The social network goes skiing

By | December 22nd, 2010

Before he downloaded an iPhone app called Cyclemeter two months ago, Donald McNeill had only a vague idea of where he’d skied on any given day.

But after he hit the slopes of Killington, Vt., for a few early-season runs last weekend, he knew exactly where he’d been — right down to the minute.

“I could track the number of runs, vertical feet, and how long I’d been skiing,” said McNeill, a retired sales manager who lives in Bridgewater Corners, Vt. “The app also accesses Facebook and Twitter, where it updates your status as you reach certain intervals.”

As the 2010 ski season starts, developers and resorts are releasing a flurry of new applications for skiers and snowboarders. They include everything from high-profile contenders like Vail Resorts’ EpicMix, to less flashy initiatives, such as Newry, Me.-based Sunday River’s new Facebook application, Sunday River Patches.

“Social media has a huge opportunity in skiing,” said Dave Aidekman, whose site, Adventurati, is releasing a new social application for skiers in December. “As resorts build social aspects into apps on mobile devices the opportunity will — forgive the pun — snowball.”

The reason? Skiing is a social sport, and with location-based services just coming into their own, the new apps are natural fit. Plus, they appeal to resorts, which see them as opportunities to encourage guests to spend more money and come back sooner.

No more snowjobs
Social media has already helped skiers and snowboarders. A recent study found ski resorts across the U.S. and Canada reported 23 percent more snow, on average, on weekends than during the week. In other words, the more business they stood to gain, the “deeper” the snow.

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Turns out there’s an app for that problem. It’s called, and it allows skiers to independently verify snowfall levels. The program is credited with ensuring these self-reported snowfall numbers are accurate.

“Social media as a whole has really just increased transparency and opened up communication channels for friends to talk to friends and companies to talk to their consumers,” said Jon Brelig, the founder of

Mountain resorts have also become more honest with themselves as a result of social media in general, and the new generation of apps in particular.

“For a number of years, there was a corporate air about many ski resorts,” said Evan Reece, the co-founder of Liftopia, a website that sells discount lift tickets. “At first, companies tried to project perfect images of themselves, and slowly realized that they could not control their image by burying unique attributes — positive or negative — when they popped up online. Once they embraced the dialogue with consumers instead of trying to control what was said about their brands, their success in social media began to take off.”

More than trail maps
The most high-profile of the new apps is called EpicMix, an initiative of Vail Resorts, which owns Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone ski areas in Colorado, and Northstar at Tahoe and Heavenly Ski Resort in California.