Madarao Kogen Ski Resort

Madarao Kogen Ski Resort

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

  • Vertical (m)
    910 – 1,350 (440)
  • Average Snow Fall
    13  m approx.
  • Lifts (9)
    2 quads
  • Ski Hours
    8:30am - 5:00pm
    mid Dec - late Mar
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 32
    Longest run – 2.5km
    Beginner - 30%
    Intermediate - 35%
    Advanced - 35%

Madarao Mountain Resort Terrain

The Madarao Mountain Resort in Japan is a mid sized resort that is a very good all-rounder, with some terrain for everyone. The Madarao Ski Resort has a slightly unusual layout. A small sunny beginner and intermediate zone drops down from the Madarao Kogen Hotel to the main “base area” where there are a couple of large restaurants. The main part of the Madarao Mountain Resort rises up the opposite side of the hill, which is subdivided into two sides that are somewhat clunky to get between, and don’t drop down below chair 11 to one of the car parks or you’ll need to walk back to the lifts. Meanwhile further up the mountain the switch from lookers’ left to right involves a big long flat trail (aka a snowboard trap), or if chair #13 is running, a snaking cat track or moguls.

Interconnected with Tangram

The Madarao Mountain Resort is interconnected with Tangram and for an additional fee it’s possible to get a combined Madarao Tangram lift ticket. This enables access to a Tangram lift that services the Powder Wave II area of Madarao without having to do the gnarly traverse off the Madarao single lift, although the Tangram top lift tends to not open until about 10am.

Tangram is a small resort that is ideal for confident beginners to low-end intermediates. Their approach to off-piste riding is a little more conservative than Madarao. Tangram allows some tree skiing in dedicated areas, but much of it remains “out-of-bounds”.


Madarao is somewhat indicative of the bygone bubble era (ie the bubble has burst!) whereby the number of operational lifts has shrunk considerably. It’s possible to access all the terrain but a degree of zig-zagging may be required.

Madarao Mountain Resort has 9 lifts remaining. Two of the chair lifts are detachable quads that serve a few of the main intermediate runs, and these are old and tired. The rest of the fleet consists of really old, slow triples and slow double chairs, or romance chairs as the Japanese call them, so there’ll be plenty of time for romance! The single chair, aka the pizza box, may seem quaint and unique the rest time you ride it, but it’s really an old relic that doesn’t run very consistently.

Most of the time Madarao is reasonably quiet and lift lines are minimal, however the lifting capacity is very inefficient, so during peak holiday times it does not cope well with the crowds and lift lines can be horrific and poorly managed.

Madarao has night skiing on some evenings off two of the lifts. .

Lift Tickets

Lift ticket prices have risen a lot in recent years, which is probably a good thing because they might make enough money to be able to do some maintenance on the lifts and upgrade them.

The lift tickets are reasonably priced relative to Australia and North America. Lift tickets come in a variety of configurations including the combined Madarao Tangram pass, 5 hours, single ride, 2 day, 3 day, and night skiing passes. The ticket office at Madarao accepts credit cards for lift tickets which is something you can’t always take for granted in Japan! Many of the Japanese pensions offer discounted lift passes, but you will probably need to pay cash for these.

Madarao Mountain Resort is also on the Nagano 6 Area season pass, along with Tangram, Shiga Kogen, Nozawa Onsen, Togakushi and Ryuoo.

Madarao Snow

The average annual snowfall at Madarao is estimated to be about 10 to 13 metres, so snow volumes are excellent and there are plenty of Madapow days.

The resort also does pretty well in the snow quality stakes thanks to lots of north facing slopes. On the contrary, a top elevation of 1,350 metres doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to super dry powder during warm spells. Madarao is about 300 metres lower than the top of Nozawa Onsen and 500 metres lower than Suginohara, part of Myoko Kogen, and significantly lower than parts of Shiga Kogen. On the plus side, the short vertical puts the base area of Madarao higher than its neighbours.

Like the other Nagano ski resorts, the powder can be delightfully dry but as a general rule it’s heavier than what you’d find at the Hokkaido ski resorts.

Ski Madarao - for the Beginner

Madarao has decent terrain for beginners. Never-evers have a little area in front of the Madarao Kogen Hotel, and from there novices can progress down the flank of the hill to the main base area and onto lift no. 5. Confident beginners with a keen eye on the trail map can also make their way over to Tangram Ski Resort where there are various beginner trails.

Madarao Skiing for the Intermediate

With only several red (intermediate) runs, Madarao ski resort surprisingly doesn’t have that much intermediate terrain considering the trail statistic of 35 percent. On the plus side, a few of these red runs have beautiful consistent fall lines which are fantastic for cruising or zooming. The easiest red trail drops down from the Madarao Kogen Hotel to the base area, whilst those on the main face of the mountain are steeper. The inter-connected Tangram has a few intermediate runs, so those who need more variety should get a combined lift ticket.

Madarao Mountain Resort has a few family adventure courses that have wide open trees and are fun for intermediates.

Terrain Park

There is a small freeride park with a few of the usual hits. There may also be a jump or two set up in the tree zones, and the Sawa course is a wide natural half pipe course that’s plenty of fun.

Advanced Skiing Madarao

Madarao has a few traditional on-piste black runs (ie open/cut) that are not groomed, even when they should be, and mogul up.

The specially created tree runs make up most of the advanced terrain. They have reasonable pitch with maximum gradients of 35-37 degrees and the trees are significantly thinned out in most spots so there are lots of open areas where you can let it rip without running into a tree (OK you still might run into a tree!). The Madarao tree runs are aptly named, with Powder Wave and Powder Wave II having undulating terrain in places, whilst Powder Theatre is the place to show off to the spectators on the lift. Our favourite is the Crystal Bowl because the snow quality is often superb, the trees are a little tighter, and the top is steep.

It's great that Madarao was revolutionary and one of the pioneers of Japanese ski resorts in not just allowing tree skiing, but encouraging it. They chopped out lots of the trees and those new to tree skiing will love it, whereas we find there is too much glading for our liking. As the trees are quite widely spaced and you don’t have to be an expert tree rider, the powder gets chopped up very quickly by the many in-bounds powder hunting types. Those looking for freshies will need to explore further afield.

Off-Piste Madarao

The definition of what’s off-piste at Madarao differs to some other Japanese ski resorts considering that the gladed areas are marked on the trail map and are patrolled. Other treed areas are labelled as “do not enter” zones, and if you choose to head there, the trees are tighter, some bush bashing may be required and the snow less chowdered.

Madarao Sidecountry & Backcountry

Madarao has some good sidecountry (aka slackcountry) that offers some better challenges than the wide-open tree runs in-bounds, although the aspect and snow quality isn’t ideal during warm spells and the freshies go rather quickly. Despite the skier compaction, this terrain is only appropriate for those with avalanche gear and know-how.

Ditto for the main Madarao backcountry lines which includes a skin/hike up to the peak then drops down to the road. The snow quality tends to be superior in these zones compared to the sidecountry. The upper slopes have a good pitch which mellows out to tree skiing amongst pines. The egress is reasonably easy, although early in the season the bracken and creek crossings, and therefore route finding, might be a little hairy.

There are also backcountry lines that drop into Tangram.

You can head out to explore these backcountry areas with a guide and there are various Madarao guiding options, either for single days or there are multi-day multi-resort tours that include Madarao.