet where a pizza dinner, hot showers and cozy beds await.