Madarao Mountain Resort resort review (Iiyama City, Nagano)

Madarao Mountain Resort
Iiyama City, Nagano
Submitted by Daniellho on 27th March 2015
Powder and trees
This was our 5th Japan trip. The resorts we have been to previously discourage tree skiing. Whilst there was also the potential for rope ducking, the treed terrain in most of the other Japanese resorts we felt were not worth offending the local management ... what is the point to duck ropes when the terrain in the trees was so gentle that one had to aim straight to risk getting stuck, or has poor fall-lines resulting in significant traverse, or when the trees are so tight one had to stop every 3 or so turns?

We went to Madarao because of its claim of good Pow and tree skiing. The fact they have sections where the trees have been thinned out was also an appeal because we had hoped to find some terrain where we could link some good turns. Being our first proper tree skiing trip, having some thinned out sections of forest we thought would be a good thing.

In this section I'll focus on the general resort and cover the like/dislike in the latter sections.

The resort is reasonably well laid out for competent boarders/skiers. The two slopes from the Hotel down to the main restaurant are wide with reasonable pitch for beginners to learn on. It has a total of 3 courses that are suitable for beginners, and all of them reasonably long to learn on - i.e. if I was learning and falling over every 10m or so ... they would feel really really long and rather steep.

Tangram on the other side of the mountain is much much better setup for beginners, kids and family. Shiga Kogen also caters for beginners much better.

Apart from the tree runs, Madarao also had a good selection of groomed and un-groomed runs that are well suited for intermediate and up skiers and boarders. They're nothing too difficult and the steeper pitched runs are wide .. this meant there were always different line options, even on mogul runs.

Some comments on general layout.

The resort is very much designed to access the groomed runs. The ungroomed runs and the tree runs were added after the infrastructure was built. Powder Wave II, Powder Line are particularly difficult to get to. The access track is named "Adventure Aisle" for good reasons. During our stay, because it was over the new year period the mountain was reasonably busy. The track because of the traffic has turned into a chute about 1.5m wide that threads between trees, with a steep drop on the downhill side. Some of the more capable riders just hopped off the side into the "no riding zone" in this map (which at the resort, instead of "no riding" was marked with skull and crossed-bones.

It should be noted that resort management here is pretty good, including avalanche control and rating. What this means is when they say an area has high avalanche danger, they mean it, and they DON'T CONTROL the areas marked "no riding". The run-outs of many of the "no riding" areas are flat or into a "hole". I would suggest anybody riding into the "no riding" areas to make sure they are competent is back-country riders and kitted out accordingly. Nobody will hear you if you get stuck in the valleys, or worse, buried by a slide. Ski patrol was very visible throughout the mountain, and split approx 60/40 skier/boarder. At least one person at the patrol base spoke reasonable English.


We stayed at Pure Pension, one of the local guest houses. They sold discount vouchers which we exchanged for tickets at the resort ticket office. A day pass was 3000 Yen.


Explore the various places available, as they all offer different things. Most staff spoke little English but were helpful nonetheless. There were some signs and menus in English, but don't count on it. The crepe store at the main resort base is worth a visit at the end of the day.


As of this post, the Shinkansen goes to Iiyama. Madarao is then only a short bus trip away.


We had plenty of fresh Pow during our stay. However, Madarao is not very high and therefore can experience freeze thaw cycles. This adds to the risk of avalanche and also can make the off-piste areas very unpredictable.
Date visited: From 30 December, 2014 To 07 January, 2015
Snow condition on visit: Fresh Pow most days
Things I liked: We came here for tree skiing and Pow, and we got plenty of it.

It was mentioned in one of the review sites I read in preparing for this trip, that the trees were too thinned out in that author's opinion.

The thinned out sections were fun for the first couple of days. But after we got accustomed to the Pow (waist deep Pow took some getting used to) and became more trusting of our turns, we soon got bored of the thinned out sections. The "official" tree run areas are clearly marked with ribbons and arrows on the trees at the boundary.

As mentioned above, there is plenty of "out of bound" back country type terrain within the resort, which is where we went for the rest of our stay. It took a couple of days to understand the geography of the mountain, discover where the avalanche terrain and avalanche traps are, walk-outs routes (and preferably how to avoid walk-outs), etc. But once we figured it all out it we spent days making fresh tracks or follow our own (since hardly anybody went into those areas, for good reasons). Over the entire stay we met only 6 other riders in the "out of bound" areas.
Things I didn't like: Nothing about Madarao we didn't like, but the access track to Powder Wave II could be vastly improved. The fact that the "out of bound" areas are marked with skull and crossed-bone was also a good thing as that was a good representation of the potential danger, but the fact that management didn't forbid people going in was good for us.

However, it would be really nice if Tangram and Madarao would combine into one resort, with Tangram opening up the treed areas like how Madarao has.

The treed areas in Tangram looked absolutely fantastic. Nice, long with consistent fall-lines. But tree skiing is strictly forbidden at Tangram. With all the runs ending back at the same base, for those thinking of ducking ropes there is nowhere to run ... Patrol will simply enjoy the excuse to run the trees and book you when you reach the bottom (All the tracks we saw in the trees seemed to be by Patrol doing avalanche control [ski-cutting] and assessment work).
Recommended for: Intermediate riders
Advanced riders
Off-piste opportunities
Ungroomed courses
Authentic Japan experience
Not recommended for: Beginner riders
Snow Park
General score: 90
Snow conditions: 85
Courses/Terrain: 90
Lift system: 70
Apres ski: 30

Madarao Mountain Resort

Iiyama City, Nagano
View all Reviews for Madarao Mountain Resort (24)
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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

Other resorts nearby

Tangram Ski Circus 5.50km
Akakura Kanko Resort 17.90km
Ikenotaira Onsen 17.90km
Akakura Onsen 18.60km
Togari Onsen 18.70km
Kita Shinshu Kijimadaira 18.90km
Kurohime Kogen Snow Park 20.30km
Myoko Suginohara 21.50km
Iiyama Kita Hokuryu Onsen Family 21.70km
Yamabiko no oka 22.10km
Nozawa Onsen 22.80km
X-JAM Takaifuji 23.50km
Myoko Ski Park 23.60km
Kyukamura Myoko RunRun 24.40km
Seki Onsen 24.90km
Kita Shiga Komaruyama 25.20km
Iizuna Resort 25.70km
Ryuoo Ski Park 26.20km
Yomase Onsen 27.20km
Iizuna Kogen 28.80km
Lotte Arai Resort 33.40km
Togakushi 34.60km
Sakae Club 40.10km
Shiga Kogen Sun Valley 40.70km
Shiga Kogen Maruike 41.40km
Shiga Kogen Giant 41.80km
Shiga Kogen Hoppo Bunadaira 41.80km
Shiga Kogen Nishitateyama 41.80km
Shiga Kogen Hasuike 42.00km
Kanayasan 42.10km
Shiga Kogen Kidoike 45.20km
Shiga Kogen Higashitateyama 46.10km
Shiga Kogen Takamagahara Mammoth 46.50km
Shiga Kogen Terakoya 46.50km
Shiga Kogen Kumanoyu 47.00km
Shiga Kogen Shibutoge 47.00km
Shiga Kogen Tannenomori Okojo 47.00km
Shiga Kogen Yokoteyama 47.00km
Shiga Kogen Ichinose Family 47.50km
Shiga Kogen Ichinose Diamond 47.70km
Shiga Kogen Ichinose Yamanokami 48.30km
Sugadaira Kogen Snow Resort 48.40km
Shiga Kogen Yakebitaiyama 49.10km
Minenohara Kogen Resort 49.20km
Shiga Kogen Okushiga Kogen 52.00km

Location of Madarao Mountain Resort