We just got back from our second and final 2011 snow trip with the family. I’m not going to go over the prep and such as I think I over adequately did that in the Shiga post. I only blog this one as it added a few different angles.
Instead of a hotel, we stayed in a self catered chalet for two nights, and quite nice it was too. The benefits of the chalet were space – two bedrooms and a living room diner on two levels, which meant everyone had a bit more space to breathe – useful for four of you. It also means you can eat out of step with the often rigorous schedules Japanese hotels allow for eating. The Alpine Chalets are run by the Panorama hotel and so you can send and receive takkyubin from there, and they’ll drive you and your gear to the chalet if need be. The chalet itself had a usual cooking range, microwave, kettle and fridge, as well as a washing machine, TV and even a decent internet link, which puts it ahead of even many hotels.
To get the food and drink for those snacks and meals, you can easily walk to the nearest konbini, or take on of the fairly frequent buses – the chalets are a few minutes from the slope and conveniences, but since we had the car we went down to the local ‘A Coop’ supermarket, which seemed to be enticing people to buy bacon in wholesale sizes, and who are we to decline an offer.
Hakuba is just full of places to eat as well though. For the two nights we were there, we went to TakoTaco, a Tex/Mex – Japanese restaurant which served big portions of takoyaki, and fantastic tacos and nachos, in a very relaxed environment. It was one of the few places where the background music was actually listenable, and fairly well rounded – you don’t hear Brewer & Shipley’s “One Toke Over the Line” in many places. The food was great, and worth a walk into the town – from the chalet it was probably ten minutes, though we drove, and were surprised just how close it was.
To finish the restaurant list, for the last night we went to Amazing Diner Avalanche. Checking it was open wasn’t as easy as it sounds – the phone number on the dining leaflet we’d been given was wrong, and believe me, searching for “Hakuba” and “Avalanche” will get you plenty of snow links before any restaurant; in the end we found another leaflet which had the correct phone number, but no location, and we already knew the location on the original leaflet was wrong. Like many places in snow resorts, if you do call them up, there’s a decent chance they’ll come and pick you up. By the way, even though it was a Friday night, we did call the Italian place and was told that it was closed on Fridays (at least someone answered).
So why be closed on a Friday night? Well, to be honest, the place was empty, pretty much. I’ve been to Hakuba a few times, and this was like a ghost town by comparison, with the obligatory groupings of Australians, and at least on Saturday morning a few more Japanese, but really, nothing compared to years past. I do kind of wonder where the Japanese are skiing nowadays if at all.
So is the last weekend of February now the end of the season? It used to be late March some years. There was plenty of snow though, not really that much artificial and though it was a bit wet, it was perfectly boardable.
Tips from the trip would definitely be to get a GPS Map location of your hotel/chalet. Unlike the Prince Hotels in Shiga, Hakuba has a lot of pensions and hotels in a fairly tight space, so if you’re hunting by address, post code or phone number, you’re not going to hit it with your average car navi. Most of the access pages definitely assume people are coming by mass transit, but really, is a Google Map link so much work?