Japan's 10 Best ski Runs #5 insane Cortina tree skiing

snow action team 23.10.2020

Cortina tree skiing is insanely good when it’s on.

It seems a little insane now too but back in our 2010 issue it was still true that Cortina was “Hakuba’s Deep Secret ..”

Skiing thigh deep powder Cortina trees, Hakuba
The author enjoying a typical Cortina tree line © Scott Anderson

Gary Grant, co-owner of Hakuba’s popular Black Pine Lodge, wrote the feature back then and he still loves the trees.

Of course, the word leaked out long ago and you have to get there early and get what you can.

For lucky residents 2020-2021 could just be see a return to the good old days, with a big snow season forecast and no foreigners able to get there.

Snowboarder surfing Cortina trees, Hakuba
Phil Hall happy days at Norikura side of Cortina © Patrick fux

Situated at the Northern end of the Hakuba Valley one of my favourite resorts, Cortina, and its neighbour Norikura, offer some amazing skiing for those willing to make the small extra effort to get there.

Cortina sits in the centre of a huge bowl, where a combination of steep cleared and equally steep wooded slopes run down into a central wide valley. It’s not as high as the other resorts but after a heavy snowfall this is the place to head as it collects an amazing amount of snow – up to double what the same storm will bring to Hakuba’s better known areas.

There are numerous great tree runs at Cortina, many hidden from the casual observer by appearing too dense, but after a few seconds of working your way into the forest there are many hidden treasures.

One of my favourites is off the black run that starts at the top of the second chair, the highest point of the resort (1402 m). It’s a little misleading as it appears to be just a ridgeline run that leads to a cleared black run on one side and the neighbouring Norikura resort on the other.

Look for any way into the wooded area, over the hump made by the groomers and through the more dense foliage. Once you are in, just take your pick of literally hundreds of possible trails.

Perfectly spaced Cortina tree skiing
Gary Grant getting frosty © Scott Anderson

Watch out for the ‘Do not enter signs’ found towards the bottom of the run in some places. They are there for good reason, the charilift won’t be too far above you. After a good snowfall you can spend hours finding new ways through the trees, with a good pitch and snow so dry it just folds in around the tracks you have just made so you can do it all again and again.

Family or friends not up for trees can enjoy groomed runs of varying difficulties and join up with you for the ride back up, making Cortina a great place to go to with friends of different abilities.

You can also introduce them to some great beginner trees found in Norikura, just off what they call their ‘high speed detachable double’ .. but high speed it is not. Giant red pines beautifully spaced, perfect for learning or just playing.

The Hotel is a must see, only in Japan. But even better, anyone can use the facilities. A good soak in their onsen, with a sauna and steam room, just tops off your powder day. — Gary Grant, Black Pine Lodge

For more on Cortina check out what our A-team Matty Hull and Austin Toner thought.

Green Plaza Hotel Cortina, Hakuba
Be super early to the carpark or stay in the Green Plaza at Cortina © Owain Price
Car park view © Gary Grant

Or the resort site is here