Situated on the mainland of Japan, Madarao has been an under-the-radar powder gem for a few years. It’s now getting more attention thanks to its great quality snow, beautiful gladed tree runs and next to no lift lines. Whether you’ve been to Madarao before or are wanting to check it out, we bet there are a few things you could learn from this post. Here’s 10 things you probably didn’t know about Madarao resort:
1. Madarao is famous for its gladed tree runs.
A gladed tree run is a section of forest where the trees and shrubs have been purposefully thinned out to make it more accessible to skiers and snowboarders. Trees and powder are some of the most fun you can have with your clothes on, so the fact that Madarao has around 10 gladed areas means it’s a guaranteed good time. Madarao’s tree runs are also considered in-bounds so ski patrol will check on them regularly, making them much safer than other tree runs in Japan.
2. There’s a single chairlift.
Madarao is one of the few places where you can still find a one-person-only chairlift. This is affectionately known as the ‘pizza box chair’ by locals and gives access to some of the best advanced runs on the mountain. It’s not for the feint of heart though – there’s no safety bar, no foot rest, and not a lot of room for you to sit on either. Better not miss!
3. No ATM’s in town!
This is one of the biggest downsides to Madarao being a small, undiscovered town. You’ll need to bring a decent wad of cash up to the resort because there are no ways to get your money out – although a number of establishments have card facilities now. Still, Japan is a cash society at heart so it’s best to take some out from the multiple ATM’s around Iiyama city, which is a great day trip anyway.
4. Around 60% of the mountain is left ungroomed.
No more crying when the groomers pack down all that precious powder. Madarao knows people like the deep stuff and will leave it on most of the runs. The temperatures in Japan generally stay low so you can still find well kept powder stashes days after a snow dump.
5. Little ones ski free.
While we can’t find anywhere that says this in (English) writing, the ticket sellers have declared that any child who is yet to start school does not need to buy a lift pass. Hurrah for free skiing and snowboarding!
6. Access two resorts with one pass.
A day ticket to Madarao will only set you back around 4,500 yen (2018/19 rate) but for only an extra 500 yen you get to ride Tangram too! This opens up some great tree runs and long groomers. Tangram is usually quieter than Madarao so if there does happen to be any lift lines (a rarity) you can pop over the side and have fresh lines at Tangram for hours.
7. You’ll get epic views.
Madarao resort resides on its own little peak between the ranges that are home to resorts like Nozawa Onsen and Myoko Kogen. On a clear day you can see these magnificent mountains rising up from snowy villages, with gorgeous views all the way out to the ocean. If you’re lucky enough to cross over to Tangram then you’ll have a magnificent view of Lake Nojiri too.
8. There’s an amazing natural half pipe.
If you get your hands on a Madarao terrain map, on the right side of the mountain there’s a spot called Sawa Natural Pipe. This really is a naturally formed halfpipe that gets narrower as you go until the walls are well above your head. Advanced riders will absolutely love it!
9. You can ride in two different prefectures in one day.
Madarao is oddly located as it sits right on the border between Nagano and Niigata prefectures. In fact, you can walk from one side of town to the other and cross over the boundary, or ride from one side to the other on the mountain. Just be careful with it when you want something delivered to your accommodation!
10. Madarao has the friendliest locals.
Most of Madarao’s chairlift operators are local farmers in the summer and they are lovely people with generous smiles. One liftie in particular has stolen our hearts. You’re sure to see him around the beginner chairlift, encouraging newcomers to the sport and helping up children when they’ve fallen. He is also well known for regularly putting out a toy display, much to the delight of both adults and kids. Next time you see him, be sure to give him a wave and ‘Konichiwa!’
If you’re yet to explore Madarao it’s definitely time to book a snow holiday and experience all these things first hand.