An Insight into Hakuba’s Extensive Backcountry Terrain

We know you’ve recently read all about the perks of spring backcountry touring in Niseko, so it seemed like an apt time to highlight the incredible backcountry terrain of Hakuba. After all, if you’re making the trek to Japan, why not visit both resorts?

With the Hakuba Valley boasting 10 different mountain ranges, there’s an incredible amount of unexplored terrain perfect for touring enthusiasts looking to ride untracked powder. And that’s just resorts with ticketing systems – when it comes to backcountry, there’s almost too many trails to mention.

So we decided to ask local legend Liam Glass for his tips and tricks on Hakuba’s best backcountry spots. By this stage you’ve probably already seen Liam tearing it up in Rhythm’s Instagram reels – he’s a natural born shredder who has spent the last few seasons exploring the best of what Hakuba has to offer, making his knowledge of the Valley’s extensive mountain ranges invaluable for anyone considering BC touring around Nagano.

hakuba backcountry rider

Where are the best backcountry spots around Hakuba?

“The best spot would have to be the Happo backcountry, where the Freeride World Tour is held. Incredible terrain with some big mountain style lines (not for the inexperienced or underprepared). Avalanches are a problem here so proceed with caution and go with skilled people you trust.”

Where are the hidden gems that experienced BC riders should check out?

“There’s lots of hidden gems in the area… but they wouldn’t be hidden if I spoke about them!”

“If you’re an experienced BC rider, jump on maps and I promise you’ll be able to find a few gems. Hell, you might even find some that I don’t know about yet.”

What safety precautions need to be considered when riding in the backcountry?

“Lots of precautions should be taken into consideration when riding in the backcountry, the obvious one being avalanche risk and weather.”

“I’m constantly watching the weather charts and reading the avalanche forecast daily – even if I’m not riding. Just so I know what’s going on.”

“I also find mental precautions are often overlooked as well. I think it’s great to have a little briefing with my touring partners the morning of going out BC touring. It’s a good way to see how our mental health is; see if we are all in the right mindset to be making calls and reading the signs nature is throwing at us, and see if our egos are aligned to make sure no one’s making choices that will put others in danger.”

“Is our number one goal to come home alive and be able to ride another day, or do we care more about bagging that line?”

What are your recommendations for backcountry boards and skis?

“I highly recommend Korua boards. The Escalator Plus Splitboard is my go-to for bigger technical missions, and for smaller missions I grab my Pencil split. For lift-accessed backcountry, you’ll find my Dart or Tranny Finder strapped to my feet.”

“In terms of skis, the Armada x Oyuki UL, they’re hard to beat for any Japanese backcountry mission.”

back country shredding hakuba

What is the essential safety gear all back country riders should take with them when touring?

“I don’t leave the house without a beacon, shovel, probe, first aid kit, repair kit, rope (for rescue and first aid), navigation, hydration and food, spare gloves, goggles, face mask and puffer.”

For people wanting to check out the backcountry who may not have the experience, where are the best side-country and lift-accessed backcountry trails around the valley?

“Hakuba has an abundance of experienced guides and local legends that I recommend chatting to before venturing out. There are a few really good zones, but they all have their days when they are either safe or dangerous, so it’s best to get some knowledge from someone who knows their stuff and will help show you around so that you can safely learn to go out on your own.”

“Something to keep in mind in terms of side-country, is that it can give you a sense of false confidence. Everywhere beyond the ropes is backcountry, and once you go past them you’re on your own. Ski patrol isn’t coming to help you, so be prepared, stay safe and you will have happy shredding for many years to come.”

If you want to explore Hakuba’s backcountry terrain but couldn’t get your safety gear to fit in your suitcase, check out Rhythm Happo and Rhythm Wadano to get kitted up with a new backpack, beacon, probe, shovel, skins or BC ski bindings. Available for rent or purchase.

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