As February comes to a close, most of the Western snow junkies coming from Australia, New Zealand, America and beyond – leave Japan, turning their attention to other activities. Most of them don’t realise that quality snow extends well into the Japanese Spring Skiing Season.
Spring skiing in Japan throughout March is considered to be too late in the season by many tourists. Unfortunately for them – they do not realise that certain mountains in the Japanese alps come alive through spring with a perfect combination of great snow, milder temperatures, clear blue-bird days and barely any crowds.
Most tourists and seasoned skiers head to the Japanese alps between mid-January and mid-February. Through the peak periods, everyone is trying to catch the bulk of the ‘Ja-pow’ snowfall, which at the larger Japanese resorts can often lead to an overcrowding of tourists. However, by the time March comes, most of the peak season skiers have already left. This leaves many slopes relatively untouched for pristine spring skiing conditions. If you’re looking to avoid the tourist crowds of the peak ski season then Japanese spring skiing in March is superb.
Madarao Kogen is one of the few ski resorts which is open through to the start of April catering for people who can’t stand the crowds or an overly Westernized experience. Madarao Kogen has maintained its heritage, a resort which is not commercialised and still holds the charm of a small Japanese village nestled at the base of a beautiful mountain. Even throughout the peak season at Madarao you are unlikely to experience rowdy groups of tourists, most of the visitors here are Japanese locals in the know.
Spring skiing in Madarao is a great option for beginner skiers and families, who are chasing a relaxed, slow-paced holiday where learning to ski or snowboard is a much easier task when compared to other more crowded ski resorts in Japan. The one thing that most tourists don’t realise is that Madarao usually receives great snow well into the spring skiing season. The Madarao snow conditions in March are often soft, with a few deep powder days, while the rest of the time the slopes are well covered with perfect conditions on the groomed runs.
The milder weather in Spring is also popular with the ‘fair-weather’ skiers and snowboarders. During March the temperatures generally rise, with less frequent high winds and storms that are common in the depths of winter. Madarao receives fresh snow usually about one out of three days on average in March – and the days where it is not snowing are often sunny. When the skies are clear – Madarao offers stunning views over Iiyama, Mt Myoko and the surrounds. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the Sea of Japan to the North.
From the last five years Madarao has boasted snowfall levels on average of at least 1m in the month of March, meaning that there is plenty of snow left to catch in Spring. Also, the Madarao slopes face to the North-North East meaning that the slopes catch and hold whatever fresh snow passes by. Simply put, the snowpack lasts well into spring with an average of around 2.5m of snow at Madarao throughout March.
Madarao is famous for high quality, uncrowded tree runs through the top bowls of the mountain. Even in March, a few deep powder days are likely – perfect for the expert skiers and snowboarders at the top of of the mountain whilst the beginners enjoy the flatter slopes near the base. Madarao can offer some of the best powder skiing and snowboarding in Japan, and when you are waist deep in powder you don’t need to stress or worry about having your lift pass confiscated – in Madarao most of the mountain is made up of officially sanctioned tree skiing areas!
Powderhounds has described the mountain – ‘Madarao is still somewhat of an undiscovered treasure… Powder, minimal crowds and great tree skiing where you can revel without ski patrol chasing you – what more could a powder hound ask for?’
Towards the end of the spring skiing season – the famous forests and gardens of Japan start to come alive. The famous sakura or cherry blossom bloom usually happens in late March. Why not coordinate some fun spring skiing and snowboarding at Madarao with a few days of tourism on the way home? The combination of cherry blossoms and snow all throughout Nagano Prefecture is a sight to behold.
About Madarao Kogen:
Madarao Kogen is located North-West from Tokyo in the Nagano Prefecture. The journey only takes around an hour and forty minutes if you were to take the shinkansen (bullet train) to the newly built station shinkansen station at Iiyama. For anyone who hasn’t had the wonderful experience of travelling on a bullet train it is a spectacular way to ride to Madarao where you are treated to scenic views along the way – with the train reaching over 300 km/hr. From Iiyama Station it is a short bus ride up the mountain to Madarao and Kuma Lodge.
The mountain is mid-sized by Japanese standards with a great mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain. Lift tickets are very affordable with with discounted rates available for guests at Kuma Lodge. An adult 5 day pass works out to be only about $26 AUD per day, children aged 5-13 are about $12 AUD per day and children under 5 are free.
Madarao receives between 10-13m of snow annually and is famous for the ‘Mada-Pow’ found all across the top slopes and between the many, officially sanctioned tree runs.
A great sunset to top off a great day of action on the slopes – shot from Kuma Lodge, Madarao, March 2018.
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.
Throughout the spring season, it is possible to score discounted rates on flights to Japan and accommodation when you arrive in Madarao. Ask the Kuma team about late season discounts.