Rusutsu, Japan, Jan. 24, 2011

Tony Crocker

Staff member
The Power Trip packed up for a few days on the road Monday morning. The guides spent awhile at Brooks Lodge securing luggage on the roof and covering it with a tarp.

I went along for the ride, then took a bus back to Niseko while they had a 4 hour drive to Furano after skiing. Furano is in the middle of Hokkaido, gets ~350 inches of dry snow in a colder climate. Niseko is near the west coast, thus gets hit first with the 575 inch average. Weather has been in the 20's, yet the snow when fresh is far from maritime by North American standards.

Rusutsu is about 45 minutes from Niseko, about 2,000 vertical vs. 3,000, quieter and more family oriented. So the guides had us in the trees between the intermediate runs most of the time. View of both shortly after we arrived.

Here our guide Colin gets some air off a roller in the trees.

From the backside of Mt. Isola is a panoramic view of Toya Lake with the ocean on the horizon.

Here's some local color(s) at lunch for the benefit of our fashion conscious administrator.

We had a rare day of all sun. The majority of the area on Mt. Isola and East Mt. faces northeast, so snow was good there all day. As shown here the Black Diamond tours will duck the sidecountry ropes in search of fresh. They provide transceivers and avy gear for the Power Trips.

We had a well shaded lightly tracked run below.


Rusutsu has a smaller West Mt. connected to the main mountain by a gondola. Those ski runs are left of the tree in the picture.

The higher peaks to the right are occasionally climbed, though the steep lines face directly south.

Gondola up East Mt. as we regroup to move west.

As we approach West Mt. we can see a substantial summer amusement park at its base.

The resort hotel is here too.

A short tree run here had been in the sun all day and was just starting to form a crust. So it's just as well we didn't have time to hike for a steeper run there. However our final run was off the backside to a road pickup. View from the top before we dropped in.

The run faced into the afternoon sun and was consistent but heavy "Baldy powder," similar to Eric's after a late opening of Mt. Baldy's chair 4 on a sunny powder day. The upper steeps worked with gravity and the snow was lighter once into the trees. I mushed a bit through the clear cut at the bottom and the last set of trees, flattening the snow for a snowboarder behind me. View from the road of our tracks.

The group loads up for the drive to Furano.
Tony, any way you could post trail maps along with these TRs? I 'm sure that I could track them down eventually, but you're retired with plenty of time on your hands!
:lol: is a Rusutsu trail map.

The pattern of Japanese snowfall is different from North America. 2/3 of snowfall is in December/January vs. 43% at Mt. Baker, 39% at Mammoth and Alta, 37% at Vail and 33% at Loveland. Thus in January Hakuba gets as much snow as Alta and Niseko gets 70% more. What's driving this is the cold air from Siberia. In the shoulder months the air is not as cold, so more of the precipitation is rain. There are quite a few poor Novembers in the 9 years of data, so December's dumps are needed to build the base. Niseko had only a 50% December this year, so the locals said it wasn't that good until about January 5. On the other end of the season it's obvious snow won't preserve well at the low altitude, sunny exposure (Niseko lifts are on east and south sides of the mountain), and increasing rain frequency. Everyone says "March skiing in Japan is like April in North America."

It is not snowing now at the normal January rate. Yet untracked powder is of at least Intermountain (i.e. Alta) quality, certainly not Sierra Cement, even at the lowest elevations if not in the sun. So that Siberian air is not only producing snow, but relatively low water content snow.

Niseko monthly snowfall (8 years) in inches:
Nov. 56
Dec. 150
Jan. 169
Feb. 112
Mar. 81
Apr. 7