Editor’s note: Glo and her hubby picked Hokkaido for their family’s first ski trip. She shares with us the family’s experience learning to ski at Rusutsu Resort. Though Glo and her daughter decided skiing was not quite their thing, they found plenty to keep themselves entertained, too. Read about the family’s experience here.
Hubby and I decided to take the kids on a ski vacation during the school holidays of December 2013.
My son was then ten, and my daughter, five.
We decided to visit Hokkaido on our first ski trip. So far as we know from research and from friends, Hokkaido’s biggest ski resorts receive an abundance of snow. They do not depend on manmade snow even at the start of the ski season. Some ski resorts in central Japan do, especially at the beginning of the ski season in early December. Due to it’s geographical location, the snow quality in Hokkaido is known to be mostly very DRY – that is powder-quality snow; we wanted to experience all that.
Upon further research, we decided that learning to ski at Rusutsu Resort would be a good choice. The self-contained, all-in-one Rutsusu Resort in Hokkaido offers everything we were looking for – its own ski field, a ski school and onsite equipment rental, a small village with a wide variety of dining options. We booked two nights here.
(Read too: Natalia and family prefer staying at a “Ski Village” such as Niseko; check out her story on how to go about organising a ski trip to Niseko, with tips on where to book accommodation, ski gears and ski lessons too.)
This being our very first ski trip, we arranged for a private instructor with the ski school when we booked. Do note that if you need an English-speaking instructor, you will need to request and arrange for it before arriving.
The son and hubby signed up for 2 half-day, morning ski lessons. The instructor was a young Swedish guy. My son enjoyed the lessons very much and had lots of fun learning to ski at Rusutsu. In fact, both my husband and son are now hooked on skiing!
Perhaps because she was still young when we went to Rusutsu (only 5yo), my daughter did not enjoy skiing as much. She attended the junior group class for one day, and preferred not want to have more ski lessons the next day, preferring to play and hang out with me instead.
I found the ski runs at Rutsusu quite steep for beginners!
There are three mountains to ski here, but only one has slopes suited for the real beginner.
If you are learning to ski at Rusutsu resort, you will be skiing on the West Mountain, which is where the ski school was located. The ski map can be downloaded from Rusutsu website here. The other runs on the other two mountains are mostly red or intermediate slopes, with some blacks too. I think to truly enjoy the ski terrain Rusutsu has to offer, one needs to be, at least, an advanced beginner or an intermediate skier.
I decided not to ski, but that was fine as Rusutsu offered lots for activities for non-skiers too.
One of my favourite was Rusutsu’s onsite onsen. I loved the traditional Japanese hot bath located in the hotel’s new wing. Hotel guests have complimentary access to the bath and it was lovely.
My daughter and I went sledding while the boys were skiing the second day. There was also a forested area within the resort, and we went for some light hiking too.
Non-skiers can also take the gondola ride up Mt Isola to enjoy the vast and beautiful view. From Mt Isola, on a clear day, you can see the blue Lake Toya.
There are many winter activities offered at Rusutsu – you can ride a snow mobile, go dog sledding or snow-shoeing too. So even if you don’t ski but just want to enjoy a snowy vacation with the kids, you’d find things to do here.
A view of Mt Yotei from the resort. Mt Yotei, often termed as Hokkaido’s own Mt Fuji, is spectacular.
There are quite a few restaurants in the resort, offering buffets, Italian pizzas and even an ice cafe etc. One of the dinners we enjoyed was a delicious king crab buffet, price at around $40 to $50 per pax. It’s a seasonal offering, and was very good 😉
I also liked the little food outlets located within the resort. There was a cafe that sells Tonkatsu, or traditional pork chop, that I liked very much. The tonkatsu don was very nice, the pork soft and tender. And it was cheap too – at about $10 per bowl for lunch!
For more choices, you could walk out to Rusutsu Village.
Our accommodation package at Rusutsu resort hotel was inclusive of breakfast. Breakfast here is served buffet style, and consisted of a good spread of western choices.
Rusutsu Resort Hotel offers quite a variety of rooms. There are family rooms, triple rooms, as well as double and twin rooms. As my daughter was under 6yo when we visited, she could share our bed. We booked a triple room, which worked out perfectly for us.
The view from our room was quite spectacular.
Getting to Rusutsu is easy and very convenient. From Chitose International Airport, there is a direct shuttle service (the BIGRUNBUS) that takes you to the resort. Or, take the complimentary shuttle bus (for guests of Rusutsu Resort or Rusutsu Amusement Park). from Sapporo City, at designated pick up points. You need to pre-book your seats and can check out the hotel website for more details http://en.rusutsu.co.jp/getting-here.
Overall we thought it was a good choice, learning to ski at Rusutsu. It is more than just a ski village, and I found that the whole resort was very well organised. It is a big resort with lots of activities for non-skiers too. As it is self-contained and located far from other attraction or towns / villages, others might find it limiting, as you are “stuck” at the resort. But that worked fine for us, as everything can be organised easily and activities, if we wanted, can be booked centrally. Also the ski field here is not crowded, which is good for learning to ski at Rusutsu Resort.
We spent two nights, and felt that a three-night stay would have been more ideal to enjoy the resort.
I’ve heard that Niseko Annupuri, another self-contained resort in Niseko, Hokkaido, offers good gentle slopes too, with less crowd. We’d love to try that on our next trip to Hokkaido
For now, we are looking forward to our snow and ski holiday in South KoreaMore on Japan from our community here