Hakuba

In winter, this gorgeous alpine village is the perfect place to explore snowy mountains, suck down ramen and soak your bones in traditional onsens, perhaps even in the company of the odd monkey. In summer, it’s just as great — a bottle-green wonderland where you can hike your arse off, swim in snow-fed lakes and run through fields of wildflowers yodelling at the top of your lungs.

A key advantage of the region is flexibility: the main village is nestled in the middle of the valley, surrounded by half a dozen major mountains each with their own network of lifts: 135, to be precise, scattered across nine resorts. Happo-One (pronounced oh-ne, not one) is the biggest and most popular with a variety of runs over 26 lifts, Cortina has the biggest snowfall each season and Hakuba 47 boasts a first-class terrain park.

On a clear day, each offers a stunning view of the valley that is difficult to ignore. During snow season, going off-piste is where you’ll find the untouched terrain, but be careful, because while some resorts are stricter than others, you’ve got a good chance of losing your lift pass if you get caught.

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