Well we may be a little biased! The case is pretty strong for Madarao being the best family skiing destination in Japan – fast access from Tokyo, uncrowded slopes, excellent English speaking ski lessons, ski-in, ski-out accommodation and a great variety of terrain for beginners to experts.
About Madarao Kogen:
Madarao Mountain Resort is located in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture – approximately two hours from Tokyo. This area is famous for deep and fluffy powder snow in winter, with peaceful villages, friendly locals and a distinct lack of Western influence. Unlike the higher profile resorts, Madarao is still relatively unknown by snow tourists – and is definitely not what you would consider a ‘party mountain’ with a heavy tourist drinking culture like the large resorts in Hokkaido. To put things in perspective, most of the people running the lifts are local farmers who are supplementing their income whilst their fields are buried under thick snow!
Madarao’s low profile keeps the prices of a snow holiday more affordable, the experience more authentic and the slopes relaxed and uncrowded – perfect for a family holiday. The mountain itself has a diverse range of conditions, all easily accessible without the need for long traverses. At Madarao the top areas are mostly ungroomed, with amazing powder tree runs suited to advanced riders, with gentle, groomed slopes toward the base – perfect for beginners.
For kids who are learning:
Madarao is a great mountain for children to build up their skills or even try snow sports for the first time thanks to the consistent soft snow conditions. There are English speaking ski lessons available that can take private groups of beginners and intermediates. For the 2018/19 winter season Aki’s will be opening an English speaking ski school for larger groups of children.
There are a range of children’s rental skis and snowboards available at Madarao – get in touch with us at Kuma Lodge if you would like more information on rental equipment.
30% of the runs at Madarao are beginner friendly, so there is plenty of space to children to build up their basic skills before graduating up to the intermediate runs (about 40% of the mountain).
For kids with experience:
Madarao has a small terrain park for experienced riders to practise their jumps and tricks, but the real draw card is the excellent powder conditions. With regular powder snow falls during school holiday season, more experienced children will love exploring the many tree runs. There are also guided side and back country tours available with English speaking guides – a great activity for experienced children to enjoy the deep powder with their parents!
The shape of the mountain at Madarao naturally funnels back to the main village area which means that there is no real concerns about getting lost. Older and experienced kids will easily be able to have fun and make it back to their parents for lunch at one of the many restaurants.
If your perfect idea of a ski holiday is to put the kids into ski school and dash off to go find powder – then Madarao is probably your ideal destination! Most families visit Madarao in peak powder season with December to February falling across Southern hemisphere school holidays.
The tree runs towards the top of the mountain are world class, with Madarao actively encouraging tree skiing unlike some of the other major Japanese resorts. For even more terrain – grab the dual mountain ‘Powder Pass’ that also covers the connecting Tangram Ski Circus resort.
There is also extensive side and back country to explore at Madarao, with some areas of the mountain offering amazing views of the surrounding Japanese alps the Sea of Japan on a clear day. Madarao is also well positioned for day trips to some of the other popular resorts in the area like Nozawa Onsen and Myoko Kogen via shuttle bus from the Madarao village centre.
For parents who are learning or want to get involved teaching their kids how to ski or snowboard – Kuma Lodge is located literally across the street from the beginner ski area and children’s snow park. You’ll be able to easily supervise their progress and enjoy the slopes with your children.
Kuma Lodge also can offer prearranged babysitting services as an added extra to give parents a break so they can spend more time on the slopes, or head out for a romantic dinner at one of the fantastic local restaurants. For 2018/19 Madarao Kogen Hotel is now also offering English speaking childcare for a half day (9am-12pm or 1:30pm-4:30pm, 3000 JPY) or full day (5000 JPY). Ask us about babysitting here.
There are two great snow park play areas, one at Madarao and one at Tangram that are both very popular with young children.
The children’s play area at Madarao has a toboggan course, magic carpet, snow igloo and heaps of shovels, buckets and other toys – perfect for building snowmen. At Tangram the play area has a magic carpet, snow bikes, toboggan area, snow toys and a ski-doo powdered banana boat ride over the snow covered golf course.
So when is the best time for a family ski trip to Madarao?
Madarao usually opens for business at the start of December, with the best snowfall through December to February. The Southern hemisphere school holidays are prime time for families at Madarao.
A typical season at Madarao will see about 2m of snow base through December, and usually over 6m of total snowfall by the end of January.
Madarao has great spring skiing conditions well into March, so when Easter falls early in the year it is possible to sneak a late season family snow trip in and combine it with some great tourist activities like the cherry blossom blooms, snow monkey tours and popular Tokyo tourist attractions like Disneyland and Legoland.
How to get to Madarao:
Madarao Kogen is located about 2 hours from Tokyo – the best way to make the trip is on a Shinkansen or bullet train from Tokyo Station. With some major airlines offering overnight flights from Australia’s East Coast to Tokyo, it is possible to leave Australia, sleep, wake up in Tokyo and get on the slopes at Madarao before lunch time!
Madarao is definitely easier access than Hokkaido, especially important for families travelling with young children. With no connecting flights, travel to Madarao is straightforward thanks to the excellent Japanese rail system. Tourists travelling with ski’s or snowboard’s frequently use the bullet trains – which offer easy bag storage areas for hassle free transit.
For those who do not want to travel with any large baggage the ‘Black Cat‘ service is excellent. You can spend a few days as a tourist in Tokyo or Kyoto while they ship your large gear bags straight to Kuma Lodge (or back to your city hotel before going to the airport) – for a cost of only about $25 AUD one way. Black Cat is very reliable and offer great service – they are highly recommended by the team at Kuma.
For the details on getting to Madarao and Kuma Lodge – visit this page.
About Kuma Lodge:
In terms of accommodation at Madarao, Kuma Lodge is rated the best boutique lodge within the surrounding area by Tripadvisor. The lodge which is Australian owned, offers boutique living spaces with stunning mountain views – staffed by local English speaking Japanese residents, Taka-San and Kumi. There are nine modern suites and various entertaining areas which include a flat screen TV, leather sofa, ping pong, darts and stunning mountain views.
The lodge is also situated on the slopes and right next to the ski school and local pub. Parent’s are literally able watch their children from the lodge as they are learning to ski.
The team at Kuma Lodge offers concierge style service during your stay – we can arrange all meals at great local restaurants serving local and international cuisines (and we can organise meals for those with food allergies), ski school lessons, lift passes, back country and day trips to other mountains and tourist activities like the onsen’s and snow monkeys.
All of our guests love their time at Kuma – check out the 5 star reviews.
What next? School holidays for the 2019 season are already booking up – get in touch with Kuma now.
We look forward to hosting you and your family on an amazing snow holiday in Madarao, Japan.