New app guides Vail skiers |

New app guides Vail skiers

Scott N. Miller
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colo. – Vail-area residents Robert Goldberg and Ian Sacks got to know each other through the children’s furniture business in New York about 30 years ago. The friends’ new venture is far more high-tech than race-car beds.

Sacks and Goldberg recently rolled out SkiQuest GPS, a new application for iPhones and Blackberry “smart” phones. The mission statement is both ambitious and simple – to greatly enhance the resort experience for out-of-town skiers.

To do that, the longtime friends and first-time partners – both retired businessmen – pooled a significant amount of their own money to create the new app. Because both are entrepreneurs, they also knew they were going to have to put a lot of their own effort into the project.

Some of that work won’t fit the definition of “tough duty” – “We had to ski 44 straight days,” Sacks mock-complained. Some work was actually work, though.

The SkiQuest app has information about absolutely every shop – from restaurants to retailers to real estate offices – in both Vail and Beaver Creek. The app also includes a photo of the front-door sign of all those shops.

Those shops and offices also received personal visits from one of the partners. And, in the current economic climate, they were generally received with some wary looks – until shop owners found out the partners weren’t selling anything.

“Then it was, ‘pull up a chair,'” Goldberg said.

The free business listings – which can be updated by business owners any time – are a nice feature, but the partners are particularly proud of they work they’ve done on the interactive trail maps.

Using global positioning system – GPS – technology, SkiQuest can guide a skier turn-by-turn around either Vail or Beaver Creek. The app’s icon, “Goggle Guy” will follow along as a skier heads from trail to trail, or even up a lift.

Better yet, a skier can plot a route using several trails, and can customize the trip down the hill by ability level, from green to double-diamond. The customized trail maps will also describe a run’s steepness and whether it’s a groomed or mogul run. That’s the kind of information locals find through experience, but visitors find out through trial and error.

“Getting around the mountain is challenging for a visitor,” Sacks said. “This makes it much more comfortable.”

Sacks said he’s been intrigued by GPS technology since it was first available to civilians. When he and Goldberg were talking one day, the idea hit them that while in-car navigation systems are great tools, there’s nothing really like it for skiers.

So far, SkiQuest is off to a slow, but encouraging start. The app rolled out for Beaver Creek in January, and last month in Vail. The partners had hoped to introduce it at the beginning of the season, but ventures don’t always go as planned.

Still, a few users have already bought the full-season version of the app for $19.95. More encouraging, though, are the people who have spent $2.95 for a one-day version who then upgrade to the one-week package for $9.95.

Given the investment into the project, Sacks and Goldberg will have to sell a lot of apps before turning a profit.

“But this is a product we believe in,” Sacks said. “And we know we’ll do what we have to do to get it going.”

Also: nws.goggle guy.jpg

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