Madarao Mountain Resort
Lying across the valley from the more famous Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort, Madarao somewhat lies in the shadow of its better known and larger neighbour. But for those that make it there, Madarao offers the magic combination of great powder and open attitude to side and backcountry – winning it lots of fans. On this page you will find the following information:
Whereas most resorts in Nagano strictly limit or even ban going off-piste Madarao actively encourages it with thirteen official tree runs including a couple of natural bowls and half-pipes that make the resort a whole lot of fun. Readily access from Nagano, Tokyo and beyond using the Hokuriku Shinkansen, the resort is easy to reach and given its proximity to Nozawa, can be combined with a visit there on a multi-day trip or onto other resorts including Shiga Kogen and Hakuba Valley.
Madarao is reputation as a compact resort with great snow means it can be busy on weekends, with many people heading there from Tokyo and beyond, making the central areas cluttered. For the best experience, aim for weekdays and keep an eye on the forecast as the resort really comes into its own when the deep is deep and dry.
MADARAO MOUNTAIN RESORT: THE STATS & FACTS
Madarao is a small resort but one that wins lots of devotees. Blessed with lots of powder and a natural bowl topography, Madarao makes use of both with some fantastic tree runs and fun terrain. Visitors can enjoy the resort by itself or choose to buy an all-mountain pass that also covers the adjoining Tangram Ski Circus, which combime to offer 125 hectares of terrain. So though small, Madarao Mountain Resort is a lot of fun and when the snow is good, it’s hard to beat.
Operating Dates & Times
Dependent on snow conditions, the resort is typically open from the second half of December until the end of March. Lifts operate from 08:30 to 17:00. Night-skiing is available from 17:00 to 21:00.
The resort offers 75 hectares of terrain – or a total of 125 hectares when factoring in the connected Tangram Ski Circus – spread over 31 courses including 13 official tree runs serviced by 9 chairlifts (with no gondolas). Courses breakdown as: beginner 30% / intermediate 35% / advanced 35%. Situated between 910 to 1350 metres, only offers a small 440 metres of vertical however the stats don’t tell the full story. Madarao sits in a natural bowl that receives a huge amount of snow each tree. The longest run is 2.5KM with a steepest pitch of 36°. Unlike most other resorts in Nagano that restrict if not ban side and backountry, Madarao actively encourages it with its outstanding tree runs, natural snow bowls and leaving around 60% of runs ungroomed. So while the resort is small, it has won a devoted set of fans, especially snowboarders looking to get off-piste. Joint via the upper runs to Tangram Ski Circus – offering another 15 courses including some long and steep black and a couple of tree runs – the two resorts combine to offer a lot more punch than the official stats suggest.
Madarao sits in a natural bowl meaning that most skiers/boarders drop down into the resort on the Paradise run in order to reach the central area and chairlifts that ascend to the upper limits. The wide Giant course is ideal for beginners and newbies but for that reason, is often crowded with snowboarders often sitting on the run – to the frustration of skiers and most boarders. For that reason, intermediate and advanced skiers/boarders should ride the super quad lift most of the way up the mountain and from there, head drop into the Champion course and Powder Wave I or follow the trail through to Crystal course along and the big appeal, Crystal Bowl. When the snow is good, this side of the resort is paradise for powder-lovers with Powder Theater, Powder Wave 2, and NINJA tree runs being addictive. Lifts will get you to the very top of the resort, with Madarao connected to the adjoining Tangram Ski Circus for the upper runs. Skiers/boarders who drop back down into Madarao along the Sky Love course can drop into the SAWA natural half pipe.
Tickets & Passes
A day-pass for Madarao-only costs: adults (18+) JPY5000 / children (under 12) JPY2000 / JHS & HS students (13-17) JPY4500 / seniors (55+) JPY4500. An all-mountain pass covering both Madarao and Tangram costs: adults JPY5500 / children JPY3500 / seniors JPY5500. A 4-hour, Madarao-only pass costs: adults JPY4000 / children JPY1500 / seniors JPY3500. Night-skiing is not covered by the day-pass, requiring a separate ticket: adults & seniors JPY2000 / children JPY1000.
Rental & Ski School
There are a couple of rental options in Madarao with some guesthouses offering in-house services. For international visitors, Shirakaba Rental is attached to the main building of the Myoko Kogen Hotel. They carry a good range of ski and snowboard with rental and typically have English-speakers on hand to assist. There are a couple of options for ski schools in Madarao with English-speaking instructors available. Group, private and kids lessons are all available with prices varying depending on the type and length of lesson.
Madarao offers some excellent backcountry thanks to its topography and heavy snowfall. But just as those elements combine to offer fantastic backcountry they can also be extremely dangerous making the option of an expert guide. To access the best backcountry, you will need to hike 20-minutes up the mountain, another reason it is well-worth arranging a guide to make sure you hit the right areas and do it safely.
Kids & Families
The ‘Madarao Kids Park’ is located directly in front of Madarao Kogen Hotel and provides an area of children and families to enjoy sleds, tubes and igloos. Inside the hotel, the ‘Tsumiki’ Childcare Room offers English-speaking services for kids aged 1 to 5 years of age. Childcare is available from 09:00 to 12:00 and 13:30 to 16:30 and costs JPY3000 for a half-day or JPY5000 for the full-day.
Accommodation & Village Info
Madarao is a small but spread-out resort with no major village. Madarao Kogen Hotel is the largest accommodation in the resort, located in a central and convenient location and offering a large range of services including in-house restaurants, rental and childcare services. There are a couple of other large hotel in the resort but the majority of accommodation is small, often family-run lodges. You’ll find some great little lodges with very welcoming atmospheres that win loyal followings for visitors who return to Madarao year-after-year. In terms of nightlife, there’s a decent little range of restaurants and bars dotted around the most central area nearby Madarao Kogen hotel. Don’t expect the nightlife of Nozawa Onsen or Hakuba village but there are a couple of good spots to keep you out late.
TANGRAM SKI CIRCUS
Tangram Ski Circus is a small resort sitting on the backside of Madarao and connected by the upper runs. Visitors to either resort can access both by purchasing an all-mountain pass and in doing so, open-up a decent amount of on-piste action and some of Nagano’s best backcountry. Here’s a snapshot of what’s on offer at Tangram:
Operating Dates & Times
Dependent on snow conditions, the resort is typically open from the second half of December until the end of March. Lifts operate from 08:30 to 16:30. Night-skiing is available from 16:30 to 20:00 over the New Year Period and all Saturdays from mid-January to mid-March.
Tangram offers 50 hectares of terrain – or a total of 125 hectares when factoring in the connected Madarao Mountain Resort – across 14 ski runs serviced by 5 chairlifts. Courses breakdown as beginner 30% / intermediate 40% / advanced 30%. Sitting between 520 to 1320 metres, the resort offers a decent 800 metres of vertical. The longest run is 2.5KM while the steepest pitch is 35°.
Tangram Ski Circus mostly caters to the Japanese market including families who enjoy the large hotel and family-friendly facilities located at the bottom of the ski resort. The on-piste action is best-suited to beginner and lower-intermediates who can enjoy the open and very green area around the base, while upper-intermediate and advanced boarders and skiers will find some better action in the upper runs. By itself, Tangram won’t hold your attention for long but when combined with Madarao – both of which can be enjoyed on an all-mountain pass – they offer a decent 125 hectares of terrain and typically excellent powder (despite their low elevation). While not as relaxed as Madarao when it comes to heading into the trees, Tangram has opened-up some decent tree zones where you’ll typically find little competition to carve fresh tracks.
Tickets & Passes
A day-pass for Tangram-only costs: adults (13+) JPY4300 / children (under 12) JPY3000 / seniors (55+) JPY3700. An all-mountain pass covering both Tangram and Madarao costs: adults JPY5500 / children JPY3500 / seniors JPY5500. A 4-hour, Tangram-only pass costs: adults JPY3300 / children JPY2500 / seniors JPY2900. Night-skiing is not covered by the day-pass, requiring a separate ticket, costing JPY1500 for all ages.
Other than some designated tree zones, riding out-of-bounds at Tangram is prohibited at Tangram. It’s a shame as there’s some tasty terrain on offer but if you’re after backcountry, head into Madarao where you’re allowed to do it and won’t have to hide.
Kids & Families
Tangram is well-setup for families including those with young kids however most staff and services are Japanese-speaking only. The resort’s ‘Kids Park’ is located at the base of ski runs. Fenced-off from the surrounding runs, children and their families can enjoy a range of activities and rides. Admission is JPY1000. Services inside the hotel are aimed squarely at Japanese-speakers so we recommend staying in Madarao.
In terms of rental / ski school and accommodation, Madarao is better-suited to international visitors therefore we recommend staying on that side of the mountain and utilising the facilities and services on offer there.
WHERE TO STAY IN MADARAO
Madarao is a small resort with accommodation spread-out around the base of the ski runs. The main concentration of hotels and guesthouses is found in the central village in the area around Madaro Kogen Hotel. This is the largest hotel at the resort with most accommodation being small, often family-run lodges and guesthouses. The size and quality of those lodges and guesthouses varies with many previously Japanese-owned businesses being bought-up by foreign owners in recent years. Some of these are owned from overseas and operated by seasonal staff, which can affect the quality of your stay so it’s a good idea to check the reviews and look for a lodge or guesthouse operated by an owner living on-site. Whether they are foreign or Japanese shouldn’t make a difference. As long as they are there, you can expect to be well looked after. The compact size of Madarao and spread of lodges, restaurants and bars might remind some Australian visitors of Australian ski resorts. Much less developed than nearby Nozawa Onsen, Madarao has a relaxed atmosphere with some good restaurants and a couple of bars. When booking your accommodation, check the distance to the ski runs. If you’re not close enough to walk, most guesthouse owners will run you up to the ski fields. For accommodation listings, see our ‘Madarao & Iiyama Area’ hotel page.
JAPAN SKI RESORTS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Did you know that Madarao is just one of the more than eighty ski resorts in Nagano? Needless to say, when you choose Nagano for your winter getaway you are spoiled for choice! Our ‘Japan Ski Resorts’ page has everything you need to know to start planning your ski and snowboard adventure including: LATEST NEWS & DEALS, THE BEST RESORTS IN NAGANO & JAPAN, FAQs and of course OUR SKI PACKAGES, ACCOMMODATION, TRANSPORT & TOURS.
GETTING TO & AROUND MADARAO IN WINTER
Our ‘How to Get to Madaaro – Nagano Ski Resorts Info’ page provides information on how to reach Madarao from locations including Nagano Station, Tokyo and the airports. For many if not most visitors, using the Hokuriku Shinkansen line from Tokyo to Iiyama Station – via Nagano – will be a convenient option.
Located around 30-minutes from the resort, Iiyama Station (top image) is easy to reach from Tokyo and the airports. Once at Iiyama, the Nagaden Madarao local bus line runs to and from the resort with the drop-off point being in front of Madarao Kogen Hotel. Accommodation is spread-out around the resort so if you are planning to arrive by bus, make sure to confirm the distance to your guesthouse and/or if they can pick you up.
Visitors wanting to combine their visit to Madarao with some of Nagano’s other fantastic resorts including nearby Nozawa Onsen, Shiga Kogen – Japan’s largest and highest ski resort – or the multiple ski fields of Hakuba Valley, might want to consider arranging private transport to and from their accommodation.
Based in Nagano, we can provide both private charters and tours including pickup and drop-off at any accommodation in Madarao and/or any regional destination.
Our vehicles and drivers are fully certified, with the capacity to arrange transport for individual and couples, families and friends, and large tour groups including multiple vehicles and transport of ski and snowboard gear. Operating all year round we are ready to help you plan and package you trip, so you can time and money and focus on the fun stuff – see below for details!
REAL ESTATE JAPAN: MADARAO PROPERTIES
Recent years have seen increased interest in properties located in and around Madarao, with significant foreign investment taking place. We regard it as one of the best ski property markets to consider in Japan. The following properties are currently on the market in Madarao:
|Kuma Lodge, Madarao|
|Area||MADARAO & IIYAMA|
|Price||JPY110,000,000 / approx. USD$951,000|
|Layout||10 Bedroom Lodge|
|Feature||Air ConditioningCentral HeatingCommerical KitchenDry RoomFurnishedHotel / LodgeLaundryParkingRestaurantSki In / OutSki StorageViews|
For more information including property listings and buying guides, see our ‘Real Estate Japan’ page.
BOOK WITH US! NAGANO’S NO.1 TOUR & CHARTER OPERATOR
Locally-based and operating all year round, Snow Monkey Resorts is Nagano’s No.1 tour and charter operator. We have the local knowledge of where and when to go, to help you discover and enjoy the region’s many ski resorts and other fantastic destinations and activities.
For guests wanting to access the resorts in the comfort of their own transport, we can arrange a private tour or charter customised to fit your needs, starting and ending at any destination including from/to Nagano Station and any resort in the region. Our drivers and vehicles are fully certified, allowing us to transport you to and from your preferred destinations in combination with any activity that suits your schedule.
All vehicles are fitted with a protective screen – separating the driver from passenger and luggage area – and our drivers wear protective masks, allowing you to move between your destinations in comfort and safety. We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide. We’d love to be part of that experience and help you discover even more!
Why choose us?
Awarded a 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for our 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour – recognised as one of the Top 10 Experiences in Japan – we have the local knowledge and experience to help you get the most out of your time in Nagano.
Got a question about visiting Madarao this winter? Contact us at email@example.com and let’s get planning together!
JAPAN RAIL DEALS: TRAVEL PASSES & DISCOUNTED TICKETS
Many if not most people heading to the ski resorts of Nagano and Niigata do so via Nagano Station and Echigo-Yuzawa Station. Both are serviced by Shinkansen/Bullet Train lines running from Tokyo, making them quick and easy to get to.
Any foreign passport-holder – both international visitors and foreign residents of Japan – is eligible for the ‘Japan Rail (JR) East Pass’ for Nagano & Niigata. Covering 5 days of unlimited use within a 14-day period, the pass includes travel on both the Hokuirku Shinkansen and Joetsu Shinkansen lines – a great deal if you’re planning to move between the regions while here.
In addition, JR East offers a 3-Day ‘Welcome Pass’ for foreign passport-holders. The pass covers multiple shinkansen lines and other major train routes – a fantastic deal and great option for getting to and moving around Central Japan.
Japan Rail is currently also offering discounted prices on many train services, including shinkansen lines across the country. With discounts of up to 50% available when purchasing online, our ‘Discount Shinkansen Tickets: How to Buy Online’ page includes an English step-by-step guide of how to purchase tickets online.