Welcome to First Tracks Madarao.
We have a newly renovated cozy 10-bedroom lodge and a separate apartment that we would love to host you in!
First Tracks is situated 600 meters from the ski lifts and because we know what a pain it is to walk anywhere in ski boots, we offer staggered daily shuttles to and from the main lift to ensure it seems like you are next to the piste and to maximize your fun time on your skis or boards.
Powder Heaven in the Heart of the Japanese Alps
Madarao was rated by Powderhounds.com as the best value ski resort in Japan last season, which is quite amazing considering there are over 500 local resorts. It is a powder lovers dream and one of the only resorts that offers tree skiing in Japan. Combine this with the varied terrain, the option of adding Tangram ski resort as well, and some of the cheapest lift tickets in the world and hardly anyone here and you have the makings of an unforgettable ski holiday. First tracks Madarao is able to help you plan your adventure and offer you discount lift tickets, fantastic service and a wonderfully warm and friendly place to stay.
What are the rooms like?
At First Tracks Madarao you can choose 3 kinds of western style rooms, twins/double with shared bathrooms, doubles with ensuite and family rooms which are just a combination of the doubles with ensuite and twin. The family rooms are adjoining making a private ensuite available to both rooms. All the rooms have heated floors and comfy snug beds with warm wooden walls and private balconies. There is room to store your luggage and hang your clothes, but if you need more there is space in the attic. The apartment is away from our lodge, so you have the choice of self-catering or buying breakfast. Check out the gallery and please email for more information.
What do we have here?
The lodge has free wifi, a kids' play / chill room, and a lounge, both with apple tv and netflix. You can enjoy your meals and drinks, swap info, tell tall stories and unwind to some good tunes in the Cozy Café. You can enjoy excellent coffee, some baked goods if we don’t eat them all, a good selection of international wine and beer and local Japanese Sake and Shochu. Our bartenders can serve you delicious cocktails and tapas while our chefs will prepare western favorites with their special twists, to ensure a memorable stay. First Tracks has a drying room, a washing machine and dryer and snacks and drinks available. Out front there is a great place for the kids to play and build snow caves. Parking is available across the road (30 meters away) for those who choose to drive.
Getting here ?
You can come by car, train, taxi or bus from any of the major airports. If you are coming by train to Iiyama, let us know and we can pick you up. The cost is 5000 yen per group. You can also take a local taxi or bus up to Madarao depending on the time. See the Access page for some of the different ways to get here.
Size does matter…
Madarao’s other secret is that it is small enough to walk around. When we stayed in Hakuba, Nozawa and Shiga, the towns were so spread out that it was impossible to get around without a car or taxi – we also spent a lot of time clearing snow, putting on snow chains and scraping windows. Thankfully it is not the case in Madarao. It has to be said there is something magical about walking around in the snow, especially under the stars and moonlight. Madarao also offers night skiing and great value packages for those who just can’t get enough riding time.
Getting around and things to do?
If you do want to explore the surrounding attractions, we have lots of information. There are also regular bus services to nearby ski resorts and the train system is excellent. Nissan also has a rental car office right next to Iiyama train station too, which makes it easy to rent a vehicle when you are here.
You can also visit nearby Obuse Art town, the home of the landscape and wave artist Hokusai, beautiful Japanese pottery and craft work, and the impressive Masuichi – Ichimura Sake Brewery Museum that has been in operation for the last 400 years, with daily tasting and unique sake that are only available from the brewery.
The famous Monkey Onsen, a tourist favorite, is also nearby, where you can see the monkeys frolicking both in the snow and the natural hot spring pools. You can combine that with a private onsen outdoor booking with a meal at a Japanese Inn near the Monkey onsen. Friends who visited last year described it as one of the best trips they’d ever done.
The magical Maguse Onsen, is a short trip away, as is the riverside gem that is Yutaki No Yu hot spring. Taking a bath in falling snow, with your skin burning and tingling at the same time, while your eyes take in an amazing vista, reflecting on an amazing day in the snow, is an experience not to be missed!
Dreams do come true..
Mick Stowers and Sara Mckay are the proud owners of First Tracks Madarao. We lived in Japan for 6 years in the 90s (after catching the ski bug in Canada in Lake Louise and Red Mountain) and fell in the love with the culture, food and natural playgrounds the outdoors of Japan offer. We lived in Hakuba and Nagano for 3 years and skied, hiked and biked many of the resorts in the area. We then moved to Switzerland for 12 years in the ski resort town of Leysin where Michael worked for a Japanese school and Sara at the Swiss Hotel Management School. We are both career teachers, who love travel, adventures, food, snow, music and meeting people. We moved back to Asia in 2014 and began to ski in Japan again. Our longtime dream of buying a lodge became a reality this year. The staff this year are also following their dreams of working in a ski lodge in Japan and experiencing this unique cultural adventure.
Join the rebirth
Magical Madarao is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance and new pubs, restaurants and cafes are springing up around us as word of its amazing deep powder snow, fantastic runs, non-existent line ups and excellent facilities are beginning to spread. The town has 3 gorgeous onsen (Japanese hot spring baths) which are an absolutely heavenly way to start, spend or finish a perfect winter day. Madarao no Yu, is 3 kilometers away, while Monaile and Madarao Kogen hotels are in walking distance.
There is plenty to do here but if you crave more, the ski resorts of Nozawa onsen, Shiga Kogen and Myoko Arai are just a short drive or bus ride away. The bus service is frequent and allow you to make day trips to these wonderful areas. Let us know what you are thinking as we can help with planning your trip here before you arrive and of course while you are here.
We look forward to seeing the same powder-covered smiles on your faces here as you discover this secret gem of a ski resort.
Mick and Sara