Winter in Hokkaido Part 9 – Playing Snow at Westin Rusutsu Resort

(This post is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the very beginning, click here.)

When planning for this trip, we had decided on spending at least one night in a ski resort. Why, you would probably ask. There’s snow everywhere, on the side walk, on the road. Why go all the way to a ski resort? Well, the snow is different, for one. And there’s also the breathtaking scenery. So in Hokkaido, near to Sapporo, there are a few ski resorts, seeing that there are a few mountain ranges to the north and south. The most popular ones are Niseko, Rusutsu, Teine and Tomamu, to name a few. Niseko is probably the most famous of the lot, and together with Rusutsu, attract plenty of foreign tourists year round. Tomamu is to the north, and has an Ice Village that is lighted up at night during the winter months. So what made us choose Rusutsu? Well, for two reasons – price and availability. Let’s be honest, all hotels in ski resorts are pricey, and the ones that are less pricey are usually snapped up pretty fast once bookings are open.

Taking into account the public transport getting to the ski resort and the budget, we decided on Westin Rusutsu Resort.

Rusutsu is a small ski resort town about 90 minutes away to the south west of Sapporo. There are really only two big hotels in the town, plus some privately owned chalets and homestays. There is a strip of shops here too, but beyond that, there are lots of ski slopes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Back to our itinerary in Sapporo.

After some light breakfast in our room, we checked out of our hotel and took a cab for a short ride to a building next to Sapporo station. Our hotel in Rusutsu provides a free shuttle service, but prior booking is required as there is only 1 bus a day. There is a Lawson (apparently now our favourite convenience store, since Family Mart is not popular in Sapporo) next to the bus stop so we had some time to buy some snacks for the bus ride.

The bus was quite comfortable, they even have USB ports for your phone. It was only half full, other than us there was, I think, 2 groups of tourists from China.

About an hour into the bus ride, they made a toilet stop at rest area along the way. At the time, it was snowing heavily, the heaviest I experienced during my week there. Although, I only realized how heavy it was until I stepped outside to use the toilet. The snow was whipping onto my face, and overflowing into my high cut boots. Man, i thought, i was really NOT prepared for this when came down for a pee…

(can’t really tell from this pic, but it was like a blizzard out there)

Back on the road, and we reached Rusutsu soon enough. As i mentioned earlier, it is really a small town. The two main hotels, Rusutsu Ski Resort and Westin (both actually owned by the same company) are located across the road from each other, but set quite far back from the road, so they quite a distance apart. In between them, just by the road, there are two convenience stores, Seicomart and a 7-11. Convenient for those who don’t want to spend too much on hotel restaurants.

Rusutsu is set on very high elevation, but the town itself is surrounded by even higher mountains. So you’re guaranteed of beautiful scenery every where you turn. This was the scenery that greeted us when we got down from the bus.

So we went into our hotel. Westin doesnt look much from the outside, but inside it is very impressive.

(this is the main lobby, taken at night)

We couldn’t check in yet, so they stored our luggage while we went to explore. Not before they gave me long, detailed instruction on how to use the locker for ski equipment. Not that we were going skiing.

Westin is a large and impressive hotel, but there isn’t much to do here. The more affordable Rusutsu Ski Resort, however, has more family attractions and more dining options. They have a monorail system that connects the two hotels.

(Sitting inside the monorail – COLD. Waiting outside for the monorail to come – EVEN COLDER)

Rusutsu Ski Resort is a little bit like a very small Genting Resort, lots of colourful shops and outdated kiddie displays, including this life sized mechanized Dixie band featuring bears and dogs playing instruments, dishing out irritating songs.
(lots of souvenir shops, but they don’t sell snacks or foodstuff)

(Why… do they have a rickshaw here…?)

(Free unlimited rides on this. No age limit, either, woo-hoo!)

So, that’s the entertainment bit of Rusutsu Resort. Time for lunch. They have quite a selection of restaurants here, from Japanese to Chinese to Italian. Some of the better ones are only open for dinner.

This is where we had a light lunch. Yes, I know, they spelt Edelweiss wrong. And yes, I know, Edelweiss do NOT grow in Japan.

They have an open seating area, around a faux Italian fountain. Not sure about the theme they’re going for here…

This was lunch. I think this was the only time we had curry rice during our time here. My daughter had the sandwich and fries.

After lunch, we took a walk outside in the beautiful snow. This is the Shinchan park for children to play and sled. There’s also a reindeer park here.

(snow angel)

(she’s umm… eating snow)

(snow fight!)

After spending a lot of time playing with snow, it was time to get back to our hotel and check in our room.

Honestly, this was the best hotel room we’ve ever stayed in. It’s a duplex unit. Upstairs, there’s the master bedroom.

Downstairs, there’s the large living area, kitchen, bath, and family area.

The family area has two pull down beds for the kids.

Very nice room. Wait til you see the breathtaking view tomorrow…

After a little rest, we head back to Rusutsu Resort for dinner. That means using the freezing cold monorail… Dinner is at this place called Cricket, the same place we had coffee earlier in the afternoon. There wasn’t much to choose from the dinner menu, but anything goes with beer, right?

(pizza and sausages for dinner)

(a jazz band entertained us during dinner)

After dinner, we walked outside to take pictures of the shimmering lights. So pretty.

There’s an arcade in the hotel, where you can play games.

(okay, this is not really for kids)

(We even went for the 4D cinematic ride)

Since ther were no convenience stores in the hotel, earlier before dinner, we walked to Seicomart outside the hotel to buy some breakfast for tomorrow.

It’s been a long day today, but it has been a wonderful day.

Next – we’re going to Noboribetsu.

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