And the newly-released package that helps you get the best of both.

Over the last decade, Madarao Mountain Resort in Japan’s Nagano prefecture has been steadily improving its credentials as one of Japan’s powder skiing hotspots. The resort had more than 10 metres of “Madapow” over the 21/22 season, and benefits from a powder-first approach to grooming and trail construction, with 12 dedicated powder zones all within resort boundaries.

It’s an approach that is not common in Japan, but has yielded significant benefits, casting Madarao into the discussion on the country’s best powder resorts, where it’s now acknowledged as a genuine competitor to larger resorts like Niseko or Hakuba.

“People who visit Hakuba and Niseko tend to be powder hungry. If they come here and experience the snow they’ll see there’s certainly no shortage”, said Madarao resident Ben Howard in an interview earlier this year.

“In terms of access, snow quality and affordability, I don’t think you’re going to find anything better.”


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An hour and a half away, a resort in Gunma prefecture called Palcall Tsumagoi is also taking drastic measures to please its guests, but in a very different way. The resort, which has been historically considered a family destination, saw an opportunity to attract a new customer with the construction of Japan’s biggest terrain park.

“…the mountain topography is perfect for a terrain park, so we built the largest terrain park in Asia” says resort owner Regan Yan, who had the vision from day one.

Recruiting some of the best name in the business, including former X Games rider Ryo Aizawa, Palcal’s “Magic Park” now includes a traditional slopestyle course, an innovative transition park and a 24-hour mini park in front of the hotel, which riders can hike at all hours.


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It’s been a hit with Japan’s burgeoning freestyle community, but there it’s also been a huge success amongst the resort’s core family market.

“Yes, we have the XL features to attract the country’s top talent. But the transition park and mini park have also been a huge hit with younger kids and teenagers who want to do something a bit different. They’re less interested in groomers or even powder; they just want to launch off a kicker or slide a box for the first time”, says Kei Ishiuchi, a manager at the resort.

Acknowledging these unique drawcards, Active Life Japan – owner of Palcall and three hotels in Madarao – has launched a Park x Powder Package, which includes five nights in Madarao and two nights in Palcall (plus breakfast, transfers, and ski lessons). It’s an opportunity for visitors to Japan to see two distinctly different ski resorts.

Here’s what you get:


Madarao Mountain Resort

Madarao Mountain Ski Resort is one of Japan’s hidden gems. The resort is located in northeastern Nagano, on Japan’s main island. It sits between Myoko Kogen and Nozawa Onsen – two of the region’s better known ski resorts.

Perfect day in Madarao

Madarao Mountain Resort. Learn more

But Madarao is its own beast. The resort is known for its light, dry powder (“Madapow”), which it receives in spades (~12 metres per season). Most importantly, Madarao permits skiers to venture off-piste, something that cannot be taken for granted in Japan. With 60% of its runs ungroomed—including some beautiful tree lines, the resort offers excellent value for powder hounds.

Read our full review

Palcall Tsumagoi

Palcall Tsumaoi is not particularly well known internationally, but don’t be fooled: Japanese skiers and snowboarders know and love this resort, and for good reason. It is the largest in Japan’s Karuizawa region, and a major attraction for skiers who appreciate long, wide, perfectly groomed runs.

PalCall's 3.2km gondola

PalCall Tsumagoi. Learn more

Palcall is also rapidly developing a reputation for the quality of its terrain park – the largest in Asia – which has been an area of focus for the resort’s new owners. It’s been built by the industry’s best, and attracts everyone from pro riders to kids launching off a jump for the very first time in the 24-hour mini park.

Read our full review


Active Life’s Park x Powder Package includes the choice of two Madarao hotels – both within easy reach of the slopes. In Palcall Tsumagoi, you’ll stay at the base of the resort, with direct, undercover access to its 3.2km gondola!

Active Life Madarao

Fresh from an upgrade in 2021, Active Life Madarao is the group’s flagship hotel, with spacious rooms, en suite bathrooms and on-site bar, cafe and restaurant facilities. Most importantly, it’s just 250 metres from the Madarao chairlifts, giving you convenient access to the resort’s famous (and frequent) powder.

Active Life Madarao

Active Life Madarao. Learn more

Hakken by Active Life (Madarao)

Hakken, meaning Discovery in Japanese, is a boutique 15-room lodge in the heart of Madarao, and offers guests ski-in ski-out access for a large part of the season. Rooms are a blend of Japanese and Western styles, with smart TVs, free wifi and fridges (great for storing konbini snacks!). Our favourite feature of this gorgeous accommodation is the cosy Japanese whisky bar, perfect for sharing powder stories at the end of a big day.

Hakken Madarao

Hakken by Active Life. Learn more

Palcall Tsumagoi

Did we mention direct access to the gondola? If you’ve experienced long, cold walks to the ski lifts with small kids in tow, then it’s a feature you’ll really appreciate. In addition, Palcall’s hotel offers spacious rooms (including a family-sized “Maisonette room”, as well as dining options, locker storage, kids’ play areas and our favourite: the “Azumaya-san no Yu” hot spring bath – the perfect cure for a tired skier’s body!

Palcall Tsumagoi

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Ski and snowboard lessons

Ski and snowboard lessons can add so much value to a ski holiday, and yet they’re usually the first thing crossed off the list if the budget is tight. That’s not the case with Active Life’s Park × Powder Package, where you’ll have free access to group beginner lessons in Madaro, courtesy of the company’s snowsports school Active Life Snow Club.

Active Life Snow Club

Active Life Snow Club. Learn more

Shuttle to 12-nearby resorts (from Madarao)

If there’s a feature of Madarao that gets us almost as excited as the snow, it’s the resort’s proximity to so many other incredible ski resorts. If you’re like us and love to explore, then it’s a massive drawcard.

Active Life has cottoned on to this and offers Park × Powder guests access to a free weekday shuttle, which delivers guests to any of 12 nearby resorts depending on where the conditions are likely to be best. On some days, you’ll visit larger resorts like Nozawa Onsen and Lotte Arai, while on others you might experience hidden gems like Ryuoo Ski Park, X-Jam Takaifuji or Tagari Onsen.

Active Life’s Active Life’s Park × Powder Package will be available for a short time only. Learn more, check availability, or request a quote by visiting the Active Life website.