I love snow
The thought of moving away from either the ocean or accessible skiing gives me full-on heebie-jeebies. The choice to attend a “cold weather” grad school was premeditated. This weekend I was able to remedy my yearning for some snow and make a trek to upta’ the Great State of Maine to bid adieu to the 2020 winter season and welcome in spring 2021 on the slopes. Before leaving, I purchased lift tickets remotely, booked lodging online, received and sent payments via Venmo, and made slope-side lunch/dinner reservations via apps on my phone. It finally dawned on me as I badged my way onto a lift and looked down at what appeared to be remotely operated snow cannons – this is all new (to me); this looks like the makings of a decent blog post.
We’re all aware of effects of climate change and have been discussing the different ways that COVID has stomped the digitization accelerator for many industries and increased consumer demand for value capture. This weekend, a few things jumped out to me as positive signs of digital transformation at mountain resorts: radio frequency identification (RFID) and application-based systems, smart snow grooming, and automated mountain management. Digitization allows ski resorts to more judiciously and efficiently maintain their slopes while also optimizing their customer experience by expediting once time-consuming purchases.
RFIDs and Apps
RFIDs have been used for some time now outside of the ski industry. The ski industry’s immediate utility is quite apparent – hands stay warm/gloved, and lift agents do not check individual passes. The COVID skiing season forced the human element back into the use case designed to streamline and remove it; only this season the lift agents saw mask requirements. The power from RFID has recently been stepping up a tranche as higher-end resorts now offer season pass IDs that allow users to attach credit card information for purchasing. Concerns have now been raised by some about the ability of personal data to be scraped via RFID scanners, causing companies like Mountain Pass Systems http://epc4roi.com/news/rfid-use-raises-on-slope-privacy-concerns/ to develop sleeves or pouches for RFID passes.
Smartphone-based applications like Skitude provide a “full-featured app to empower your ski experience, before, during, and after your snow getaways.” (Skitude) While I do not use the Skitude application, I could see the merits for a techno inclined skier/snowboarder interested in comparing their black diamond run to double black diamond km/h’s. My concern with any app use in an alpine environment remains cellular data/service coverage.
Smart Grooming and Mountain Management
Many higher-end resorts now employ highly advanced grooming machines. Italian tracked vehicle manufacture Prinorth produces snow groomers designed by famous Italian automobile designer Pininfarina – the design house behind storied companies like Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia, and GM.
How does this relate to the DX? Does this mean Sunday River and Sugarloaf/USA are sporting Ferrari-Esq super groomers? No, not entirely. The magic is in the connectivity. Fellow Italian firm Demac Lenko’s Snovisual 4.0 software and automated snow cannons allow resorts to create an interconnected alpine ecosystem fueled by real-time data insights ranging from satellite photography to snow depth report Prinorth groomers, central groomer’ fleet management, and centralized control from various locations.
Demac Lenko rightly claims that digitization of their systems affords operators the ability to efficiently maximize their snowmaking capabilities while factoring in snowmaking’s ecological impacts (water demand, electrical demand, and emissions from vehicles and associated equipment). It was fascinating to learn how technology and connectivity aim to increase my value as a customer by upping the number of runs per day and providing consistent conditions while factoring in the impacts of snowmaking.
Can you think of a similar outdoor activity that struggles with climate change and/or benefits from similar DX advancements? At this point I would have (had) sharing data if it meant I could safely carve turns.