It was a 3 day weekend, so decided to make the most of the extra day and mega-dump of snow by heading to Madarao with my ride buddy. We were not dissapointed and I would guess that there was a good 50cm of fresh, light powder for us to enjoy!
Madarao is a medium sized resort just on the Nagano side of the border with Niigata near Lake Nojiri. It is joined to Tangram and a a ticket is available for both resorts, as well as single resort passes for each. Tangram is a little smaller than Madarao and nowhere near as good. Madarao operates on a similar policy to Cortina, in that you can go pretty much wherever you want to go and do so at your own risk. Tangram operates on the exact opposite of this policy and the ski patrol are super strict on policing the side country and tree runs.
So we arrived at Madarao early and got on the first quad to do a few mellow tree runs near the lift line, while the resort staff continued digging the single chair lift out to get things moving up there. As it was a 3 day weekend the crowds were out and it felt pretty busy until around lunch time. Started thinning out nicely by the afternoon and there was still plenty of powder to be found away from the famous Powder Wave runs far riders left of the mountain.
The early bird gets the worm at Madarao. The widely spaced tree runs which are easily accessed from the single chair are amazing, but they don't last very long on a weekend powder day. After you get 2 or 3 of these it's time to look elsewhere for the top to bottom goodies. If you know where they are they are good until the end of the day. If you have the pass for both resorts (we didn't), then there are some man-made but natural looking features in one of the tree runs that side. It looks fun but we didn't get to ride there on our visit.
Madarao is as good as it gets in Nagano if you are into riding powder but not into hiking to get it. The best lines are easily accessible from the top lift and if you are there on a weekday there is enough to go around. The resort has everything you'd expect to find at a modern Japanese ski resort and the main lifts are fast enough. The top single chair is slow and the line can get a little long early in the day, but it does the job and gets you to the goods.
We had an awesome day there and I can't wait to get back there again soon. Definitely my best day of the 2014/15 season so far!
From 12 January, 2015
Snow condition on visit:
Things I liked:
Bottomless champagne powder! Knowing where to go when the popular lines got rinsed.
Things I didn't like:
Pretty busy until lunchtime. Delay in getting the top lift running, but that couldn't be helped due to the place getting nuked the night before.