Introducing Norikura Mountain
If you’ve ever ridden the backside of Cortina chances are you passed right by Norikura on your way back inbounds so next time turn right or spend the day out there! It’s an amazing little hill with something for everyone…. a friend of mine even tells me the best Ramen in the valley is here at the base.
As is common with Japanese ski resorts, the Norikura Ski Resort is not particularly large with only 14 courses (trails), 9 lifts, and a vertical drop of 600m (700 - 1,300m). The neighbouring Cortina isn’t very big either with only 16 courses and 7 lifts, but at least the two areas combined provide adequate variety for a few days of skiing or snowboarding.
The trail split for Norikura Onsen Ski Resort is 30% beginner, 50% intermediate, and 20% advanced, although of course ability ratings are often subjective. The black runs are probably more akin to intermediate runs (except that they may not be groomed) and there are 3 double black runs that are really just black run. They are not super steep gnarly runs, so there’s no need to upgrade your life insurance just yet (the max slope gradient is only 38 degrees and it’s very wide open).
Like its neighbour Cortina, off-piste skiing is permitted at Norikura ski resort in what are termed as “self-responsibility areas” and there are also several “off-limits areas”. These are indicated on the trail map but once out in the field they are not marked and it’s a bit confusing as to whether you’re in a taboo area or not (well that’s what you might tell a ski patroller anyhow!). The Norikura off-piste runs have adequate pitch for plenty of fun but they’re not as steep as Cortina and the tree skiing isn’t as good. However relative to the crazy Hakuba ski resorts (e.g Happo One, Hakuba 47, Goryu, Tsugaike), fresh tracks are very easy to come by.
To get to Tsugaike from other parts of the Hakuba Valley, there are free shuttle buses operating from Wadano, Echoland and Happo (including the main Happo bus terminal at the Happo Information Centre) that go via Iwatake. There are also buses between Cortina and Tsugaike. Next seasons timetable will be posted as soon as we get access to it., here is the timetable from the 2018-19 season.