For my third ski trip in Hakuba (白馬), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), the 9 of us (later 8 as one left earlier) stayed at Hotel Oak Forest (ホテル オークフォレスト).
Hotel Oak Forest: Access
Hotel Oak Forest isn’t located conveniently near any slopes, which seems to be a common feature of all hotels and ryokans within the Hakuba ski resort. Getting to and from the ski fields involve a daily morning bus trip out and an afternoon bus back. Connecting trips are required for certain areas such as Tsugaike Kogen (栂池高原). We actually arrived after the last shuttle bus had left and didn’t get any skiing done on the first day.
Oak Forest seems to be the first (and therefore last on the return trip) stop of many buses, which meant the longest trip, but also almost a guaranteed seat each morning; it has its perks, I guess. The hotel had also arranged to pick up and drop us off at our desired bus stop on arrival and departure, and also offered to send us out to town for free when we asked for them to get us a taxi, which was nice of them.
Hotel Oak Forest: Features
Free wifi! A lift! Daily housekeeping! In-room TV, fridge, safe! These were all features I never had from ryokans on my previous trips in Nozawa Onsen (Yamasanso) and Ishiuchi Maruyama (Garden Villa Ishiuchi). Hotel Oak Forest has been the nicest and most modern accommodation I’d stayed at for ski trips so far; well, I suppose the whole Hakuba ski area is very Westernised. We joked that our accommodation gets better and better with each trip.
The facilities that Richard and I didn’t use were the laundry and public onsen, the latter which I really regret. The onsens were open both in the morning and at night, and apparently had both indoor and outdoor sections. I should have at least got in and had a peek! … I just realised how inappropriate that came out.
Hotel Oak Forest: The Rooms
All rooms were en-suite, which is absolutely awesome! We first stayed in a traditional Japanese room with tatami flooring and futons on the third floor for the first day, then moved to a Western room with two single beds on the second floor from the second day on.
The Japanese rooms were very spacious for just the two of us, but I’m pretty sure the room was meant for more because the 4-5 singletons all shared one room on the same floor. My only complaint of the room was that super bright piercing green light on the alarm on the ceiling.
In comparison, the Western counterparts and their en-suite bathrooms were a lot smaller and felt cramped to me when we first moved there from the Japanese rooms. Richard appreciated the beds more than the futons, though.
The rooms weren’t very soundproof, and twice on the one night I woke up from inconsiderate loud English speakers walking by. Otherwise, I wasn’t sure if we were just lucky, this time we didn’t have any issue with cigarette smoke sneaking into our room like my previous trips, and I didn’t for one second take that for granted.
Hotel Oak Forest: The Food
The meals included in our package were daily Western breakfast, and Western plus Japanese style dinner. The three rooms of us shared the same table for every meal except our first breakfast, likely before they figured out we were all friends. I took so many pictures, I have decided to move this section to an entry of its own!
Hotel Oak Forest: Lockers and Rental Shop
Ski gear lockers for every room were available in the dry room, and things dried properly overnight, at least for us. The brother told me theirs didn’t quite because there was simply too much gear for their locker.
Gear rental wasn’t included in the package, but we decided to rent our stuff from the shop downstairs anyway. I thought what I ended up renting (skis, boots, poles and ski pants only) was very acceptable, but they didn’t have the half size shoes we needed. They also had to summon the rental guy each time, which was fairly inconvenient; one time he took over 15 minutes to appear and we already had to leave to catch the bus.
Overall, the time spent at the hotel was very comfortable and I especially loved the free wifi available on every floor, as well as the breakfast buffet. I know the area is very Westernised and it wouldn’t be fair to compare a proper hotel to the more traditional ryokans I stayed at in other regions, but I would quite happily stay at Hotel Oak Forest again.
Full gallery sans food:
Hotel Oak Forest address: Japan 〒399-9301 Nagano-ken, Kitaazumi-gun, Hakuba-mura, Hokujō, 3549