Tom Phillips has spent much of the past decade chasing winters around Europe, Canada and New Zealand before settling in Niseko five years ago. Now manager of brand new Hirafu backcountry store Rhythm Summit (under the legendary Rhythm Japan group of companies), Tom is an excellent source of knowledge on the latest and greatest ski and snowboard equipment suited to local conditions, as well as the backcountry opportunities on offer.
What kind of backcountry skiing opportunities are there in Niseko?
There is so much opportunity here to explore, with an almost unlimited amount of new terrain that is accessible from the road side. Heaps of treeline riding for the stormy low vis days and some good open faces when the sun comes out. The resorts are welcoming the growing market for backcountry skiing by implementing some gate-access side-country policies.
What’s your favourite backcountry mission around here?
A trip to the coast is always good for me, its a solid day out getting to the top of something with a view of the sea, some fresh lines down and then a beautiful fish lunch away from the crowds.
When is the best time for bc/hiking in Niseko?
Below the treeline is good from mid-December but from February onwards is my favourite time of year. The weather tends to be a little more stable, the snow has a decent depth and the days are a little longer. The season can be really long for hiking though and some of the best days can be had in late April with the spring corn harvest and sunny skies.
Why did Rhythm decide to branch out into a dedicated backcountry shop?
Backcountry is a growth sector in the winter sports industry and we have noticed more people hoping to get out there each year. By having a dedicated backcountry store we have the equipment, knowledge and time to help customers experience the terrain on offer around here, both just off the lifts and a bit further afield for the more adventurous.
You cater to both skiing and boarding?
It’s all one family – we have a comprehensive range of skis both with touring frame bindings as well as the pin bindings for a tech touring boot. Our splitboard range covers all shapes and sizes from Jones, Burton and Prior.
And is it both retail and rental?
Although we have the full range of touring and snow safety gear in rental, we also have a large selection for sale with experienced staff on hand to offer advice and help with the difficult decisions.
What are the main products you specialise in?
In store we have ski and snowboard hardware, accessories and a large range of technical outerwear that is aimed at the backcountry market. The idea is to have all the gear needed for a safe and comfortable experience when heading out for a ride inbounds or deeper into the mostly untouched Hokkaido mountains.
We work with a lot of the local guiding companies and can offer information and advice on the guys who can ensure you stay safe and score the best lines.
Any new products in store at the moment that have got you really stoked, or that have been really popular for Niseko?
The Pieps Jet Force bag is a massive step forward in avalanche safety should the worst case scenario ever happen. Utilising a lithium ion battery instead of an air canister, this not only makes travel with the bag much easier it can also be practiced with and the 3 minute continual inflation will keep you above a slide even if the bag has a large tear.
We’re really proud to have the Field Earth snowboards and skis in store this year, Field Earth are a Japanese company from Asahikawa that make products inspired by the Japanese snow surf culture and feature some creative shapes and designs.
Rhythm Summit is located at the main Hirafu intersection just next to Green Farm Cafe, 100m down from the main Rhythm store. Drop in to speak to Tom or any of the other qualified staff, or get in touch via the contact details below.
phone: 0136 224 199
website: Rhythm Summit