I know I’m dating myself, but it used to be that if you had a great day skiing, you might phone someone when you got home, or tell them about it the next day, at work or at school.
But it’s a different world now. We want to let people know right away that we’re on the hill and they’re not. We want our friends to know we’ve skied a bazillion days at Mount Gnarly while they’ve been sweating their buns off at the office. We want to be able to locate our friends, great deals, whatever, at the touch of a button.
In short, we want to share our experiences with the whole wide social network universe. And we want to do it NOW.
There are lots of apps out there that let you do this. But the one I use is Slope Squad, which was developed by Rachel Vecchitto, one of the moderators at TheSkiDiva forum, and her two partners, Taylor McLemore and Jody Shepherd.
Put simply, Slope Squad lets you track your days on the snow, make plans and compete with your friends, and receive offers and messages from mountains and local businesses. It does other things, too, but more about that below, in my conversation with Rachel.
SD: So tell me about Slope Squad. Why’d you decide to develop a ski app? How’d the idea come about?
RV: All three of us had been kicking around ideas for a skiing site individually. Taylor was most interested in building something that’d let him plan days with friends, Jody wanted something that’d let him compete with his friends, and I wanted something that’d let me keep detailed stats on my ski days. We’d all run our ideas past fellow Boulderite and OpenSnow.com founder Joel Gratz, who realized we were all thinking about something pretty similar. He put us in touch with each other.
It’s a good match. Taylor, who most recently co-founded Prediculous, is the product guy who helps us conceptualize and prioritize what we’re going to build. Jody, who’s currently a VP at Square 1 Bank, is the business guy who talks to local businesses and investors to get the word out about us. And I’m the developer, and though I currently work at Etsy, I build the site you use when you log on to Slope Squad. As with any small company, we all do a bit of anything and everything that needs to get done.
SD: There are lots of ski apps out there. What do you see as the shortcomings of others, and what makes yours better?
RV: Slope Squad is the only one that works at any resort. That gives it an advantage over Epic Mix, for example, which only works at mountains owned by Vail Resorts. Besides allowing you to plan days with your friends and compete with them for the most days on the snow, Slope Squad also lets you compete with anyone for prizes sponsored by partner companies. For example, our first contest is for a RockyMounts ski rack. What’s more, Slope Squad provides you with detailed historical stats for all your days on the snow. If you’re a cyclist or runner, think strava.com, but for skiers. It also lets ski areas contact you with news and offers, tell you about pass closures and parking changes, and provide you with discounts a few days before you head to the mountain.
Slope Squad is a great tool for ski areas, too. We let them see detailed analytics about their skiers and riders, build brand equity through social sharing, and increase incremental revenue by reaching visitors before, during and after their days on the snow.
SD: What was the development process like? How long did it take, from concept to finished product? What was the testing like?
RV: I’ve been working on a ski day tracking site for quite a while, so I had a lot of the basics built before I teamed up with Jody and Taylor. I’ve been working on building Slope Squad in its current form for about 8 months, part-time, and while it’s well-built and functional as-is, it’s definitely not finished — there’s a lot more we want to build. We had a more basic version of the site up in October or so, and we had some friends kick the tires a bit before we publicized it more widely.
Or you can use the mobile site:
You can see what things look like once you’ve entered a bunch of data by clicking around my profile.
SD: How can someone get the app?
RV: Slope Squad is a website (vs. a native app), so you can use it by just hitting http://slopesquad.com on your desktop or http://m.slopesquad.com on your mobile device of choice. It’s completely free.
SD: Any further development plans/refinements/new apps we can expect?
RV: We have so many plans! There’s so much you can do with something like this that no one has done yet. Just off the top of my head: we’d like to let you rate mountains and specific runs or areas at mountains, so when you ski somewhere new we can recommend runs you’d probably like. Also, we’d love to have native mobile apps for next season so we can track vertical and do other things that rely on GPS. We want to add common backcountry areas and cat skiing operations, for example, the same way we have mountains now, so you can see those places included in your maps and stats in a more interesting way. I envision other ways you can interact with other users, too: for example, it’d be great for arranging carpools to the hill with other locals, and to create groups of friends to compete and plan with, like your ski house, your ski club, or your race team. Also, we want to have weather-dependent leaderboards that’d show things like which of your friends has the most powder days this season.
I could go on like this for quite a while, and I’d love to hear any other suggestions people have! I absolutely love getting feedback and hearing ideas.
SD: Here’s an important question, Rachel. How much pizza was consumed during the writing of the code?
RV: I moved to Boulder from NYC about a year and a half ago now, and I have to say that the pizza here just isn’t the same. As a result, the building of Slope Squad was powered mostly by coffee from Atlas Purveyors.