Rusutsu Resort, Hokkaido, Japan
By George Schissler
After enjoying visiting ski country in three continents (N. America, S.
America and Europe) a winter holiday visiting my son George, his wife
Kelayna and granddaughters Emi and Izabelle a winter holiday in Japan did
not include even the slightest thought of spending three days on skis--but
when the opportunity to do so presented itself it was quickly accepted.
I was invited to join a group of my sons friends and
fellow workers heading for the Rusutsu Resort on the island of Hokkaido
in northern Japan to have some fun on snow. It proved to be the best
decision of the trip as his three fellow workers, Kendall Ching,Yi Ping
Deng both from Hawaii and Anh Nguyen from California had skied Rusutsu
many times in the past and served as personal guides and escorted me to
the best snow and trails on the mountain. And I believe with their help
I pretty much spent time on every trail and lift.
The trip began with boarding Japan Air Lines Flight
506 at Tokyo's Haneda Airport for a two hour flight to Sapporo, site of
the1972 Winter Olympic games and from there a 90 minute bus ride through
Vermont-like countryside to the Rusutsu Resort and our hotel at the base
of the resort's West Mountain.
A side note regarding Sapporo: A very special attaraction which takes place
there this season on February 5-11 is the Snow Festival which might be
enjoyed on a off day from skiing. The event draws approximately four million
visitors to view the snow statues and amazing ice sculptures.
The ski-in-ski out hotel can accommodate 4,000 guests, has 16 restaurants,
16 different food outlets and is located near the scenic wonders of Mt.
Yotei and Lake Toya and on a clear day you can see the lake and the Pacific
Ocean from the top of Mt. Isola, the resort's highest point.
The hotel offers hot baths, gymnasium, wave pool, a sophisticated indoor
toddlers learn-to-ski center, top of the line ski rentals and more ski
instructors than I was able to count. English is not widely spoken here but
there are numerous Australian employees and ski instructors who will gladly
assist in solving any language difficulties.
Rusutsu proudly claims "We are the home of perfect snow" a boast that held
true for our entire
stay. Although no snow fell during our visit (Rusutsu's average annual
snowfall is above 200 inches) the snow conditions were excellent and newly
groomed for morning skiers. The ski terrain is divided between the three
mountains. West Mountain more or less serves as an instructional and
beginner's area. The real ski terrain is divided onto East Mountain and Mt.
Isola. Its here that the longer and a little more demanding slopes attract
the greatest number of skiers. A gondola gains access for skiers to both
mountains and to long, wide trails such as Steamboat A and B and Isola
Grand. From here skiers and boarders can connect to Heavenly Ridge, Heavenly
Canyon and Heavenly Spirit which are served by three gondolas and to long,
wide trails such as Steamboat A and B and Isola Grand allowing skiers to
connect to Heavenly Ridge, Heavenly Canyon and Heavenly Spirit which are
served by three quads.
Combined these facilities offer 37 slopes, 42km of length and are
predominately rated intermediate. There are only 6 advanced or expert trails
on the mountains. To carry you to the slopes there are a total of 18
lifts--4 gondolas, 7 quads (five of which are covered and 6 which are high
speed); 7 doubles (one covered and one high speed). Rusutsu also offers
night skiing on West Mountain. Opening date is usually in late November and
an early April date ends the ski season. The elevation on top is 994 meters
and the base is situated at 400 meters for a vertical descent of 594 meters.
Rusutsu operates throughout the year and offers a varied summer program with
an amusement park and an 18 hole golf course.