Word travelled fast when professional photographer Mark Donaldson opened the doors of his new 36 Degrees North Hakuba bed and breakfast for the first time last winter reports our Features Editor Bronwen Gora.
This is no run-of-the-mill ski lodge, but something out of left field – a beautifully restored mock Tudor mansion, tucked away in the trees just a few minutes’ walk from popular Echoland. This is a place where skiers and snowboarders feel instantly at home, able to enjoy beer on tap, real coffee, hearty breakfasts and a genuinely friendly vibe.
Mark’s vision was vindicated when, despite no advertising, website or travel agency agreements, bookings started flowing, then continued steadily throughout the inaugural 2018/2019 season.
This success was even sweeter as Mark and his team had poured so much effort into making it a reality. When they first laid eyes on the mansion it had been vacant for years, was virtually derelict and almost too daunting a task to tackle.
But blessed with solid bones and an ideal footprint for the perfect ski lodge, its potential could not be ignored. Months of physically, emotionally draining work followed and the results speak for themselves.
Much of the positive feedback garnered by 36 Degrees North Hakuba focuses on how comfortable guests feel during their stay, the easy-going atmosphere allowing them to slip immediately into holiday mode.
Walk in the front door any early evening during ski season and often a mix of Japanese, Australian and international accents, laughter and banter will come echoing down the hall from the communal lounge and dining room. Inside, a lively aprés ski session will be in full swing, guests gathered around the lodge’s impressive copper fireplace, reclining on sofas or nestled in quirky vintage theatre seats, ordering drinks from the well-stocked bar and swapping stories before heading out to dinner.
The large fireplace is the centrepiece dividing the lounge area from the dining room and bar of handcrafted cherrywood. Opposite the lounge, the central staircase runs alongside a wall displaying a set of Mark’s mesmerising ski photographs.
These include many images of Mark’s long time friend former Australian World Cup Downhill racer and current Hakuba Powder Tours guide/head honcho Steve Lee blasting through the feather light clouds of the powder snow with which Hakuba is blessed.
Steve is one of Hakuba’s most popular backcountry ski operations, guiding visitors into the valley’s best and most renowned off-piste regions.
36 Degrees North Hakuba room options
The upper level’s guest rooms come in various configurations from twins to quad shares, either with ensuites or share bathrooms. All bedding is western style.
There is something to suit groups, couples, singles and families. Configurations run from bunk beds to singles/queens.
The rooms are wonderfully warm thanks to particularly efficient heaters, and overlook the surrounding snowy forest. While it may appear you’re in the middle of the woods a long way from anywhere, the lodge is only metres from the main road and a shuttle bus stop. Echoland, one of Hakuba’s most renowned restaurant, bar and shopping strips, is only a 10-minute walk.
Another handy feature for guests is having local knowledge on tap: Mark has spent over a decade skiing and living on and off in Hakuba, and he and his administration/reservations manager Kie Shirakawa know the place inside out. The pair, along with their Australian and Japanese staff, are all too happy to answer questions about the valley, and advise guests on where to dine, drink, ski and more.
This is an enormous valley filled with 10 resorts, several base villages and a multitude of shuttle routes, and can be daunting for first and even second time visitors. Of course, getting a guide is the smart way to discover more of it.
Get a cover shot from the owner too!
36 Degreees North Hakuba owner Mark Donaldson is a highly accomplished professional photographer, with huge experience shooting on snow and local knowledge.
He can capture your on-snow adventures on film, either in his role as the official mountain photographer for Steve Lee’s Hakuba Powder Tours, or with his independent mountain photography business www.markdonaldsonphotography.com
Yes, with Hakuba’s great snow and Mark’s skills you can be cover shot material ..
Bookings and more info
Check out more and book with Mark and the team on the link here