A month in Japan Part 4 – Niseko Moiwa & Rusutsu

In the final post of his month-long blog series, Ski Club Member James Forder discovers that the Niseko area has a some real hidden (powder filled) gems:

Our final stop took us back to the west side of Hokkaido, close to where we began, to Niseko. We decided to base ourselves in the Niseko Annupuri area which has access to the main Niseko ski area and village. However, in my last blog post I will explore two of the other options for skiing that can be accessed from here that get you away from the bustle of Niseko United – to hopefully keep you finding fresh lines all day long.

The first of these is Niseko Moiwa. This small resort is right next to Annupuri (5 minutes’ drive) and can be accessed by bus from Hirafu – the main Niseko village. It would seem that Moiwa gets overshadowed by the main Niseko area despite having some brilliant skiing on offer. The mountain itself is only 850m high and this surprisingly works in its favour as the winds don’t get quite as strong as the main Niseko area which means there is less chance of the lift to the top closing.

Although there are only six pisted runs, they are well maintained and the main burn run is fun first thing in the morning if speed is your thing. The off piste bowl directly under the main quad lift offers some brilliant gladed skiing with well-spaced trees and an easy fall line runout. However, this area was one of the first to get tracked out due to its easy accessibility. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous then head to backcountry gate six which gives you access to the true gem of this resort, the back bowl. This area provides you with endless options for lines and there’ll always be untracked powder to be had even on the last run of the day. The run out for this has two options. The first being the aptly named “hell’s gate” which is a precariously thin track that follows a little river, or if you don’t feel confident enough to try this then a 2-3 minute hike up a hill will skip this and take you back to the resort. It is also worth noting that you can ski back to the main Niseko area from the back bowl which we found to be very convenient.

The second alternative ski resort is Rusutsu, which can be accessed by bus from any of the main Niseko areas. This resort blew us away and was probably our favourite ski area of the trip. With three mountains’ worth of terrain to choose from there is lots on offer for every type of skier or snowboarder. It also offers some more unconventional skiing options in the form of a sidecountry terrain park which has lots of wooden, natural-looking features.

One of the resounding features of Rusutsu would have to be that virtually every off piste run follows the fall line perfectly and comes out to a lift. This is further enhanced by the lift infrastructure which is superb, with fast quads taking no time at all to get you back to the top, meaning you can cram an amazing number of runs into one day. We unfortunately only got to spend one day at Rusutsu – but there is easily enough terrain here to keep you occupied for five. So if this sounds like the place for you, it might be worth considering staying at this resort rather than basing in Niseko like we did.

So our time skiing in Japan has finally come to an end which for obvious reasons is disappointing! However despite this, everyone agreed that we could not be coming away from this trip happier with what we had encountered over four weeks. It has been an amazing experience that has shown us both culture and a side to skiing that is completely different than anything any of us had seen before. I can only recommend that anyone who loves skiing or snowboarding should get out to Japan and experience some of the best snow in the world!

James Forder Contributing Writer Ski Club

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