Dan Solo owns the Snowball Chalet and The Shaggy Yak bar in Madarao Mountain Resort, Japan.

He takes us through his favourite runs and favourite spots in this little-known resort that’s just two hours away from Tokyo by bullet train.

Why Madarao?

The Madapow! Madarao has a whopping average snowfall of 13 metres of light dry powder, with an incredible 60% of it left ungroomed. The resort management have gladed (thinned out) a stack of in-resort tree runs.

Even though Madarao looks small on a ski map it has opened up huge amounts of rideable terrain so days of exploration make Madarao an amazing resort. Madarao also has some of the best fall line lift-accessed back country anywhere in Japan with experienced English speaking guides at North Nagano Outdoor Sports to lead you safely on your epic backcountry powder adventure.

Favourite ski run

Backcountry powder bowls are my passion but for an unparalleled fun day on the mountain with a group of friends of mixed levels, there’s nothing quite like the Crystal area of Madarao with seriously fun powder tree areas either side of long cruisy green and blue runs. You just pick your team – pow or groomers – and all meet at the bottom to share the joy!

Favourite powder day spot

If it happens to clear up between dumps, I head straight to the Summit to marvel briefly at the incredible view before dropping off into the untouched powder bowls, stretching along the entire summit ridge. We really are spoilt for choice.

Favourite après spot

The Shaggy Yak of course! We offer a range of sake, whisky, wine, beer, schnapps and more. With views across to the mountain, super tasty snacks, designer fireplace, great music and a cosy, friendly vibe – it’s the perfect place to share stories of your epic day!

Favourite on mountain dining

Aki’s Café is great for quality espresso coffee and simple snacks in the beginner area. Restaurant Banff is closer to the powder stashes and dishes up some decent quick-serve midday meals. Or you can choose from a heap of cheap, satisfying meals at the main facilities at Tangram Ski Circus (yep that really is its name) – the connected resort on the other side of the mountain.

Favourite village dining

The Shaggy Yak Yurt Restaurant. Our plush and cosy dining abode is only 100m off the slopes and open from mid afternoon. We offer tasty izakaya-style sharing plates of Japanese faves such as edamame, gyoza, yakitori and fresh salads and some heartier meals to warm your soul and replenish your energy for the days ahead!

Must-do snow activity

Besides backcountry powder missions, you can get your Yamaha snowmobile licence at Madarao/Tangram. Who cares if you only use it for a day. It’s damned fun and looks great on any resume.

Best hot chocolate

Head to the Madarao Kogen Hotel. They have a chocolate fountain at their buffet so appreciate the attraction of the most delicious food in the world.

Favourite non skiing/boarding activity

Japanese hot spring heaven – onsens! After a huge day on the mountain, there’s simply nothing better than soaking your weary muscles in a traditional bath of hot, healing water. There are a few great options in town – and some spectacular ones just out of town – which we visit regularly with guests.

Favourite date spot

I’d head to Jazzy restaurant for some local Japanese soul food, a nice bottle of red, old-school service and quirky jazz décor. It’s run by just one man so he only takes a few tables each night but he’s super cool and obsessed by jazz – old school tunes flow constantly from his old Altec sound system.


Best activity in resort or town for kids/families

Madarao resort management have created the Family Adventure Course which is a beginner powder tree run for families. Is this the most excellent family fun activity in the world? I think so. Getting into the trees for beginner or low intermediates can be daunting so this is an awesome introduction into the beauty and joy of riding in the trees.

Where do you take visitors to impress them?

We run a tour to Maguse Onsen. It’s set up in the mountains with a stunning view down the valley. The onsen itself (separate men’s and women’s bathing) is super authentic and an unforgettable experience for both Japanese and Westerners.

What should visitors not leave your resort without doing?

There are just so many things to do in the region and the resort. The incredible Madarao tree runs, paper-making workshops, soba cooking classes, sake brewery tour & tasting and of course the peak run for one of the most stunning views in Japan (it looks out over Lake Nojiriko and out to the Sea of Japan).

But I think the must see is the Jidokudani Snow Monkeys. It’s such a great experience and the photo ops are awesome. You truly feel like a part of Japan when you see these amazing animals bathing in hot springs just like we love to do.

What item should visitors take back with them?

Our very favourite thing though is the beautiful paper sculptures created by one of the local artists. It is like looking back through a window of time to ancient Japan.

10 coffee dens when skiing in Japan


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here