All You Need for Your Winter Holiday

  • By Sirada

In conversation with Chris Smith - Rhythm Setsu

Whilst preparing for the busy winter season, we caught up with Chris Smith from Canada - our Rhythm Setsu Manager and one of the well-known snowboarders in the local Niseko scene. With his extensive experience and knowledge of ski resorts from across the globe, let’s see what he is preparing for you to make sure you have everything you need to have the best riding experience this season.  

Can you tell us more about yourself? What do you like to do?

I am from one of the flattest parts of Canada. Saskatchewan is the province I grew up in. My parents have always encouraged me to be outside and explore nature. Which, unfortunately for them, meant that I would travel across Canada to find myself living in the west coast mountains away from home. And now I call Niseko home. I have lived in Ski resorts my entire adult life traveling between Whistler, Perisher/Thredbo in Australia, Niseko Japan and the kiwi resorts around Queenstown while keeping very active and chasing the endless winter for about 4 years.

How long have you been in Niseko?

I initially moved here for a 6 month working holiday, but ended up staying - I’m now entering my 9th consecutive winter in Niseko. 

What made you decide to stay here? 

Coming from winters in Canada I was surprised it snowed such high quality snow and in such large amounts. So I decided to do another winter. And another one, and another one. The cycle continues. But to be honest it wasn’t just about the powder and wide range of winter activities. I also fell in love with the culture, the unique experiences and people you can find in Japan. Every day seems like an adventure navigating a country in which Japanese is not my native language.

Do you ski or snowboard?

I am a snowboarder.

Where is your favourite ski resort and why?

Niseko United is great for its easy access, restaurants and large skiable area. I still enjoy riding there after so many years. But I do love to travel to different places to ride and Sapporo Kokusai has been one ski destination I make sure I visit every year. It’s about 90 minutes away from Setsu.

Tell us about the Rhythm project in Setsu Niseko? How is it coming along?

The first thing I noticed when I was introduced to this project was how Setsu focused primarily on the customer experience. Naturally we can relate to that as I believe it is the product that makes us successful as a company. To have returning customers and staff who speak highly of what we do is something to be proud of and I am excited to be operating our store inside a like-minded professional setting. I'm currently sitting at my desk inside the Rhythm Setsu store and I have a few more things to complete before our staff arrive for training, but everything is going to plan and I'm looking forward to having people visit our shop.

What experience would you like your guests to have the moment they walk in to Rhythm?

It's important to feel valued. We expect to be a busy store but I don't want that to take away from the experience of shopping for some new gear or picking out some powder skis with an industry professional. We hire people because they are passionate about this industry and want to spend time on the mountain as much as the people on holiday, so you know you can interact with a local skier or snowboarder to get authentic advice on what best suits the customers needs.

Are the gears all brand new?

We have done our best to order as much gear as we can to update our 22/23 fleet of skis and snowboards alongside our previous rental gear to have a sizable amount in our racks throughout our locations. It isn’t all brand new but everything is relevant and recent and I think everyone will be stoked on the range of models we have across the brands we carry.

Tell us what products you have available at your store?

We will be offering a limited retail selection of Outerwear, Ski socks, Snow gloves, Apres boots, Goggles, Helmets, Base layers, Beanies, Facemarks, Hand warmers, and Mountain merch apparel which is a great local souvenir.

What brands are available at the store?

We carry most of the major brands such as Burton, Capita, Lib tech, K2, Armada, Rossignol, Völkl, Atomic, Faction, Line, Season EQPT, WNDR alpine, Oyuki and more.

Awesome. Do you have gears suitable for all levels of skiers and snowboarders?

Yes! We have skis and snowboards for all levels of riders from “never seen snow before” all the way to “expert” level. And our rental boots all the way up to a US15 in size. There is something for everyone.  

What do you recommend for beginners or first timers? Where to start? What gear should they get?

The beauty of having access to a rental store is that beginners or first timers don’t need to purchase anything their first time. Come visit the friendly experts at any Rhythm location and let us help you to get on the mountain first and determine what works best for you. And once you have committed to frequently visiting a Ski and snowboard destination I think there is great value in buying your own boots. Whether you are snowboarding or skiing, be patient and take time to find the right flex, fit and function of a boot so you can be out from first chair to last call without having to deal with frustrating foot issues. Our Rhythm summit location specializes in a streamlined boot fitting process to make sure you can worry less about your feet and enjoy your time on the mountain with your friends.  

How about guests who would be interested in backcountry skiing? Can they get everything they need from the store as well?

The Rhythm Setsu store this year will have a range of Powder skis for the “slack-country” rider who wants to access the backcountry terrain off the gate system that Niseko, Rusutsu and Kiroro provide. But for split-board, snowshoe or touring binding setups for skis they will have a more comfortable experience getting set up at our Rhythm Base location where all of our backcountry professionals will be situated. 

Apart from rentals, what services will you be providing this winter?

Rhythm Setsu will be operating a ski locker concierge service to assist the guests with storing their gear, personal or rental allowing everything to be secure and dry for the following day of getting after it. We will also be offering a Workshop service to assist in overnight waxing and tuning based out of our Rhythm Base location but delivered to and from the Setsu locker rooms. This will make it easy to have perfectly tuned gear and ensure you're the first one down the mountain. 

We will also be promoting our Rhythm rides program as the best on-mountain experience you can get. With some of the highest level instructors and  guides in Japan they will help you find your feet on day 1 of riding or show you the best spots to get pitted in Niseko’s famously deep and dry snow. Highly recommended for anyone coming here to make the absolute most of their holiday. 

For your opinion, a lot of people are asking whether they should try skiing or snowboarding? It is always a tricky question. As you are one of Niseko's experienced riders, what are your thoughts on this?

I started snowboarding at a very young age, always trying to keep up with my older brother so it was an easy decision for me. But for people who aren’t sure, renting with Rhythm gives you the flexibility to be able to swap gear between skiing AND snowboarding so you never have to face the decision of which path to go down. I think that if you have a short amount of time though, Skiing is easier to learn in the beginning because it feels more natural as you are forward facing. Vs snowboarding is maybe more difficult to learn initially but once you get the basics down you can typically progress faster into the “intermediate” level of riding.

Very helpful answer, Chris. Last but not least, what are you excited about?

I'm really excited with where I’m working this winter and looking forward to seeing a bunch of new faces this year to enjoy the mountain with, including you, our Setsu guests. 

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