Ski Rusutsu Japan

Ski Rusutsu Japan

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
  • Vertical (m)
    449 – 994 (594)
  • Average Snow Fall
    13  metres
  • Lifts (18)
    4 Gondolas
    7  Quads
  • Ski Hours
    9:00am to 9:00pm
  • late Nov to early April
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 37
    Trails – 42km
    Longest run – 3.5 km
    Max Pitch – 40 Deg
    Beginner - 30%
    Intermediate - 40%
    Advanced - 30%

Rusutsu Japan - Terrain & Snow

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 skiable terrain is 820 hectares in size and it contains 37 runs, leaving plenty of room for off-piste fun. 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 some 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 The Vale Rusutsu and includes the kids area, beginner terrain, a few intermediate and advanced runs, and a small amount of tree skiing.

East Mountain is accessible via a gondola ride from the Rusutsu Resort Hotel or a chair lift ride from the Westin Rusutsu Resort. East Mountain is great for intermediates and strong beginners, and has some good tree skiing. 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 consists of 18 lifts, including 4 gondolas and 6 high-speed quad chairs. Most of these have hoods, making it a pleasant ride up the mountain even on those cold minus 20 days. Rusutsu Resort also has magic carpets for the little kiddies.

Whilst the gondolas are showing their age, the lift infrastructure is incredibly good by Japanese standards. Where Rusutsu could improve is with the efficiency of utilising the lift capacity, because there is a distinct absence of processes to ensure all gondolas and lifts are fully loaded. Lift lines can be a problem during peak times, especially at the East No. 2 Gondola in the morning.

If you can’t score enough turns during the day, Rusutsu also has night skiing on West Mountain during peak season.

Lift Tickets

Lift ticket prices are up there as the most expensive of the Japanese ski resorts (yet they are inexpensive compared to Australian or North American ski resorts) but you get plenty of value for your money. You can buy a 5 hour pass, single day pass, or multi-day tickets. Significant discounts are provided for day tickets for online purchase versus ticket window purchase, and it also saves you queuing up to buy a lift pass. Keep an eye out for 25 hour passes which are usually on special prior to the season.

Rusutsu Japan is also accessible off the Epic Pass (and Epic Australia Pass and Epic Local Pass) for a total of 5 consecutive days, with no blackout dates. In the past you could only redeem this at the ticket office at the Rusutsu Resort Hotel, whilst for the 2023-24 season the resort is touting that you can redeem it at any ticket window. You can present your Epic Pass or just your ID and they can look you up.

On Sundays during peak season there are a very limited number of first tracks lift passes available.

Rusutsu Snow and Weather

The resort markets the Rusutsu snow as Rupow (Rusutsu Powder) but we’re not sure if that term will catch on. Either way, the snow is fantastic in the quality and quantity stakes and it’s up there as having some of the best snow in Japan.

It snows a lot and Rusutsu Resort are now citing that it snows 14 metres on average per season, a figure that seems to have crept up in recent years. Overnight dumps of 20-40cm are quite common and the powder is often light and dry, in part due to cold temperatures, so large dumps are often required to fully reset the mountain.

The Siberian weather patterns that bring the fabulous snow also bring the wind and the frigid 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 thin hat under your helmet are likely to be required. Brrrr.... Thank goodness many of the lifts are nice and warm.

As to be expected, the Rusutsu 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.

If you’re wondering when to ski in Hokkaido in early season, Rusutsu is a good pick, along with other coastal ski areas, and it’s less of a risk than the Central Hokkaido ski resorts. The off-piste areas at Rusutsu have plenty of bamboo, but it doesn’t seem quite as high or as prolific compared to Niseko.

Rusutsu Skiing for Beginners

Complete novices can start at the base of the West Mountain which has the convenience of being within close proximity of the Rusutsu Resort Hotel or The Vale Rusutsu. There 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, where you won’t have to mix with more proficient skiers and snowboarders.

The base area of the East Mountain also has a nice learners’ area. Other green trails on the mountain require a descent on a red/intermediate run, so exploration of the rest of the ski resort should only be undertaken by very 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?

Terrain Park

Rusutsu has a small terrain park near the base of East Mountain that has an easy lane and an expert lane with kickers, boxes and rails.

Unfortunately the expert features in the Supernatural Sidecountry Park on West Mountain have been pulled out because they were too extreme.

Advanced Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Rusutsu has various black and double black piste 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 most of the trees (don’t forget your helmet though!).

Some of the best powder and well spaced tree skiing is between the lifts on Mt Isola but it’s also the most popular. The groomed runs are on the ridges and the lifts in the gullies, so you can ride down a groomer and pop into the trees when it takes your fancy. Try not to be one of those annoying people that can’t ride the fall-line and just traverses half the slope.

East Mountain provides some nice skiing and snowboarding in amongst slightly tighter trees. The fall line isn’t long before you hit the long gully line out. It’s lovely terrain but unfortunately it often gets scarred by traverse lines.

Sidecountry Rusutsu

There are also sidecountry areas where fresh lines are slightly easier to come by. Skiers’ right of West Mountain provides mellow easy to navigate trees, whilst Sugar Bowl between Mt Isola and East Mountain is also popular. Other lines require navigation nous or a guide as part of a day or multi-day tour. Having a guide is also handy to facilitate road drops.

Rusutsu Backcountry

Adjacent to West Mountain is the steep avalanche prone Shiribetsu-dake; “Shiribetsu” means "arse division" or something equally amusing. Backcountry skiing on Shiribetsu is full earn your turns, but the rewards are great. There is no backcountry gate at Rusutsu so you’re supposed to skin from the car park. The mountain offers 360 degrees of skiing, with lines towards the resort being south facing.

On fine windless days you may have to share slopes with Hokkaido Backcountry Club heli skiing.

Backcountry guiding services are available for day or multi-day tours.