Interested in taking the family to Japan for a ski trip? The secret is out, Madarao is a ski destination that is quickly gaining momentum as a family-friendly mecca, less than a two-hour bullet train journey from the heart of Tokyo…
You can access all it has to offer, staying at the Australian-owned boutique ski accommodation, (and number 1 trip advisor rated), Kuma Lodge.
Beautiful Madarao Mountain Resort and nearby Tangram in the Nagano region, has long been a favourite for Japanese families in search of beautiful vistas, top-notch ski conditions, and affordable, authentic experiences. Now westerners have their interest piqued – investing and booking holidays in the slightly sleepy and very beautiful mountain village.
My family enjoyed the pleasure of skiing at Madarao while staying at Kuma Lodge earlier this year. We represent a range of ski abilities – from my husband who has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with skiing (he is half Norwegian and has skied just about everywhere), three children aged 8, 6 and 3 at the time, who are beginners and yours truly, who would possibly be classified as beginner but likes to think of myself as intermediate. Madarao offered something for everyone. It was also our first family trip to Japan so after arriving in Tokyo, the children were in awe of the incredible energy, beauty and excitement all around them (more on our short but sweet Tokyo stay later) and couldn’t believe their luck when we boarded a bullet train directly to the snow!
So why the escalating interest in Madarao? One of the main reasons is that the Shinkansen – Japan’s incredibly efficient and comfortable high-speed bullet train – now delivers you to the ski fields in less than two hours from Tokyo’s central station. It’s as you’d imagine – clean, safe, reliable and serves delicious Bento boxes on board.
The ski conditions at Madarao and Tangram are world-class. Madarao’s nickname is ‘MadaPow’ (save that for your hashtags!) because of the abundance of powder snow. There are slopes catering for all abilities and fantastic backcountry skiing, and you can also ski from Madarao (or drive through stunning scenery) over to the neighbouring resort, Tangram Ski Circus (accessible on a dual mountain pass) which caters for young families with two excellent snow play parks. While we didn’t make it over to Tangram, Kuma tells us, “The safely fenced off areas include magic carpet rides for the kids to get up the hill quickly and safely, real igloos, snowman-making equipment, snow bikes, toboggan courses and our favourite the “banana boat” – pulled along a snow covered golf course on the back of a ski-doo.” Madarao also has fun tobogganing for children (and ahem, adults) which was our favourite way to end the day on the slopes.
Our visit was in March, admittedly towards the end of the season, and we welcomed the short chairlift queues, which we’re told was fairly typical throughout the season, and the reasonably priced ski lift passes, leaving more budget to spend on the Japanese culinary delights (which are also very reasonable as far as ski resorts go!). Importantly, the ski schools are English speaking and the care and attention are excellent.