Rusutsu Resort a spring time paradise!
Springtime in Japan usually brings to mind cherry blossoms blooming, a new school year starting, outdoor parties and many festivals! That type of springtime comes to Hokkaido much later than the rest of Japan! Here in the Northern island the cherry blossoms typically won’t bloom until the middle of May, and there is still a deep layer of snow across the island.
Ever so slowly though warmer temperatures begin to melt the snow and create a snow lover’s favorite, “Corn Snow”. Those sparkling crystals result in fast gliding speeds and spectacular views across the resort!
Combine that with Rusutsu Resorts amazing and pristine groomers and long leg-burning runs, and you have a spring skiing paradise waiting for you! Let’s explore what it means to enjoy the fantastic spring conditions on a sunny day at Rusutsu Resort! Come along and check out this super season of slush!
Long days and perfect temperatures
In the middle of March the sun rises around 5:45 am and sunset is around 5:40 pm. Temperatures still tend to drop below zero at night, making for hardpack conditions on the course, but thanks to the early rising sun there is time for the snow to soften up before the lifts start moving.
It is this temperature fluctuation that works to create the corn snow or “zarame” as it is known in Japanese.
The only thing more beloved than corn snow is the magical “Film Crust”. Moisture rising from the snowpack in the afternoon freezes and separates from the surface to create a thin layer of ice across the course. Beautiful to look at, this film crust is also great to ski on as it creates a fast gliding surface. Of course this wonder of nature is not seen everyday, so its rarity makes it even more special!
There are a variety of snow conditions to be seen and experienced in spring, and the snow constantly changes throughout the day and even varies depending on the aspect of the course.
This makes it fun to explore and plan your day on the slopes. Keep an open mind and bring a small stick of spring wax to make sure you are ready to handle any condition!
Find your spring fun!
With 37 courses Rusutsu has a lot to offer the spring skier! The experienced skiers and snowboarders usually head straight for the East Mountain base area around 8:30 am to get in line for the quad or the gondola. Get on the East No.2 gondola and enjoy the East Vivaldi or East Tignes trails. Long shadows from the trees on the side of the Vivaldi course cast beautifully across the snow in the early morning. The steeper upper section of East Vivaldi is guaranteed to get the blood moving first thing in the morning!
Another choice is the get in line for the East Quad. This lift reaches the midsection of East Tignes and makes for faster access to the Isola and Heavenly areas. The Heavenly courses generally face an easterly direction and the snow will become softer on that side of the mountain first, so many Rusutsu lovers tend to head there first.
Another great idea is to start on the West Mountain side of the resort. This area also faces east and receives the early morning sunlight. The courses are shorter here, but the variety and fast tempo of the quad lift will have your family or group shouting and hooting in a short time!
West Mountain fun in the sun!
The weather is also a great part of what makes springtime so much fun! Long and beautiful sunny days! As the storm cycle starts to shift in March from the cold northern Siberian winds to a warmer southerly trend, Hokkaido is in the perfect position to receive a scattering of spring snow storms followed by clear blue sky days with warmer temperatures.
When the sky is clear around Rusutsu you will be treated to stunning views in every direction. Each of the three peaks features unique views of the Shiribeshi area.
From the West Mountain you will see views of Eniwadake Mountain and Fuppushi and Tarumae. These are volcanic mountains that surround the Shikotsu lake to the east.
From East Mountain you can ski while looking at the area’s icon Mt. Yotei, and a great view of Rusutsu village and the Niseko mountain range beyond. From Isola you will be treated to views of Lake Toya, Usuzan mountain and the Pacific ocean beyond.
A side note concerning springtime snow safety. Each winter’s snowpack is unique depending on snow falls and temperatures throughout the season. In the spring, you will start to see the results of the winter accumulation. Naturally occurring avalanches and snow slides and cracks will begin to appear between late February through March. The patrol and resort staff are vigilant in making sure the courses are safe, and they will rope off any dangerous area, if and when cracks appear in the snow pack.
Make sure to obey all signs and never duck ropes at the resort. The back country can also present its own set of dangers during the spring season. Please make sure to follow all resort rules and seek professional help if you have plans to access non resort areas.
Most everyone who has an interest in Hokkaido’s winter will be familiar with the snow covered silver birch trees, but what about these views of the trees against a sunny blue sky! The color contrast makes for great photos! The birch trees around the mountain stay bare of new leaves until later in April so the bony branches reach for the sky and the sun’s warmth during March!
By now it may be time for a springtime break! The warmer temperatures and slushy snow can make you work up a sweat much more than during the powder season. So you may find yourself taking more breaks to catch your breath! Stop by the “Kuma No Mori” bread and cake shop near the entrance to Daniel Street for a quick snack or a refreshing soft ice cream. Pictured here is the Rusutsu original “Alonia” berry soft ice cream. This tart berry is grown close to Rusutsu Resort in summertime and produced locally. It makes a delicious jam and is great as a flavor for ice cream. Sweet with just the right hint of tartness!
As the winter season winds down you will find less competition on the slopes. The crowds of the powder season have gone home, so this may be a great time to visit, if you prefer a less crowded ski experience. The mellow mood and slower pace of the spring is wonderful and addictive!
Don’t let this deceive you though, the staff at Rusutsu Resort are in the process of shifting gears and beginning some preparations for the green season! You may see some staff clearing snow from around the buildings as they prepare to begin digging out the summertime amusement park!
The Rusutsu Resort summertime green season begins with the Japanese Golden Week holiday, starting from the end of April! After a big snow year, there is a lot of work to do just to remove the snow from around the amusement park and resort area! Hats off to our hard working staff!
Cheers to spring!
Here is a pro tip from the locals who know and love Rusutsu! The springtime groomers are in the best condition early in the morning so start your day at 9:00 am, just when the lifts open! Cruise through Isola, Steamboat and the Heavenly courses. After skiing the pristine and soft Heavily View course, begin to make your way back towards the base area at East Mountain. If you take a leisurely pace, you will be back around 11:30 am. On a really warm day this will be right around the time the snow starts to get “sticky”.
If your ski or board starts to get a bit slow, it is perfect timing to call it a day and head to the Westin Hotel for a great lunch! Open to both guests and non-guests, you will enjoy the warmth of the lobby and restaurant area. Lunch specials featuring Rusutsu’s famous pork and more await. This is a great spot to take your time, enjoy your meal, and have a conversation with friends. Let the staff serve you a quality espresso or a draft beer if you are so inclined! The atmosphere is relaxing and friendly!
And finally a toast to the spring season and all the skiers and boarders who understand the beauty and fun of the end of winter season! Today we will offer a toast with Rusutsu’s original beer sold throughout the resort area. You can find cans for sale at all the cafeteria’s around the resort so why not grab a can (non-drivers only please) and make a toast. Look for the red and white “Love Beer” logo! Here’s to you, who have discovered Hokkaido’s hidden season, thanks for coming and we will see you back again next spring! Clink! Cheers!