Rusutsu ski resort
While it may not be Japan’s best-known ski resort internationally, Rusutsu is the largest ski area in Japan’s Hokkaido prefecture, with over 35 runs and 21 lifts. Like nearby Niseko, it boasts incredible skiing scenery, thanks to its proximity to the stunning Mt Yotei.
Of course for most skiers the main appeal of Japan’s resort is its snowsure reputation, and Rusutsu is no different, receiving more than 10m (33ft) on average throughout the ski season. But it’s quality more than quantity that really counts when it comes to the white stuff, and Rusutsu doesn’t disappoint, offering crisp, feather-light powder that makes slaloming down the slopes even more satisfying.
Rusutsu differs from most other well known Japanese ski areas in that its base is made up almost entirely of a giant hotel complex, more than 20 storeys high and home to multiple restaurants, bars and other activities – almost like a cruise liner parked at the base of the slopes.
In the summer Rusutsu’s operation is transformed into a giant theme park that emerges from beneath the snow, meaning the resort benefits from year round custom.
Rusutsu is located in the southwestern region of Japan’s most northerly island, Hokkaido.
On the slopes
Rusutsu’s ski area is spread across three mountains. Skiing directly above the resort is available on West Mountain, while the majority of terrain is spread across the gondola-linked East Mountain and its lift-linked neighbour, Mount Isola, which together have about three-quarters of the 42km (26 miles) of runs.
There is skiing for all ability levels in Rusutsu ski resort and, in common with most major Japanese ski areas, almost all lifts are either chairlifts or gondolas.
Beginners, who can make use of English-language ski lessons, will find easy green trails close to the resort, but also runs to progress on to further away from the complex. Intermediates have most of the resort’s terrain open to them, while advanced skiers and boarders should be pleased with more challenges than most Japanese ski areas offer.
Among the other options is tree skiing and a glut of off-piste terrain – in fact, Rusutsu has a reputation for untracked powder lasting longer than at other major Japanese ski area. There’s also a terrain park to explore for boarders and freestylers, while night skiing is a regular activity on West Mountain.
Thanks to its legendary snowfall, the ski season in Rusutsu is long and runs from early December until late April.