As a country boy from Nashville, Tennessee, I don’t know all that much about skiing, unless you count my ability to quote from the movie Better Off Dead (“This is pure snow!”). Now that I live in a country which is roughly 99.5% mountainous, and with ski season fast approaching I figure I should probably start learning more about this national pastime. Luckily for me, I’m only a four-hour bus ride away from one of Japan’s most popular and picturesque ski destinations: Hakuba.
Situated in the heart of the Japanese Alps in Nagano Prefecture, Hakuba was one of the key venues for the 1998 Winter Olympics and has since gained international attention as a top ski spot. Because of this, there are countless accommodation choices in the area – but one of the newest options, the Aqua Alpine Hotel, may very well be the best choice.
Originally opened in 2008, the Aqua Alpine has gone under some major renovations, with a whole new set of stylish amenities that make this the perfect weekend ski destination. The core of this renovation work affected the rooms, which now offer king-sized beds and extras such as full bathrooms and wireless Internet. The rooms are available in five sizes, sleeping two to five people, and range from simple and elegant to spacious with a spa.
The excellent Bradbury’s Bar and Restaurant on site is named after co-owner Steven Bradbury, whom you may recognize as being the first Aussie to win a gold medal in the Winter Games. If you get the chance, why not ask Mr. Bradbury about his illustrious speed-skating career and the pile-up that lead to his memorable (if not a bit comical) victory!
As for the skiing, you’re in luck. The hotel is only a few minutes from the Hakuba Goryu ski resort, one of the largest in the area. Once there you can enjoy snowboarding, snowmobiling and, for the more adventurous, night skiing until 22:00. If you’re like me and have no idea what all that ski jargon means (wtf is a “jib”?), you may wish to take advantage of some ski lessons, which are available for singles or groups in English for a nominal price. They also offer equipment hire, Western and Japanese-style dining, and child-friendly areas. All of this is a short walk from the Aqua Alpine, or a free shuttle bus ride (this leaves from the hotel every 30 minutes).
A spacious lounge area with a roaring fire, an adjacent bar & restaurant full of ski bunnies and slope-jocks, beautiful rooms with windows that open onto one of the loveliest mountain ranges in the country: Aqua Alpine has it all. This hotel has luxury and comfort that you just can’t get at a hostel or a ryokan, and at a reasonable price.
Aqua Alpine Hotel