THE BACKCOUNTRY TERRAIN NEAR RUSUTSU IS ESPECIALLY INVITING WHEN A HELICOPTER IS INVOLVED.
Looking up from the Rusutsu Hotel and Conference Center towards the West Mountain on a clear day, it’s easy for a skier’s vision to be pulled towards the wide, clean chutes spilling from the summit of Mt. Shiribetsu. Lacking visible ski tracks, the untouched avalanche paths are exactly what skiers imagine skiing in Japan is like, and it’s hard to believe they are right there in front of you.
Accessing the terrain from the ski area is off-limits, but the lines visible from the hotel—as well as a number of runs that wrap around all of Mt. Shiribetsu—are accessible via a heli-skiing operation. Thanks to an agreement with the Hokkaido Backcountry Club, Rusutsu offers daylong heli trips that include six runs on Shiribetsu’s perfect aprons and glades, which are caked in powder for most of the winter. The day also includes rental avy gear, lunch, and transportation from Niseko if you’re staying there, all for 160,000 Japanese yen, which is roughly equal to $1,400 USD.
Considering the 2,000- to 2,500-vertical-feet runs consist of perfectly spaced trees and wide-open paths of virgin powder, it’s hard to believe that Rusutsu’s heli operation isn’t the most sought-after experience for skiers on Hokkaido. If you have the means, it’s an absolute must.
Charlie Cohn in the helioperated terrain outside of Rusutsu’s ski area boundaries.