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Swoop over Mount Yotei from Niseko and you'll find an entirely different powdery world.

Just as snowy but far less crowded, Rusutsu serves as an excellent alternative – or contrast – if you’re in it for the skiing rather than the après-fun, and you can tolerate a little Japanese kitsch in favour of untracked powder.

Rusutsu very much centres around the slopes, with only one resort-hotel cocooned in a sea of white. Powder hounds will be in heaven, and it’s great for families, too: close to the airport, with a good ski school, miles of beginners’ terrain, and family fun in the form of snow activities aplenty.

Even if it’s just for a day or two, why not leave the hordes over the hill (in Niseko), we say, and revel in the endless perfect powder that characterises a better kept secret?

Skiing in Rusutsu

When the worst complaint you’ll hear is "too much snow", you know you’re in for a good time...and in quieter Rusutsu this means fresh tracks galore. The ski zone spans three mountains – a large area with around 40 runs, open expanses ideal for venturing off-piste, and the best tree skiing in Japan, there...we've said it! A satisfyingly efficient lift system includes gondolas and hooded chairs. The runs are almost equally divided for beginners, intermediates and advanced – though the challenging skiing is more in the form of off-piste than innumerable blacks and double blacks. Staying on-piste, we love the wide, undulating pistes bordered by fir trees. There’s also night skiing on West Mountain.

Off Piste

It’s worth mentioning that technically off-piste is prohibited in Rusutsu; but the authorities are pretty relaxed, so as long as you know what you’re doing there’s hours of fun; and heading off piste is made easier by a lift system which minimises the need for traversing and hiking. Mount Isola has large gladed areas and some of the best tree skiing we’ve experienced anywhere. If you want to get further away, head into the backcountry with a guide or try heli-skiing. Remember it’s quiet and unprotected, though, so it’s imperative that you take the right gear and don’t go into the unpatrolled zone over the summit.


If you like your powder, you’ll love Rusutsu – you just can’t keep up with it! For that reason even the less challenging runs can be exhilarating. There are a handful of short blacks and double blacks, as well as world-class tree skiing and great backcountry adventures to keep you occupied for days.


Well groomed, winding trails and consistent fall lines are the order of the day. East Mountain presents lovely views of Mount Yotei, but the better intermediate skiing is on Mount Isola. Don’t be afraid to go for it – we found the run ratings were definitely on the cautious side. In Rusutsu, you’ll acclimatise to powder quickly, and if you feel ready for the deep stuff you need only slide a little way off the runs.


Rusutsu’s docile terrain is ideal if you’re on the greener side, and it’s refreshingly quiet – a big advantage when you’re starting out. West Mountain is generally considered the beginner’s area. The new Ski School Lesson Area was set up especially, with a magic carpet to assist tired legs. Private lessons are also available.


Head to Mount Isola for wide sweepers cutting through the forest, as well as exhilarating tree runs. Across the valley on West Mountain you can challenge yourself at Freedom Park, get your heart pumping on steep runs such as ‘Giant’ and ‘Elite’, or try un-groomed pistes such as ‘Tiger’ and ‘Natural’.

Après Ski

Rusutsu is very much a resort, purpose built for fantastic access to the slopes. It lacks the soul of Niseko and Nozawa Onsen, and isn’t the place to go if you like to make new discoveries each evening. That said, Rusutsu was designed with leisure in mind, so the large central hotel complex has onsens, wave pools, fitness facilities, children’s entertainment, shops, and restaurants serving cuisine from around the world. If you can go with a sense of humour – think random music acts, a singing tree, rollercoasters, and a general healthy dose of kitsch – then you’ll enjoy bundles of fresh powder waiting each morning and no crowds.

Family Suitability

Easy to get to, with snowy slopes on the doorstep of comfortable accommodation, and a good ski school, Rusutsu holds lots of appeal for families. When you – or they – are tired of skiing, there’s snowmobiling, tubing and dog sledding to name a few of the outdoor activities on offer, as well as inside entertainment in the form of cartoon characters, a singing tree, a merry-go-round and a wave pool. The varied dining options are sure to please even the most discerning of little palates; and given the quiet nightlife, you’ll probably find yourselves making your own fun in the evenings.







Après Ski:  


Season:  December - April

Base elevation:  400 metres

Top elevation:  994 metres

Vertical drop:  594 metres

Number of lifts:  18

Number of runs:  37

Longest run:  3.5 kilometres

Access:  Fly to Sapporo Chitose Airport, most likely routing via Tokyo. From the airport, Rusutsu is the closest of all Hokkaido Island's ski resorts, only a 90-minute road transfer. Niseko is only another 45-minutes down the road, over the other side of Mount Yotei.

Suggested Itineraries featuring Rusutsu

These suggested itineraries will give you a starting point for what your ski holiday to Japan could entail. Sometimes we combine ski resorts and we often cherish the opportunity to explore and experience Japan beyond the ski slopes. We hope these itineraries will inspire, excite and inform you as we begin the planning process. They’re not set departures or tours, as every holiday we plan is completely tailor-made for you - treat them as inspiration only.

Twin Resorts of Hokkaido

Rusutsu - Niseko - Tokyo

Duration: 10 / 12 days

Divide your between Hokkaido's most high-profile, internationally-regarded ski resorts - with a stop in Tokyo en route home.

from £2,650 per person, including flights

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Japanese Powder Unlimited

Niseko - Sapporo - Furano - Asahidake

Duration: 10 / 12 days

An itinerary with a singular objective: to ride the finest, deepest powder snow in Japan. Stay on Hokkaido Island, and ski hard.

from £2,345 per person, including flights

Read More

Snow & Beach - Honeymoon

Japanese Ski Resort - Tokyo - Asian Beach

Duration: two weeks

First the powder snow of Japan, then it's a city break in Tokyo, before heading to Thailand or The Philippines and a tropical beach.

from £3,250 per person, including flights

Read More

Prices are indicative only and include accommodation (low season), lift passes, transfers and – because we are ATOL-bonded – your flights from the UK. Different Snow can also include ski hire, backcountry and off-piste tours, rail passes, private transfers, English-speaking guides, cultural excursions and activities.


Rusutsu Village is made up of the North and South wings of the main Rusutsu Resort Hotel, and then the Westin Rusutsu Tower, which is connected to the main complex by monorail. Unless you have either children or a penchant for Disney, the tack on display at Rusutsu Resort Hotel might be a bit much; in that case, we’d recommend heading to the Tower for a lower-key vibe. That said, the rooms at both hotels are very comfortable, and the lack of subtlety and style at Rusutsu Resort Hotel is made up for by convenience, service, comfort and facilities – not to mention proximity to the enviably quiet slopes.

The Westin Tower

Side-stepping the glitz and rising from the snow like a Tokyo sky-rise, this is the more adult-friendly, luxurious option.

The Westin Rusutsu Tower is an all-suite option closer to East Mountain, connected with the rest of the resort by monorail. Therefore -  you could take the nearby chair lift up East Mountain and be in the powdery haven that is Mount Isola in no time. The accommodation – a range of one and two bedroom suites sleeping up to seven people – is spacious and comfortable. There’s a relaxing onsen with an outdoor hot spring, as well as a day spa offering replenishing treatments. The tower has several dining options, including Japanese, Chinese and Western; and for more choice you can just hop across on the mono-rail to the Resort Hotel.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 20 metres

Rusutsu Resort

It's huge, its verging on the kitsch and, we honestly think, it's quite wonderful! 530 well-sized rooms and facilities to match.

Rusutsu Resort Hotel spills you out practically onto the piste, a stone’s throw from the children’s and beginner’s areas on West Mountain; and while it really is a privilege to have ski-in, ski-out access in such a prime spot, it doesn’t end there. The obligatory onsens are complemented by a wave pool for children and a day spa for adults. When it’s time to eat, the many restaurants in the resort are open for business, serving everything from local Hokkaido specialties to international favourites. The whole family will undoubtedly be kept wide eyed by kitsch features including night-time illuminations, musical fountains and a merry-go-round; there’s also a games centre and 4D theatre.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 10 metres


Hiring a guide for the day in Rusutsu is money very well spent. Even if you are simply day-tripping here from Niseko, a locally knowledgeable guide will reveal all that the lift-accessed area within the ski boundary has to offer, not all of it obvious as the good stuff here is in the trees, between the pistes. For those basing themselves in Rusutsu, there are several other nearby resorts if you fancy a change of scene – including Niseko, Moiwa and Chisenpuri. You can head out on a private backcountry ski or snowboard tour at Shiribetsu, which is adjacent to West Mountain.

The swimming pool at the Rusutsu Resort Hotel has a spa area and there are two indoor onsens, whose rejuvenating waters are perfect after a day on the slopes. The indoor onsen at the Rusutsu Resort Hotel is quite good, but the more adult-appropriate onsen at the Tower Hotel is better, where they also have a rotenburro - outdoor onsen.​

Mountain Guiding in Rusutsu

Experienced guides reveal the best of the Rusutsu slopes...and what a joyous bounty it is!

Hire a local ski (or snowboard) guide and squeeze the most from your day. With a max of six per guide, you can hire a knowledgeable local expert, the man (or woman) who knows where to find the powders' best within the lift-accessed ski boundary, for three, four, five or six hours. You are also able to hire avalanche safety equipment.

Cat skiing on Weiss Mountain

Only 12 lucky people get to ski or ride the deep powder of Weiss mountain each day.

Weiss is the last ski mountain of the Niseko mountain range...and no-one is making tracks, except for you! A 12-man CAT allows access to un-tracked powder, treeless bowls and empty gladed slopes. Weiss Mountain has no lifts, meaning the snow remains unspoiled and the slopes are clear. There is nothing too challenging, other than bottomless powder snow. The CAT has a warm cabin out back and will take you from the bottom of your last run to the top of your next run. It's that simple. At least two knowledgeable and experienced guides, who know the mountain well and know where to go based on the conditions and your group's ability, will accompany you on every run. All safety equipment is provided, and you'll be fitted with a beacon. The guides carry avalanche safety equipment. There are no cosy day lodges, no popping inside for a hot wine – they do serve great coffee, however - no respite as you queue for the lift. It's straight back up and start again...

Mount Yotei Backcountry

Japan's ultimate intrepid ski adventure - for the seriously skilled only.

For experts only, the good news is that this region-dominating perfect volcanic peak is ski-able. It’s an almighty trek up, but the rewards are tremendous - this has to be one of the most epic ski days in the world! Conditions can be temperamental, thus the local knowledge of a guide is essential. The hike up takes between five and eight strenuous hours, but the ski down makes it all worthwhile. Once you’ve reached the crater, you can make lines through the fluffy, untouched snow in the bowl before a descent of several hours through seemingly bottomless powder. The weather will need to be on side, so we’ll book the trip before you travel and the Niseko guides will determine a day when summiting is realistic. Safety is all important - Mount Yotei takes no prisoners. Every year people get into trouble up here and we insist on only using the most experienced and knowledgeable guides, with all safety equipment in check.

Ski Concierge

Unless you are on a day trip from Niseko, you will stay in the Rusutsu Resort complex (East Wing, West Wing or Tower) and this is where all the facilities are. It's all super-convenient and all well sign-posted in English. There is no shortage of restaurants within complex, and there are also various small traditional Japanese restaurants near the base of the mountain.

Different Snow can include transfers, equipment hire, ski school, guiding, backcountry tours, activities, and excursions, in your package. Booking what you can in advance is advised – whereas it is not as busy as close-by Niseko, availability can sometimes be a problem.

Lift Passes

Senior rates are applicable for anyone over 60 and child rates encompass ages from 4-12 years. There is a single, flat rate across the season.

Equipment Hire

Whether you're a beginner or seasoned powder hound, there is an extensive range of high quality Salomon, Atomic and Burton skis, snowboards, boots and poles. Prices are not cheap (by Japanese standards) but the quality of the equipment is reflected in the rates. Children get 25% off.


The are excellent classes for absolute beginners (or, level two – almost beginner), for both adults and child. However, the set-up for anyone else is for private lessons in two or four hour blocks. These could be one-to-one or with a maximum of eight participants, assuming you are all of similar ability. We recommend that lessons are pre-booked.

Travel Insurance

Winter sports travel insurance is an important part of your holiday booking and we strongly recommend that you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy to cover all your winter sports holiday requirements. We're happy to be able to offer our customers a 10% discount on all policies from Ski Club Travel Insurance.

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