A great resort with plenty to keep any level skier or border happy for a whole day easily!
I went to Madarao and Tangram, thanks to SJ, well the Madarao side of it. By paying 1500 yen I was able to get a full mountain pass, with handing in the voucher, which then gave me quite a lot of terrain to ski on. As these two resorts are joined I will review them together here.
When I got up it was sunny and blue sky all around, and when I arrived in Madarao about 1.5 hours later it was also sunny and blue sky, and it had snowed the night before, after existing the motorway at Toyota Iiyama, the roads had snow on them, so that was a good thing to see. This was the second time for me to go to Madarao, first time was last year around the end of March. I enjoyed it a lot last time, but the weather was not so good so it was not easy to explore the whole resort. This time however I was able to explore the whole resort, I think I skiied 25 out of the 28 courses, the three I didn't bother with were three beginner courses to the bottom left. Madarao is connected with Tangram, and although they are two separate resorts as such they are also connected and can both be accessed by a mountain pass, which is what I opted for. Last year when i went Tangram was closed, so I was not able to ski it.
As I was driving up the mountain road to Madarao, I noticed the snow walls along the side of the road getting higher the closer to the resort I got, I thought to myself compared to last year they have had a lot more snow, maybe it was because I was about two weeks later or maybe it is because they had a good year this year, but the snow was piled up higher than my car in many places, and my car is about 1.8m high.
Madarao is I guess a medium sized resort, and when used together with Tangram gives it a decent sized feel to it. Just skiing Madarao by itself is more enough to keep one occupied for a complete day, without any danger of getting bored. Madarao resort is on the Nagano side, but it is actually right on the border, so much so that when I drove into the top car park outside the Madaro Kogen hotel, my cars navi told me I was in Nagano, and when I drove out in the evening it told me that I am in Niigata, so it really is right on the border and actually some parts of Madarao do break into Niigata side.
Madarao is serviced by several lifts, although you can get to the top with just two or three depending on which route you take, which means not to much time wasted on lifts getting to the top. Madarao has a nice variation of terrain from easy wide slopes lower down to more challenging steeper slopes at the top, the steepest I think is 36 or 37o angle and it is ungroomed. I especially liked the powder wave I and powder wave II plus the powder theater and river line courses. They are all quite steep and have great snow all ungroomed, which I really liked. As it had snowed there previous to me arriving, at the top the must have been between 20-30cm or more of lovely powder snow and I could even find some fresh untouched tracks even quite late in the day, especially the expert courses, where their really were not many people on them to rip up the pow. The one let down though was previous to this snow it had rained and frozen the snow so underneath was hard frozen snow, and as I zigzagged down the slopes I could feel the hard crust underneath my skis, as the skis sunk down through the pow on the turns. If it were not for this conditions would have been perfect, and in fact lower down where the courses had been groomed the snow was still soft, but there was no crunching on the skis, even when I went through powder pockets on the edges.
I also liked the way you could basically ski along the edge at the top and just simply drop down off the edge into steep and deep powder either on an open slope or through the trees, as many areas are not roped off and able to ski safely.
I enjoyed this resort last year, but this year I enjoyed it even more as I had great weather, albiet too hot for my liking, I am used to skiing in temps around the -8- -10oC in mark and that's when it is sunny at my local resort, having said that it is spring now so to be expected. The snow was also much better this year than last year, and I was able to find untouched pretty much most of the day, as it was not that busy especially at the top where half the slopes/areas were almost empty.
I also explored Tangram, which is about half the size of Madarao, and again offers some variation in terrain including some quite steep and deep snow, but I it would not be enough to keep me occupied for more than a couple of hours or so, which is about all the time I needed to ski all of it. One difference I noticed, and I am not sure if it is to do with the angle of the slopes with the sun or what, but the snow was just as good as Madarao, except there were no hard patches under the soft snow, it was like a soft cushion under the soft snow, which was strange why it should be so different, but it was. So as for snow conditions, Tangram had the best of the two resorts on this day, because of the lack of hardness under the skis. Tangram does have a snow boat ride where by you can sit in a rubber dingy and be pulled along by a snow mobile, which is great if you are there with children, it would give them something else to do.
As for terrain and variation Madarao, wins for sure, and both resorts had equally as good snow, just Tangram wins on overall condition this time as there was no hardness under the snow, making the turns so much nicer. Value for money Madarao certainly wins here too. Both resorts are suitable for any level of skier as they both have slopes to suit all levels, but if you are of advanced level and want variation and some decent steepness, then Madarao has more to offer in a very compact package.
I really enjoyed Madarao again,and will certainly go back there again, especially as it is only a little over 1.5 hour drive from my house. As for Tangram, although there is nothing wrong with it, I don't think I will bother to ski there again, as Madarao has everything it has to offer and more.
When comparing Madarao, with other places I have been to, Myoko, Hakuba and Kusatsu, for me Madarao wins for both snow and terrain variation, I guess I like deep, steep, trees and ungroomed, and Madarao has all of this in a compact package that is just right for a full day, without boredom setting in. Next year I plan to check out Nozawa and Shiga kogen, as I haven't been to either of those yet to compare
All in all I had a very good day and can't wait to get back there again next year and I would like to thank Snow Japan for sending me the free ticket for Madarao, it was much appreciated.
From 15 March, 2014
Snow condition on visit:
Snow conditions were excellent, it had snowed the night before so I was treated to great powder snow even in the afternoon I was finding un-tracked pow!
Things I liked:
Snow conditions A nice variation in courses both in style layout and difficulty Easy to use lift system Plenty of deep and steep and plenty of un-groomed courses. Magnificent views especially as it was a sunny day when I went
Things I didn't like:
Nothing really, all was great!
Families & children
Authentic Japan experience