Madarao Mountain Resort resort review (Iiyama City, Nagano)

Madarao Mountain Resort
Iiyama City, Nagano
Submitted by North Shore on 24th January 2015
Madarao...Made of Pow...Mad About Pow...Madapow!
35 cm of fresh snow! It's almost unfair to review a mountain under those conditions...

I first skied Madarao five years ago. It was my first introduction to Japanese skiing, and despite what I felt were some shortcomings (old, double and triple chairs; no off trail allowed) I liked it even so. Since then there have been some great improvements - another detachable quad, and the tree runs! (More on them later)

Madarao has a fairly wide variety of terrain and runs. There's something to keep both beginners and experts occupied for a few days at least. As a bonus for riders, there's a gently slope to the bottom of almost every run once you get away from the base area, so there's not as much of that awkward foot-out-of-binding pushing that you see snowboarders doing on flat terrain. I saw a few groups of people heading out-of-bounds behind the top of 13 while I was there. I was tempted to tag along, but as I didn't have an avalanche beacon, I decided it was safer to stick to the inbounds area. But, there is some access to the backcountry.

The lifts are fairly well laid out, but depending on the weather, I find myself sticking to either of the two quads or Chair 13 as everything else is simply painfully slow...Chair 13 is an interesting one - a single chair ( how 1960!) On one hand it is fairly intimidating, which keeps people away, but on the other hand, for the one chair accessing their best areas, you'd think that the mountain could replace it with at least a double (Chair 3B appears to be disused - why not move it over?)

The Tree Runs! Madarao seems to have spent a fair amount of money getting these organized - they've cleared out the undergrowth in several treed areas around the mountain, leaving a great powder playground. I've skied Madarao a few times this year, and each time, was fortunate enough to have good enough snow to make the trees worthwhile. As I commented to my ski partner last time around: "My legs are burning, and I'm having difficulty keeping up the turns, but I just can't stop!"

The grooming crew seems to have a good handle on things as well - believe it or not, there are days that are not bluebird and fresh snow here, and on those days, the cats are out on the night before doing their thing. Grey/flat light days are not unknown, and there are enough trees that you can pick your way down the edge of the runs, and still have a fairly decent day.

Food in the cafeterias is standard ski-jo fare, and the washrooms were clean.

Ski school seemed busy, with groups of all abilities.

Don't know /didn't see a Snow Park.

Can't speak to the Après experience, as I was up for a day trip, but then I'm an eat, sleep, ski, guy in any case, so 9 pm is a late night if you want to get the 0800 chair!

All in all, a ski resort that isn't just resting on its 1980s boomtime laurels, and is actively improving things for the future!

!!Thank-you!! to SnowJapan, and Madarao Resort for the lift ticket!
Date visited: From 20 January, 2015
Snow condition on visit: 35 cm of fresh!
Things I liked: Tree runs!
Quad chairs!
Things I didn't like: Slow doubles/triples
Recommended for: Beginner riders
Intermediate riders
Advanced riders
Off-piste opportunities
Ungroomed courses
Authentic Japan experience
General score: 90
Snow conditions: 100
Courses/Terrain: 90
Lift system: 75

Madarao Mountain Resort

Iiyama City, Nagano
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Average Rankings

General score: 85
Snow conditions: 90
Courses/Terrain: 83
Lift system: 72
Apres ski: 46

Basic Resort Statistics

Max. elevation: 1350m
Min. elevation: 910m
Vertical: 440m
Steepest slope: 36°
Longest course: 2500m
Number of lifts: 15

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Location of Madarao Mountain Resort