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Rusutsu Trip Report 10-18 Feb 2020

Discussion in 'Japan' started by AuroraAustralis, Feb 22, 2020.

  1. AuroraAustralis

    AuroraAustralis Hard Yards Ski Pass: Silver

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    Back in oz after a trip to Hokkaido that was a little different to previous years. Below is a what is a brief-ish trip report/diary.

    Arrived Monday picked up car from niconico after calling them from the airport for pickup. Car was a Mazda Demio – the cheapest 4WD they had, was fine except no USB port :/ . Used my phone to navigate as the in-car system was in Japanese and don’t think it had an English option. It spent the whole trip trying to direct me to some unknown location and I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the route. Nice drive to Rusutsu, saw 4 eagles in the national park just outside Chitose. Seeing the first one I wondered if it was a model, just sitting in a tree above the road, very large bird. Then later there was one flying over the road, magnificent!

    Just after the tunnel there was a food stop (don’t know what they are called in Japan) where I had an excellent lunch of miso, rice and mushroom tempura. Rusutsu is a small town just down the road from the resort. As it turns out there is a local bus between the resort and the township, but happy i have the car.

    Tuesday – hit the East mtn gondola and Mt Isola. A few nice lines still on in the trees, but mostly tracked out. So much terrain in the trees! Man, this place would be awesome with a fresh dump. In the evening – and every evening – you look at the japan snow forecast, not much on the horizon. The site says ‘forecast will change, mountain weather is unpredictable’. All week the forecast doesn’t change. Each day is pretty much as per the forecast.

    Wednesday – overcast, things warming up, hang out with a boarder from France, currently studying in Sendai. Not a great day, but better than a day in meetings… At least the local onsen is good. Kinda small, but proper hot mineral spring. Note to self - it is not possible to spend too much time scrubbing yourself before getting in the onsen.

    Thursday – drive to Kiroro. Weather is still too warm, sun comes through the clouds which mean great views, it’s in a good location. There are gates to the off-piste areas in bounds, I do a few runs there and it is either tracked out or heavy crud. Turns out I should have been here a few days ago, just after they had a 40cm dump! Again, with some fresh snow, this would a great resort to spend a few days. At least there was the snack shack at the base of the hill with a huge okonomiyaki. They also had slabs of meat on the bench – presumably you could pick a cut and have them cook up a steak for you. Drove back to Rusutsu and had some great views of Mt Yotei on the way back.

    Friday – spent the day at Niseko Hanzono and ‘enjoyed’ what I described as Australian conditions. The daytime temps above zero have screwed the snow condition. Never mind if there isn’t fresh snow, the freeze, thaw, freeze cycle is just not what you expect here. I joined the folks walking up to the summit of Mt Annapuri from the top single chair. Totally worth it for the views, it is my first time in Niseko and I can see why they built the resort here. Pauses to reflect on decisions in life that meant I didn’t come here 20+ years ago…

    Head down the hill and into the cloud. Follow some locals into the trees and eventually come out at the quad chair. The middle of the hill is a total whiteout, you ski pole to pole until you pop out. At the bottom of the hill it’s slushy time. I take a break and have a guiness and pie. Back to the top, another climb and another run down the ridge to the skiers left of the top lift. Many years at Vic resorts stand me in good stead today in these conditions. After an afternoon slump I go out again and get my mojo back on the terrain park, even in shit conditions, this is still how I want to spend my days.

    Saturday – and the weather report still hasn’t changed, Sunday night is looking promising and everyone has their fingers crossed. I decide to go sight-seeing and drive to Toyako Onsen on lake Toya. It is a beautiful location, the lake cruise is still running on a boat that looks like a castle in classic Japanese weirdness style. It’s off-season, with a only few tourists taking a day off from the snow. Great ramen, souvenier shopping and drive up the hill for views. There is almost no snow on the islands in the middle of the lake. It looks like Spring and I feel cheated as this is supposed to be Winter. Driving back to Rusutsu, the temperature is dropping again, but the few clouds do not look promising. Spend the evening looking into Russian heli-skiing possibilities.

    Sunday – back to the local hill. And yeah, its bloody bulletproof. Thai ski buddy and I spend the day on the groomers, each edge scraping across the ice adds a little more loose shavings for a skiable surface… At this point it is an exercise in resetting expectations. Even Hokkaido doesn’t deliver all the time. So enjoy what you have - and think about next year! Can’t be this bad again, right? In the afternoon the flakes start falling, everyone is hoping for something big…

    Monday – up early, but not super early. Clean the snow off the car and head up the hill, temps are low, there has been snow, but you know it’s not enough. Turn hard or down something steep and you go through to the ice underneath. We are a mixed crew today, 2 Aussies, 1 Thai, 1 Norwegian & he can’t resist the first mogul course and scrapes his way down, lol! Along with everyone else, we quickly hit the trees and get what turns we can and yeah it’s fun. Problem is that about ¾ of the mountain is shut because of high wind! Until lunchtime the queues at the 3 or 4 open lifts are crazy, I am talking ruined castle circa 1985 like liftlines. This also means that only 1 restaurant is open… Still, it’s a good day and the queses dies down, I pull the plug after a sweet run through the trees and get in the car.

    Time to drive to Chitose. Staying in a decent hotel near the airport the trip has a nice coda with an excellent dinner in an izakaya somewhere behind maccas. I am the only customer, the owner asks if I am hungry – yes! – so the food starts coming out, damn is it tasty and the warm sake is good too. For payment I only have a 10000 yen note and finish up with a sake tasting while waiting for someone to come with change, some things are still alright in the world...
     
    whether, LaNeige, tot and 11 others like this.
  2. bluestick

    bluestick One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    A delight to read, thanks. Sounds like you took a really positive attitude during a below average week.
     
    AuroraAustralis likes this.
  3. AuroraAustralis

    AuroraAustralis Hard Yards Ski Pass: Silver

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    Had to really it was good to be a ski bum for a week and not worry about anything except the next snow ⛄️
     
    Hyst likes this.
  4. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Great TR. thanks for sharing!
     
    Hyst likes this.
  5. kaegee

    kaegee One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Have my ski bud at or near Rusutsu and just sent me this pic captioned 12 min walk from lift ... thanks
     
    Hyst, AuroraAustralis and tot like this.