First view of Japan’s skiing

30th January 2013, by Dave Watts

Tree skiing – that and abundant snowfalls are Japan’s main attractions

Tree skiing – that and abundant snowfalls are Japan’s main attractions

24 hours after leaving home saw me arrive in Rusutsu on Japan’s most northerly island of Hokkaido. And that was with a smooth journey with no delays.

Is it worth the journey? The jury is still out as far as I am concerned. Rusutu resort was my first stop. Day 1 dawned sunny and quite warm – ideal conditions to enjoy the scenery, which include the Mt Yotei volcano and rolling hills resembling Colorado landscapes. The pistes were deserted and both they and the off-piste had good wintery snow conditions despite no recent substantial snowfalls.

It started snowing on Day 1 evening and light snow continued during most of Wednesday (Day 2). Even this modest snowfall transformed conditions and I, along with the 15 Ski and Snowboard magazine readers I was skiing with, had a ball playing in the powder and skiing through the well-spaced trees. Quite what is legal and what is banned as far as off-piste is concerned is difficult to fathom – especially as most notices are in Japanese only. More of this in a later blog.

The slopes have a very limited area of pistes (42km) and the off-piste tree skiing is the main attraction for good skiers. Because the terrain is gentle the tree skiing is accessible even for intermediates.

The accommodation is run by the resort and consists mainly of hotel rooms in the huge main resort and rooms and suites in both the Rusutsu Resort hotel and suites in the nearby 24-story Rusutsu Tower, linked by monorail.

The resort has a bizarre Disneyesque feel to it with a huge funfair outside including a long roller coaster and big wheel. Inside there are surreal touches such as life-size dummies playing jazz and a huge carousel providing rides to kids. None of the bars open till 5pm and there are none nearby, so there is a distinct lack of après-ski.

But a huge plus point is the Japanese people. Since I stepped on to the Japan Airlines plane on Sunday evening till now on Wednesday evening, the people have been universally happy, smiling and chatty in pigeon English and my even more pigeon Japanese.

Next stop: Niseko

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