Lifts & Terrain
Rusutsu Ski Resort
Ski Rusutsu Japan for plenty of powder skiing and snowboarding! Rusutsu
is a medium sized ski area that is reasonably large by Japanese ski resort standards. The total resort area is 1,700 hectares that contains 37 runs, leaving plenty of room for off-piste fun and thankfully off-piste skiing is permitted at Rusutsu Japan, so powder hounds can make the most of the abundant powder. And whilst Rusutsu is no longer an unknown powder gem, it’s reasonably quiet relative to the juggernaut of Niseko, so there are generally still freshies on offer.
You can ski Rusutsu on two very distinct sides of the resort. The relatively small West Mountain
sits above the ski-in ski-out Rusutsu Resort Hotel
and includes the kids area, beginner terrain, terrain parks, a few intermediate and advanced runs, and a tiny bit of tree skiing.
is accessible via a gondola ride from the Rusutsu Resort Hotel or a chair lift ride from the Rusutsu Tower Hotel
. East Mountain is great for intermediates and strong beginners. Mt Isola
is adjacent to East Mountain and is the largest of the areas and the pick of the bunch for powder hounds with lots of delightful tree runs between the intermediate piste.
Ski Rusutsu - Lifts
The lift infrastructure at Rusutsu is amazing with 18 lifts including 4 gondolas, and 6 high-speed quad chairs. Six of these have hoods, making it a pleasant ride up the mountain even on those cold minus 20 days. Rusutsu Resort also has 3 magic carpets for the little kiddies.
If you can’t score enough turns during the day, Rusutsu also has night skiing daily during peak season on West Mountain.
Lift ticket rates are a little pricier than many other Japanese ski resorts but you get great value for money.
Rusutsu Snow and Weather Conditions
Hokkaido ski resorts
seem to have a lot of trouble when it comes to measuring snowfall and Rusutsu is no exception, maybe because there’s too much to measure!? Sources cite the average annual snowfall as 8.5 metres, or 14 metres or 15 metres per season. Regardless of the real amount, it’s well known that it snows a lot at Rusutsu! Overnight dumps of 20-40cm are quite common and the powder is light and dry, in part due to cold temperatures.
The Siberian weather patterns that bring the fabulous snow also bring the wind and the minus 20 degrees celsius temperatures. Even though it's often cold, having to dress warmly is a small price to pay for powder that is fabulous. Thermals, a neck warmer, face protection, and even a hat (or headband) under your helmet are likely to be required. Brrrr.... Thank goodness many of the lifts are nice and warm.
As to be expected, the snow conditions vary somewhat depending on the slope orientation. In the Isola area the slopes with a more northerly aspect are often paradise, whilst the other side of the ridges can be a bit crunky.
Rusutsu Skiing for Beginners
Complete novices can start at the base of the West Mountain which has the convenience factor of being within close proximity of the Rusutsu Resort Hotel. The Snow Park is a dedicated learning area that has a magic carpet and a really gentle slope. Beginners can then progress onto the green slopes off the West No. 1 quad chair lift.
The base area of the East Mountain also has a nice learners’ area. Other green trails on the mountain require a short descent on a red run, so exploration of the rest of the ski resort should only be undertaken by confident beginners.
Rusutsu Ski Terrain for Intermediates
Rusutsu Japan is really ideal for intermediate skiers and boarders with some of the best manicured runs ever seen. Intermediates have 40% of the piste and if you only want to ride in the toasty warm gondolas, there is still a large range of terrain on offer.
The best run is the Isola Grand (on Mt Isola), a 3.5km long run that has consistent fall-line and is perfectly groomed. Often there are deep powder stashes to the sides of the piste which are ideal for intermediates wishing to experiment with powder for the first time. Of course there are also days where the groomers are covered in a foot of snow, so intermediates will have to learn to love powder. How could they not?
Rusutsu has a small easy terrain park at the base of West Mountain that is illuminated for night riding as well as one a little further up the mountain. The terrain parks feature various hits for differing abilities including kickers, boxes, rails and waves.
Advanced Ski and Snowboard Terrain
Rusutsu has various black and double black piste runs that are sometimes covered in egg carton shaped bumps. The single blacks are short so if you blink you may miss them. The double blacks are adequately challenging for advanced riders, but they’re not the sort of double blacks that are found in North America that get the pits and palms sweaty. For advanced skiers and boarders, off-piste is where it's all at.
Expert Skiing and Snowboarding
If you are looking for steep chutes and extreme skiing, Rusutsu is probably not the place for you (or most ski resorts in Japan!) unless you head into the backcountry. In amongst the trees you’ll find the occasional drop-off for some hucking, or a really steep pitch that lasts for one or two turns, but that’s about it.
Rusutsu Off-Piste Skiing and Tree Skiing
Heaven, heaven, heaven! When the snow is on (which it frequently is), Rusutsu is nirvana on earth for powder skiers and powder novices. Because the terrain is not incredibly steep, it is relatively easy to navigate the trees (don’t forget your helmet though!).
At Rusutsu they are relatively relaxed about skiing through the trees as long as you stay within the resort boundaries. Some of the best powder and tree skiing is between the lifts on Mt Isola. For lazy powder hounds, the best thing about Rusutsu is that you can get off the lift at the top of the mountain and ski the fall-line through the trees all the way to the bottom of a lift with minimal traversing, and absolutely no hiking.
Adjacent to West Mountain is Shiribetsu-dake; “Shiribetsu” means "arse division" or something equally amusing. You need to earn your turns to get up there, but from the top there are 360 degree lines to be taken, with the lines towards the resort being south facing.
You can do a private backcountry tour here with Black Diamond Tours
. The other option to explore this area is to go heli skiing!