The US skiing industry suffered a loss of 8 million visitors during the pandemic, resulting in layoffs and budget cuts. Post-pandemic, visits jumped to an all-time high of 60 million, and many resorts have struggled to catch up.
With more skiers and less employees on the slopes, ski patrollers are strained more than ever. This increases the risk of injury and downgrades the overall experience for everyone on the mountain.
How might we apply futurist thinking and the latest technology to help ski patrollers and lift operators work more efficiently and increase safety?
Snoscout is a B2B technology company on a mission to improve safety and efficiency at ski resorts by leveraging drone operations and providing real-time insights to ski resort staff, enabling them to make informed decisions and improve the overall experience for guests.
Partnerships with DJI and Recco
DJI is the world leader in drones and provides modular packages for industrial services to fit specific industry needs. Snoscout would purchase and outfit these drones to withstand wintery mountain conditions and provide real-time information back to ski patrollers. Recco chips are used for finding missing persons in avalanche situations. Current operations are via helicopter and a handheld device. Snoscout is changing that by placing their beacons on drones.
The four core values of Snoscout are a combination of the values of ski patrollers and pioneers of the skiing industry. Each value is visually represented in the logo.
Snoscout will show up in places such as the Boston Ski Expo, raising awareness from the public and resort employees. Providing demos and prototypes to organizations like National Ski Patrol will also get a foot in the door to the people who will be advocates for Snoscout at their own resorts.
Service designed for unique clients
Before Snoscout drones are ready to use, planning, training, installation, and testing is needed. Each resort is different, and Snoscout must be able to adapt to the individual needs of each mountain. The number of chairlifts in a resort determines the size and scope of services needed.
For autonomous flight paths in situations where drones need to be deployed to investigate an accident scene, waypoints must already be known to the drone software. During the installation phase, drones fly and scan the mountain to create a 3D model of each trail.
The Snoscout website will help transition resort owners and mangers from the awareness phase into the consideration phase. Purchasing and support will be managed through the website for ease of use.
Drones are a rare sight at ski resorts. Currently, there are only a handful of ski patrollers across the world that use drone tech for search and rescue. Those drones are bulky, expensive, and difficult to use.
Subject matter expert interviews
After speaking to Chris Hayward, a long-time ski patroller in Maine, I found that the responsibilities of ski patrollers go far beyond first aid and search and rescue. Everyday duties include the constant monitoring and maintaining of trails and skier traffic hotspots, and providing visitor information.
I also interviewed Jimmy Olivero, owner and chief pilot of a drone business providing cinematography, industrial, and disinfecting services about the viability of drones in the ski industry. A key takeaway was that search and rescue as a business is not sustainable without additional services offered.
Inspired by the combination of a huge problem, a breakthrough technology, and a radical solution to create a moonshot, I scaled the thinking down and applied it to this project. What happens when the ski industry meets drone technology as a service?
It's easy to go down a rabbit hole when you are the only person on a project. Getting caught in the weeds of processes and business logistics took away time from creating and further iterating on designs.
If I can face software fears head-on, I can face similar fears in my next role. This project has the potential to grow in a million directions. I can focus and become an expert on what interests me, and work with experts of other fields.
Helping ski patrollers unlock the possibilities of drones is exciting. More time spent with guests results in deeper connections and highly memorable experiences.
Nate Villaire - Experience Designer
Andrew LeVasseur - Mentor