Rusutsu vs Niseko - A Comparison
Two of the most popular winter destinations in Hokkaido, Japan, are Niseko and Rusutsu. This is especially true for foreign visitors, where they are probably the two most frequented ski resorts.
They are close to each other, and both locations is great for snow lovers. The area receives an incredible amount of snow, and both ski resorts are great for skiers and snowboarders in search of powder. With both resorts boasting excellent conditions, and accommodation catering for tourists, it can often be a difficult decision choosing where to go. Rusutsu or Niseko?
This comparison will point out the main differences between Niseko and Rusutsu, helping you decide which resort is best for your ski holiday in Japan.
The main difference between Niseko and Rusutsu are the resort towns at the foot of the mountains, where you will stay during you visit. Rusutusu is self contained, and although there are a few lodges nearby, the main accommodation is the large hotel at the very foot of the mountain. This hotel contains restaurants, onsens and all the facilities you will need. This means you will never have to leave the hotel when you are not skiing. Even if you want to, there is not much to do outside of the complex.
Niseko does have a similar setup in the towns of Niseko Village and Niseko Annupuri, however also has the option of staying in a fully functioning town. Niseko Grand Hirafu has grocery stores, swimming pools, restaurants, cafes, clothing and ski shops. There are bars and even take away food vans here. In this respect Niseko can offer a richer and more varied social experience. This is especially true of night-life. If you are a party animal, then head to Niseko.
Away from skiing and snowboarding there are always activities to keep kids and non-snow lovers busy. However the available activities are quite similar in each resort. Cooking class, snow-shoeing, snowmobiling, swimming, gym, massage, spa and onsens are available all over Niseko, and in Rusutsu. The main difference, is that Rusutsu has all of the activities under one roof. Making it easier for non-skiers to enjoy activities in Rusutsu.
The people using the resorts do tend to differ slightly. Rusutsu, in comparison the NIseko seems to have more locals skiing and boarding there. There is a nice friendly atmosphere in both areas. However the difference come in that they may be busy at different times. Rusutsu tends to get busy over weekends. Niseko will also be busier on weekends, but is more affect by holiday periods. Rusutsu may be busier than usual at weekends, but is still generally the quieter resort. After February it is very quiet on weekdays.
Skiing and Snowboarding Terrain
The snow conditions are pretty much the same in Niseko and Rusutsu, however the terrain is a little different. In my experience Rusutsu is more open than Niseko, both in terms of wider pistes and wide powder fields. I think Niseko has more to offer in terms of fun terrain. With drops, pillows and small kickers all over the place. If you like to cruise through the powder and enjoy long laid-out pow turns the Rusutsu is probably your best bet. If you like to get air and enjoy pow landings then Niseko might provide more enjoyment. If you are new to riding powder, Rusutsu will provide a more gentle introduction to the sport. Having said that the differences are only slight and in comparison to resorts in other parts of the world, they are very similar.
It is worth pointing out that they both have gondolas and hooded lift options to keep you sheltered from the snow on your way up the mountain.
They other difference in terms of terrain is the snowparks. Rusutsu does have a small snowpark with a medium and small jump line, with a few boxes too. Niseko however has 3 parks, with Hanazono's park being the best in the area. If you are a keen freestyler then Niseko is your best bet.
Like I have said in many cases, Niseko and Rusutsu are very similar. The main difference is the night-life and number of foreigners is increased in Niseko. Beyond that there are few other subtle differences if you still can't decide. Hopefully we have covered all the differences worth considering, and this helps in your decision. I am sure you will have a great time in either resort.