Prior to the trip I communicated via email with Konishi-san numerous times with a whole heap of questions including transport to and from the hotel. Konishi-san’s responses were fantastic. She always responded rapidly with very helpful information in excellent English. I cannot praise her enough. What a fantastic start to our holiday and it gave us huge confidence in the Westin (we have never been to Japan for skiing prior to this trip).
The rooms are large and excellent and would not be too crowded for four people (we only had two people). The bedroom is upstairs with two beds, the downstairs has a large living area, a breakfast bar with sink/Nespresso coffee machine/Kettle (no cooking facilities) and a small bar fridge. It also has two murphy beds, sofas, chairs and a large coffee table, great views of the mountain, fantastic shower room and a separate toilet. The stairs from the upstairs bedroom to the lounge area are steep and there are lots of them. This shouldn’t be a problem for most skiers, but it is a pain if you need to go downstairs during the night to go to the bathroom.
We never ate at the Westin during our 6-night stay. It was just too expensive and did not seem like good value for money, which is common in large international-style hotels. Instead we either obtained pre-made meals at the local seven-eleven (only a very short 3-5 minute walk down the driveway) which would also heat the meals for you, or we ate at some of the local small restaurants outside of the hotel. These served excellent food and were great value, but you need to book to guarantee a table as they are popular. By the way, the seven-eleven sells wine, some spirits and beer at very reasonable prices.
I have seen conflicting reviews about whether the Westin is ski-in and ski-out. Once outside the Westin, you don’t need to take your skis off until your return (unless you catch one of the gondolas), but different people will have different thoughts on whether this is ski-in ski-out. My full take on skiing at the Westin (for skiing at East Mountain and Mount Isola) is as follows : (1) You will be given an excellent locker that will hold yours skis, stocks, boots and helmet (presumably snowboards as well, but that’s not my scene); (2) The locker room is terrific – it is lightly heated so it keeps your boots warm enough to get on easily without being too hot to bear while wearing all your ski gear – it is carpeted, so no slipping in your ski boots – it has comfortable benches for getting your boots on/off etc. – it even has some private change rooms if you want to get fully changed before going to your room; (3) The locker room is located right next to the outside of the hotel, so its less than a 1 minute walk with your skis across the carpet and then some rubberized tiles (again no slipping) until you are on the snow; (4) From here it is probably a 3-4 minute walk along a snow covered path to the access chair lift, or a 1-2 minute skate along that path – some people skated in both directions but some walked due to the small rise (both up and down) in the path – I always skated; (5) The access chair is a 2-seater express chair (detachable) with a hood; (6) When you get off the access chair, you still need to take either another chair or a gondola before you can start skiing down trails; (7) The skiing at East Mountain and Mt Isola is fantastic for intermediates (between the trees also looked excellent for advanced riders, but I am not in that league) – great snow, wide runs, few people, tiny lift queues or no queues, excellent lifts (most being express covered chairs or gondolas – but there were two slow 2-seater lifts WITHOUT SAFTEY BARS that I absolutely HATED and only used once each day out of necessity to get back); (8) At the end of the day, you cannot ski back to the Westin, instead, you ski back to the 2-seater express access chair and take that back to the short path that you walk or skate back to the Westin on.
The Rusutsu Resort across the road (or via the monorail) is on the West Mountain and it looks like this has ski-in access (ski-out probably involves a short uphill skate) from the West Mountain. However, the West Mountain is tiny compared to Isola and the East Mountain, so I think intermediates would want to spend all their time at Isola and East Mountain in preference. For these mountains, I think that the Westin has better access, but this could depend on which part of the Rusutsu Resort you are staying in. By the way, the Rusutsu Resort seemed quite “tacky” to me. It would be great for young kids with its Disney Land style themes, but the Westin is better for adults (although I expect it will cost a bit more).
Despite it being pricey, we are extremely keen to return to the Westin for another ski holiday at Rusutsu.