In the northwestern part of Nagano Prefecture, Hakuba Village lies beneath the magnificent Hakuba mountain range, the best of the northern Japan Alps. Hakuba means "white horse," because the main peak, Mt. Shirouma-dake (9,617 feet), resembles a horse. This is an all-year resort area for trekking, skiing, and climbing around the 9,500-foot mountains among rare alpine flora, insects, and wildlife. Gondola and chairlifts carry you up to ridges with panoramic views. More than 850 lodging facilities serve the several million annual visitors. Olympic alpine runs and ski jumps await winter sports fans, and summer visitors can still find snow, especially in the Grand Snowy Gorge.
Because the main attractions of Hakuba are hiking and skiing in the mountains, plan to stay at least two days to take advantage of the surroundings. The ski season in Hakuba runs from late November to the first week of May. The hiking season is late June until the end of September, and the trails can be crowded in August. In July the mountains are covered in fields of wildflowers, making for a spectacular sight.