Situated in the dramatic northern Japanese Alps, 60km northwest of Nagano, HAKUBA is one of Japan's top ski destinations, increasingly attracting an international clientele. The largest and most popular resort among several here is HAPPŌ-ONE (Web: www.hakuba-happo-or.jp ), site of the 1998 Nagano Olympics downhill course; you can buy a two-day ticket to ski here and at six other resorts in the valley for ¥8500. Locally based Ski Japan Holidays (Tel:0261/72-6663, Web: www.japanspecialists.com ) can arrange all manner of ski trips here.
The Hakuba valley isn't just a winter destination. There are also two very pretty lakes – Aoki and Kizaki – and the valley makes a fine base for hiking, climbing, canoeing, canyoning, boating and mountain biking in summer. The reliable, gaijin-run Evergreen Outdoor Centre (Tel:0261/72-5150, Web: www.evergreen-outdoors.com ) offers everything from rafting and paragliding tours to backcountry ski expeditions and avalanche-awareness courses in the winter. Evergreen are part of the Hakuba Outdoor Sports Association (Web: www.snownavi.com/odsa/index.html ), which represents eleven other outdoor activity companies in the area.