Coming here with much excitement and expectation, I was somewhat dissapointed by the actual resort itself, allegedly the 'grand centrepiece' of the Hakuba Valley.
Certainly, a big area with shedloads of vertical and spectacularly backdropped by the Japan Alps, the mountain has plenty going for it. Snowfall couldn't really be faulted, hucked down for five days and nights, didn't see much until last two days.
However the way in which Happo is run really seemed to hamstring the place. From the start it seemed as those Happo had remained in a time warp, trying to retain the glory days of the 98 olympics. It seemed as though a massive amount of resources and infrastructure had been forced onto a mountain where the terrain didn't really lend itself to a ski resort and was done in a fairly adhoc fashion with much of it laying idle and scattered randomly acroos the slopes.
Partially dismantled lifts swung in the wind, various disused buildings across the mountain being consumed by snow and fleets of snowcats frozen into the hillside. On top of this the various 'slope stabilization' constructions across the mountain made it seem like some kind of mad engineers playground and really took away from the mountain experience.
And then there was the lift ticket and transport system. After the smooth operations at Niseko, the Happy 7 pass proved to be anything but. Stay a one hill for the entire day, only redeem your coupons one at a time ensuring lots of time wasted each morning, walk to this lift, traverse to that, lifts start late, finish early, try to extract some information about other resorts in the valley or bus times. Good luck!
Onto the riding. Well it's been said Unhappo's a skiers hill, I agree. Miles of runs, but really pretty boring terrain for boarders with little variety or features and flaming moguls to Mongolia on anything half steep. With the mountain quite busy, the main runs became chopped sui within a few hours each morning and most of the good stuff had permanent knee high moguls that even seemed to have good skiers flailing. To add further insult, many of the remaining unmoguled pistes were regularly closed off for ski races, if they like moguls so much why don't they race on them. With the resources of this resort, I would have thought they could clean up some of the runs throughout the day when busy, or at least have some of the steeper stuff free of moguls. Most of the staff I saw on the hill were either fast asleep or smoking up a storm.
Off-piste? A bit more joy, with a few short tree runs and some entertaining powder stashes but not much considering the scale of this mountain. Endless man-made obstacles and hazards hiding in the powder as well.
In summary, I felt Happo needed a good overhaul of almost the entire operation. Considering the price of the lift ticket I'd head elsewhere in the valley unless using the lifts for backcountry access.
From 12 February, 2008 To 18 February, 2008
Snow condition on visit:
Powder ahoy - deep, shallow, light, heavy, untracked, chopped. Runs varied from groomed to mogulish nightmares. Icy on last day.
Things I liked:
Big mountain, heaps of vertical, large amounts of easily accessible side and backcountry.
Things I didn't like:
Skiers mountain, disorganised, under-utilization of available resources, mongrel moguls.