Steamboat man creates ski tracking app that monitors lift wait times
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs resident and software developer Brad Stiff had an epiphany while skiing.
Standing in line for a lift, he watched as everyone waited while scrolling through their phones. He thought having an app on said phones that shared lift wait times could potentially help skiers and riders plan their days and spread more people out to other lifts.
So, he made one.
“I’m biased, but I’m really enjoying using it,” Stiff said. “It’s everything I wanted in a tracking app.”
We Ski & Snowboard, which launched in November, is an app for iPhones and Androids that not only tracks your day on the slopes but has social capabilities and crowdsources wait times at lifts.
At the moment, Stiff doesn’t have the wait times active on the app, since it’s not yet accurate since the user base is still small. He’s hoping if more people begin to use it, he’ll activate the skill on the app.
“On the one hand, I don’t want to show information that is outdated and not useful, but on the other hand, if I were to show it, people would be like, ‘oh, I wonder how we can make that more up to date?’ Maybe I need to tell my friends about this,’ Stiff said. ”But for the moment, I’ve decided to keep the feature disabled at least until the user base grows.”
With lift lines a hotter topic than ever before because of pandemic-prompted capacity limits, knowing which lifts have longer waits could deter some people and send them somewhere that has a shorter wait, distributing users around the mountain more.
Additionally, the free and ad-free app has social aspects that allows users to see where friends or family members are on the mountain, even if some are iPhone users and others are Android users.
“(It’s good for) locals who go up randomly for a couple hours and want to know if somebody else is nearby and they might want to hook up,” said Stiff.
If people enjoy Strava, Stiff said they’ll enjoy We Ski & Snowboard, since he took some design cues from the running and cycling app and optimized the features for resort skiing.
Of course, if you don’t want to be found, there is a feature called, “No friends on powder days,” which allows people to go about their day, finding secret stashes of powder without others knowing where they are.
Early reviews of the app show users excited that the app doesn’t drain their battery as much as other apps. Stiff, who has lived in Steamboat for seven years, said the app will drain the battery, and there’s no getting around that especially using the GPS to track runs. However, he does have some back end commands to prevent the app from draining a phone’s battery.
“Other apps that send data to the cloud, that mechanism isn’t very sophisticated. Maybe it’s sending data every few seconds, which is going to be (energetically) expensive. Maybe if it has a weak connection, it keeps trying and trying and trying constantly instead of backing off,” Stiff said. “We Ski on the other hand, it sends the data on defined intervals to try to minimize that.”
When We Ski has a weak connection, it’ll try once a few seconds later, then once again a minute later and so forth.
This is the first app or project that Stiff has done on the side using his software developing skills. His day job with a digital agency keeps him busy working on the Krispy Kreme app for Android. He wants the We Ski app to remain free but thinks some future features can be offered under a premium subscription, such as Apple watch capabilities.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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The Steamboat Springs Running Series continues at 8:30 a.m. Saturday with the Howelsen Hill Trail Run.