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.
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.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s on offer at Madarao Mountain Resort – we hope we tempt you to visit:
MADARAO MOUNTAIN RESORT: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
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. 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 has 31 courses including 13 official tree runs serviced by 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. 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 (13+) JPY5000 / children (under 12) JPY2000 / 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.
For listings, see our ‘Iiyama & Madarao 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 and more than five hundred in Japan? 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!
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 Nagano and Central Japan this winter? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.