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This snowboarder stands roughly mid-mountain at Hakuba Happo, one of the ten ski resorts clustered around Nagano City. This resort is scattered across several valleys and hills, with above-treeline terrain, wide-open cruisers, and some competitive mogul runs.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Nagano City hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics, with the events spread across the area resorts as well as in-town winter arenas. Most of the alpine events, including the Super-G, were held at Hakuba Happo Resort.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Steady snowfall the day I arrived made for ideal skiing, as witnessed here (unfortunately that beautiful carpet of powder was inexplicably, torturously out of bounds). By midday, though, a storm reduced the mountain to near-whiteout conditions.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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This snow sculpture of Buddha sat at a lift station near the mountain base. Note the use of red dripping from the nose, a traditional symbol in Japanese anime to denote sexual arousal and a decidedly sacrilegious image to attribute to Buddha.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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A drive-up noodle shop at the base of Hakuba Happo. Slope-side eating has never been more hearty or healthy thanks to the Japanese's inspired reliance on fresh ingredients. One bowl of Raman midday and you're good to ski through a blizzard.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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A lift advertisement for an area onsen, which are Japanese bath houses fed by natural hot springs. The segregated-sex spas take the traditional après-ski hot-tubing experience and elevate it to the near-spiritual.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Need additional proof that the Japanese have perfected après? One word: izakaya, a pub/restaurant that serves small plates of healthy fare (think tofu, lightly grilled meat, miso soup, sushi) alongside sake, beer, and tea. This cat poster lined the walls of an izakaya named Hui, one of many on the winding, snow-covered roads around Hakuba  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The next day I hit Hakuba 47 Resort, more mom-n-pop than Hakuba Happo. The resort's name is derived from an old ski club, the members of which were disqualified at the age of 47. Naturally, when club members started reaching that age, the ban was lifted. The walls of the resort office are lined with plaques, one for each of the original club members.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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A Hakuba 47 lift ticket also gives you access to Goryu, the resort that rests on the back side of the mountain. Here, two locals express their relentless enthusiasm from inside the Goryu gondola.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Japanese signage isn't without its somewhat-literal humor, as evidenced by this warning on a ski-lift support post.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Goryu and Hakuba 47 boast staggering views of rolling, tree-covered hills punctuated by an austere ridgeline of white-capped peaks. At dusk, the light echoes a hit of enlightenment. As one skier told me, 'If you saw a painting of this, you'd think it was fake.'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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And, in keeping with ironic rule of skiing, the day I left Hakuba for Tokyo, it dumped. Made for a beautiful morning, but it was tough to leave so much untracked snow behind.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
 
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