Madarao – the hidden gateway to Nagano & Niigata

Lets face it, 2020 was a year to forget. But if memory serves correct, the first couple of months were pretty good!

Rewind to January 2020. A time when Snowriders Australia subscribers joined Glenn and Hamish for a hosted trip discovering the Nagano/Niigata area based in Madarao. For those that don’t know, Madarao (pronounced “Mada-raall”) is a small resort nestled at the northern end of the Nagano Prefecture. The beauty of Madaroa, apart from its epic snow and quaint small town charms, is its location; Madarao is located smack bang in the middle of the powder highway, between Nozawa Onsen, Myoko Onsen and Shiga Kogen. It’s also just a stone’s throw from resorts: Seki Onsen, Kita Shinsu, Ryuoo, X-Jam Takaiful and the awesome Lotte Arai.

Madarao is located at the northern end of the Nagano Prefecture, providing access to several well known ski areas

We chose to stay with Active Life, a New Zealand/Australian run company, who own and run hotels in Madarao and PalCall Tsumagoi. Active Life is unique in that it provides free ski and snowboarding lessons for guests, as well as a super convenient free shuttle-service to the above named resorts. While we didn’t take up the option of lessons (as most of our riders were quite advanced) we did utilise the free shuttle service; and this was one of the highlights.

Having the option to explore further afield was not just great from a riding perspective – providing us heaps of diversity – but also a cultural perspective. For me it was the bus journeys. As they wound their way around the mountains, nearby farming hamlets and towns, on sometimes poorly maintained roads, it brought an element of realism – rather than the artificial bubble that some of the big resorts can bring. We totally recommend it.

The Active Life shuttle bus

Anyone who was either in Japan or even looking in that general direction would know that 2019/2020 was not a good one for the records. In fact, it was just about the worst season Japan has seen! However, of the 15 or so days we were there, there were only a few that saw us go in early for an onsen and a beer. Other than that we pretty much rode all day, stopping in the middle – as always – for a hearty lunch at one of the local restaurants. Resorts were a little quieter than normal too (the are ordinarily pretty quiet anyway), which just meant more space for us. While we did manage to get a few days with fresh snow and some lines through the trees, the otherwise clear weather made for spectacular views and great skiing on the groomers. Check out the video edit below.

Some of our guests wanted to let you know about their experience.

The Snowriders trip was a fantastic opportunity to meet new people from all walks of life! There was a mutual feeling of respect and support, and everyone involved was friendly and accommodating! Would highly recommend for skiers or snowboarders of all skill levels!” – John

Skiing in Japan had been on my wish list for a while but I was unable to find anyone to come with me and a solo trip did not appeal. The Snowriders Club trip was perfect” – Paul

After hearing about this trip through a friend, I booked straight away. This was an extremely affordable and well structured holiday. The accommodation was well above what I was expecting and I was treated like family from the Snowriders Australia hosts, the hotel staff and the others in my group. Even though the snow gods were not on our side, our guides still made sure that we found nice patches of good snow! Every day the shuttle chose a different mountain to enjoy and we as a group decided to take it or stay local. I made life long friends, boarded some awesome snow and will definitely be going again with Snowriders Australia” – Sidonie

We don’t yet know what 2021 or even 2022 has in stall for us in the way of international travel. If we can…we will be going back to Japan…we have a little unfinished business with some POW!

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