"Buy the ticket, take the ride." Famous words that weren't meant to be about the ski lift at Hakuba, one of Japan’s most popular locations for skiing and snowboarding in Nagano Prefecture.
But, if you're in the area, buy the ski lift ticket and go all the way to the top of the tallest mountain in the Hakuba Goryu 47 Ski Area. Even if you can't make it to the tallest mountain in Hakuba, Shirouma (2932m), the view from one of the others is still completely worth it.
Hakuba is a well-known ski resort town in the northern Japan Alps. Don't believe me? The village was the main event venue for 1998 Winter Olympics.
This Japanese winter wonderland is a must-see, especially for those who enjoy winter sports. Most of the snowfall is from February to March, but January is a good time to hit the slopes, too.
Last year, I stayed at a bed and breakfast called Lady Diana and St. Georges Hotel, Hakuba Goryu Resort, which is about a 5-minute walk from the ski area. It's just one of the many inns in the ski village, which includes Japanese Style Inns or "ryokans" and other often larger resorts. If you're coming from the Tokyo or Kansai areas, you're going to want to book a room near the mountain.
The ski rental area I went to was the Esclar Plaza and Iimori Rest House. Ski rental prices range from about ¥4,000 to ¥7,000, depending on the type and shop. Of course, after you're done with all that, stop by one of the many "onsen" or hot spring bath places in the area to warm up. Though you may need to take a taxi or car to get there.
While Hakuba area has some of Japan's best skiing (other Japan Airlines members give it a top-notch review), don't worry, there's also bunny hills for beginners, as well as ski or snowboard lessons.