Although Buddhist history is apparent in the form of shrines and temples, the Western influx clearly left its mark on Hakuba.
The entrance of the hotel ‘La Neige’, with an exception of the vending machines, fits right in with Louis XIV’s Versailles ballroom. Morino Lodge, however, where we stay for the remainder of the trip, offers a more Asian experience, with futons to sleep on and a selection of local food and beverages. The village itself is a pleasant mixture of authentic Japanese izakaya and soba restaurants, traditional bars and Western coffee houses, that are mainly run by snow loving Kiwis and Aussies, who brought the gift of good coffee overseas.
The next morning, on the sound of the alarm clock, we quickly swap our yakuta tenues for Gore-Tex layering. Although it’s still early, we queue up in line with the like minded Japanese crowd.

We cut right at a sign that says ‘Experts Onry’ and enter the infamous Cortina sidecountry. Moments later we stop in front of a dam and breathe in the first oxygen we’ve had in minutes. We look back on our first run with fitting delight and an adrenaline fed buzz. Words don’t seem to add anything to the moment. Shoulder-deep tree runs; the Japanese white room lives up to its reputation.