[ Interview by Matt Walters ]
[ Photographs by Josh Duncan ]

The people and passion behind X-Ten collective

It’s a connecting place. It brings lots of interesting people together.

At the back of Snow Xchange is a gym. This is no ordinary gym. Ever wondered how those snowboarders or BMXers learn how to defy gravity with their back flips and front flips without killing themselves? Look no further than the X-Ten Gym at Snow Xchange.

The face of the Snow Xchange complex, owner Andy, lights up with excitement. He knows the potential of what he has created.

“X-Ten Gym brings together snowboarders, skateboarders, skiers, surfers and wakeboarders, BMXers and dirt bike riders, break  dancers and street artists. They talk to each other, learn their stuff, and amazing things happen. The whole business is X-Ten Collective, and is the umbrella brand for everything, Snow Xchange, X-Ten Gym, Projekt X Espresso.”

He tells stories of the interactions among snowboarders, BMXers and skaters – interactions that break down stereotypes and build positive relationships which continue outside of the gym.

For me, this community space is the most interesting thing we do, because it has endless possibilities; what funds this place is the creativity and fun people have in here.

“For me, this community space is the most interesting thing we do, because it has endless possibilities; what funds this place is the creativity and fun people have in here. People come to me and say, ‘I’ve been looking for somewhere, or I’ve had this idea – can you do that?’ I say, ‘Ok cool, let’s work out how we can.’”

Andy’s enthusiasm for the possible and the new is infectious; he is passionate about harnessing people’s ideas around board and urban sports and then making them a reality.

A designer by trade, he spent time overseas before coming back to Christchurch and setting up a small ski and board equipment maintenance business before the earthquake. Since then, Snow Xchange has grown and changed into not only a retail store but also a skill development centre for urban and board and snow-based sports.

Graphic designer Talya lso, who also works and makes things happen at the Gym and Snow Xchange, goes on to explain that it provides opportunities for four-year-olds right through to over 40-year-olds, all looking to increase their skills and confidence in board sports or their urban sport interest. A professional snowboarding team also trains at the Gym.

Andy’s enthusiasm for the possible and the new is infectious.

X-Ten Collective’s retail shop Snow Xchange prides itself in promoting and supplying quality, hand-made ski and snow board hardware and soft goods, which are not only functional but also ethical, and support the smaller producers and their products.

Andy points out that, “People are more and more interested and hungry for ethically produced, quality products. In our café, people regularly ask about what beans we use; whether they are fair trade, etc.”

He explains that in the shop, once people understand the story behind what they are buying, they are more pleased and confident with their Snow Xchange purchase than one from some of the
larger ski and snowboard producers that have no “soul”.

You get a feeling it’s about selling great products that they care and believe in, to people they feel the same way about.

“We are passionate about the integrity of our business. This is about doing something because we believe in doing it, and this makes us very conscious about the products we put in our store. It’s important that the products we stock reflect this passion. We make very few gear decisions based purely on what is going to fly out of the door the quickest. We love emerging brands, new brands, and responsible brands. This makes it a little harder to sell the product, but we get to tell the story of the product to our customers, and that is great.”

Andy explains this is a long term goal and business strategy. You get a feeling it’s about selling great products that they care and believe in, to people they feel the same way about.

This is a business based around passion for sport, the effect it can have on people’s lives, and the integral link between quality product and customer service that comes from selling the things people need to do what they love to do.

The second-hand Xchange programme allows purchasers either to sell their second-hand ski/snowboards or to trade their second-hand goods, boots, etc for a cash amount deducted from the price of their new equipment.

Andy says this not only encourages new people into snow sports, but also encourages progression and skill development as people improve and need better gear. It also builds relationships and a strong customer base, which is inherent in everything X-Ten Collective does.

This is about doing something because we believe in doing it, and this makes us very conscious about the products we put in our store.