Having traveled to six different countries spanning three continents now for snowboarding trips, I feel qualified to make this statement. The most stressful part of any skiing trip is getting to the resort. You have the flights booked, great. But then you have to try to decipher the airline’s website to see whether your ski or snowboard bag is OK to go on or whether it needs to be booked. Then you haul it through the airport to your shuttle, then from your shuttle to the front door. And don’t get me started on post-trip travel — ever tried to drag a ski bag through a major city? Don’t.
This is what I was facing heading into my recent month-long trip to Hakuba, one of Japan’s powder capitals. But Rhythm Rentals came to my rescue, and it can do the same for you. It was a nerve-wracking experience, loading up for a month of snowboarding while my pride and joy was sitting at home — what if the board I get isn’t as good? Spoiler alert, I needn’t have worried; its gear rocks. Here’s what I found when I hit up Rhythm Rentals for a month of snowboarding and why you should leave your skis or board at home when you head to Japan.
Rhythm Japan has been servicing the Japanese ski rental industry since 2005, when its first store opened in Nisseko. Since then, it has expanded across various ski regions, including our destination, Hakuba. Back at the start of 2022, Rhythm became part of Evo. That’s right, your favorite ski and snowboard store in the U.S. hooked up with this rental outfit in Japan in a collaboration that took them both up a notch. This is a rental store with an ethos based around endless stoke, a love for winter, and a genuine interest in actioning feedback — seriously, the Hakuba rental store opened because of customer demand.
Expertise has flowed in both directions as Evo continues to develop its rental setup in the U.S., and the moment I stepped into Rhythm Hakuba, I could see why Evo chose to acquire the organization. Seriously, I’ve been to a whole load of rental stores — I even worked in one for a season — and on first impressions, Rhythm blew them all out of the water. But would the experience match up against the impression?
Rhythm Rentals offers two levels of packages: standard or premium. You can choose either just the ski or snowboard rental or a package with boots. As well as this, there’s a horde of accessories you can rent. To be honest, you could turn up in your winter baselayers and a pair of socks, and it would dress you from there. You can get all the snowboarding equipment you need to hit the slopes — jacket, ski pants, helmet, wrist guards, and even aprés ski boots for when you’re not riding.
The experience was super smooth. I got an email instructing me to phone when I hit the resort, and it would come and collect me from my accommodation and bring me to Rhythm. Although I had rented a board for the month, I’d taken my own boots — they’re molded to my feet, and I can’t imagine riding without them — so I didn’t get to experience a boot fitting, but getting set up with a board was great.
Rhythm’s range of premium snowboards is massive, so rather than set me up in advance, I chatted with one of the rental techs about my riding style, my preferences, and a few different styles that would be good to test out while I was in town. With the premium package, you can switch out your board without any extra charge, so to start with, I got set up on a more groomer-focused board so I could explore the resort, knowing I would be back to get a powder board as soon as those flakes started falling. Rhythm then offered me a lift back to my accommodation, but I was hitting the hill to test my new ride.
It was good. In fact, good isn’t fair; it was excellent. Seriously, a premium rental at Rhythm is like a golden ticket to test out all those snowboards you have always wondered about. There were a few boards I didn’t manage to test out that I was hoping to. In part, this was because other riders had them, but it was also because I didn’t feel like going back in every day to switch out — oh, and someone put the Lib Tech Orca through a tree, so it was in the damaged pile.
Given how they responded when I did go in, I don’t think they would have had any issue with me swapping out to test every board in their range. To give you a taste of how good the snowboards in Rhythm are, here’s what I rode during my time in Hakuba:
- Season Nexus
- Lib Tech Terrain Wrecker
- Jones Storm Chaser
- Jones Mind Expander
- Gnu B-Nice
- Offshore Snurfs Up
- Yes The Y Board
That is one heck of a list of snowboards. And the skis are just as good. Two of the skiers in our group rented for a day or two as an opportunity to test some different skis, and then because with just three days to go, one of their tips snapped off. In short, the gear is great. The Rhythm Japan website only shows a small selection, a sample of its gear, but there’s no end to the skis and snowboards you can shred the pow on.
Great customer service? Expert rental techs who tailor your setup to you? A barista-style coffee corner? Endless information about the ski hill, local guiding services, information on how to book tours in the local area, and even where to eat and drink in town? All that, and these other, slightly more skiing-specific services:
- Backcountry rental equipment, including avalanche safety gear
- A full-service shop to tune your gear
- A try-before-you-buy service on a whole load of skis and snowboards — rent for three days, and if you buy it afterward, your rental is refunded.
- Overnight storage for your rental gear
Perhaps the main bonus of having been on rental gear came when we hit Tokyo for three days at the end of our trip. I had no ski bag to drag through the busiest city I’d ever visited. Seriously, navigating those crossings with a 6.5-foot-long, invisible trip hazard slung out behind me? No thanks. Do yourself a favor when you head to Japan and hit up Rhythm Rentals for a sweet, stress-free ride.
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