While the accommodation at Snowball Chalet is a relatively easy 2 hour trip from Tokyo, there are various travel options. Which happens when you have 40 million people in the closest city metropolis and one of the best transport systems in the world. The best thing of all is that the Shinkansen is just 101 minutes from Tokyo to Iiyama - the town at the bottom of Mount Madarao (a 10-30 minute drive away, depending on the vehicle and amount of snow!).
Here's the lowdown to get you to Snowball Chalet and around the region as easily as possible...
Overview and access to the region
See HERE for an overview of the Nagano and Niigata regions (the prefectural border runs right through the middle of Madarao!)
See HERE for an overview of transport options to Iiyama (spelt with double "i", not "Li" - iiyama, not liyama).
Travel to/from Narita and Haneda Airports to Madarao
Narita: see map, train/bus/taxi/shuttle options and links HERE
Haneda: see map, train/bus/taxi options and links HERE and shuttle bus option HERE
N’EX (Narita Express train) - Narita Airport to Tokyo/Shibuya/Shinjuku
Return from: ¥4,070 adult, ¥2,030 child
Purchase: only at the airport
Trip time: approx. 1.00 - 1.15 hours
Narita Express Website
Keisei Skyliner train - Narita Airport to Ueno
Return from: ¥4,380 adult, ¥2,190 child
Purchase: at the airport or online
Trip time to Ueno Station: approx. 40 mins (change at Nippori or walk from Keisei Ueno station)
Note: they also offer combo tickets (+ taxi to hotel, + luggage service)
Airport Limousine Bus - Narita or Haneda Airport to Tokyo
Tickets: multiple routes and fares
Time: varies - see examples below.
Example 1: Narita Terminal 3 to Tokyo Station, departing 8.15pm: 1.5 hours, ¥2,800 per adult one way
Example 2: Haneda International to Tokyo Station, departing 8.10am: 55 mins, ¥950 per adult one way
Website HERE, Discount tickets HERE, List of routes HERE and FAQs HERE
Hokuriku Shinkansen (Bullet Train)
You can now reserve Bullet Train seats in English online HERE!
Review the timetable first and note exact departure times HERE.
When booking, select the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Iiyama, entering the exact departure time.
Trains are direct from Tokyo Station or Ueno Station to Iiyama. Other trains (not listed) require changes.
Iiyama Station to/from Madarao
There are lockers, convenience stores, a cafe and tourist info centre at Iiyama Station.
The BUS TIMETABLE HERE details the connecting buses and trains between Madarao and Iiyama Station.
Note: the 6.04pm train has a longer bus wait and the 8.12pm train has no connecting bus.
Please let us know which bus you are on - we will collect you from the Madarao Kogen Hotel bus stop!
Taxis travel directly between Iiyama station and Snowball Chalet, although are not guaranteed late at night. There are regular or large taxis (for families or groups, plus luggage).
You can rent cars at Iiyama: www.nissan-rentacar.com (Hokuriku Shinkansen, Iiyama Station).
If you need to stay overnight in Iiyama, this hotel is a 10 min walk from the station: www.hotel-hoteiya.com
This is a guide only. Please confirm transport details at: www.hyperdia.com
Nagano Shuttle Bus
Transfers between Narita and Haneda airports and local resorts (best to book in advance online).
Note: some buses do no operate at the start and end of the season - please check dates carefully.
Note: there is a bus that arrives at the Madarao Kogen Hotel at 1.15am. Unfortunately we are unable to pick up guests from the hotel at 1.15am or greet you at Snowball Chalet on arrival.
Narita to Madarao: HERE and Haneda to Madarao: HERE.
Myoko Shuttle Bus
Transfers between Narita/Haneda airports and Madarao HERE. Bookings must be made 10 days in advance.
Transfers between Madarao and Myoko Kogen HERE, Nagano Station shuttle bus HERE
Nozawa (Notoma) Shuttle Bus
See HERE for the shuttle bus that runs daily between Madarao - Iiyama - Nozawa.
Note: this bus runs 28 Dec 2019 - 8 March 2020 only.
Luggage Delivery Service
Send your luggage and/or ski gear via a delivery service, rather than bringing it with you on the train or bus.
See HERE for the Black Cat delivery service. They only guarantee a 2-day service but usually deliver to Snowball Chalet in 1 day (depending on snow conditions).
Please assure them we are happy to accept delivery of all your luggage/gear and store it for you. Our address in both English and Japanese is HERE or:
11492-331 Madarao, Iiyama, Iiyama-Shi, Nagano-Ken, Japan 〒389-2253
スノーボールシャレー: 〒389-2253長野県飯山市 飯山11492-331
JR Rail Passes
See HERE for a good overview of these passes and see HERE for the official JR website.
Info and purchases in Australia: www.jtbtravel.com.au/japan-rail-pass
Note: For a ski trip, it is unlikely you will save money on a JR rail pass. They are generally only worthwhile if traveling somewhere new every day over 1-2 weeks.
See HERE for a Rail Pass calculator to see if a Rail Pass is worth it for your trip.
Other Passes for before/after your ski trip
JR Tokyo Wide Pass, 3 days: www.japan-guide.com/tokyo wide
Mt Fuji region, 3 days: www.japan-guide.com/fuji
Takayama Hokuriku, 5days: www.japan-guide.com/hokuriku1
Other Transport Resources
Train Planner: www.hyperdia.com
Distance Buses: www.japan-guide.com/highway_buses