QuickTrax Alerts is much much more than the snow alert text messaging service you may know from Winter Park or Steamboat. It is a complete business-critical system for all Intrawest resorts to report on key mountain information in one centralized place before being distributed across many channels for consumption by the end user.
This product has evolved significantly from the initial problem this application sought to solve, and it has become a key part of our infrastructure at Intrawest.
Reporting daily on mountain conditions such as new snowfall, temperature, snow conditions, lift, trail, and activity status was a major chore for snow reporters and webmasters. With the previous setup, they would have to log into multiple systems every day, revising multiple fields in order to update their websites/emails on a site that was further limited by functioning only on the desktop computers for a limited set of browsers.
Build a responsive admin panel that served as the single point of truth for all relevant mountain statistics. A system that allows a snow reporter to update data in a single location and have that data update the website, email, text message, Alexa App, and other 3rd party consumers of the website
This project started the old-fashioned way: Sketches on a whiteboard, followed by markers on paper. Each of our six resorts reported on snow/weather slightly differently so many, many rounds of presentation/feedback/revision were necessary in order to determine the best UI and relevant data points that each resort required in order to communicate to their guests consistently and easily. Nailing the UI was pretty easy (the bar was quite low here), but agreeing on a consistent list of snow conditions proved to be difficult. A partial drop-down list reads like an Eskimo’s 100 words for snow:
Machine groomed loose granular
Machine groomed packed powder
Machine groomed variable conditions
Man made snow
Mix of powder and loose granular
New natural snow
Packed powder and fine granular
Packed powder machine made
Packed powder spring
Powder machine groomed
Powder packed powder
Skier pack powder
Despite this list we believe we found a compact view that contains a tremendous amount of versatility.
Winter Park’s Snow Reporting in Tablet View
What is being shown here is the interface the snow reporters use in order to update the mountain information everyday. It’s not a public facing view, and is only used for data entry. The intent was to be able to update as much as one can with the least amount of clicks. The old system required clicks into each item in order to update. This new layout, while very busy, makes it very easy to update many rows in one fell swoop. A key requirement of the now reporting team.
Winter Parks Trail Reporting in Tablet View
In addition to creating Snow/Lift/Trail/Activity reporting, we also consumed weather feeds from our stations on the mountain. Prior to this project many ad-hoc weather station systems were set up. Through the course of this project we migrated all of these stations to report to Weather Underground. Here is an example of Winter Park’s Mary Jane station.
Once all weather stations were migrated we then pulled in their information from Weather Underground to the QuickTrax Alerts app. From here, we allowed snow reporters to override the data. We didn’t do this to deceive the customer, (the data was right there in Weather Underground anyway, so if we did, it would be fairly easy to uncover); We did this because weather stations break.
Winter Park Squirrels Thanks to Patrick D for the photo.
They can freeze over with rime ice during as storm and report 32° when it’s actually -10° out. The anemometer can break so the wind say 0 MPG when it is really gusting at 80. Or, a hungry animal can get in the way and break our feed to the internet. This override feature allows us to address any of these situations while still providing accurate information to our customers, so that they can prepare for their days on the mountain with us.
The last problem solved for the reporters by this tool is audit logging.
Previously, every time a reporter updated the report he or she printed up the updated page and added it to a file cabinet. So, there were literally reams of paper that showed when snowfall increased half an inch that change got printed up and filed. This had to be done for legal reasons as there was no other way to prove whether there was an update or not. The new QuickTrax Alerts system provides a reporting tool that lets you select the category of changes you are interested in, plus the time range and you can download a detailed log of each and every change.
To recap the benefits for the reporters, this tool now allows them to update all mountain information in one place, lets them update anything from their mobile device and saves them time and paper printing up each and every change. These benefits alone would more than justify the development effort here. However, many customer benefits were also gained by this effort.
The most outward benefit is, of course, accurate weather reporting and mountain conditions on our redesigned websites. Users have basically an operations panel outlining the status of the mountain on one easy-to-understand page. https://www.bluemountain.ca/mountain/conditions-report
Stratton’s Weather Page
This page is powered by a JSON feed (with an XML feed also available) that powers many other customer facing experiences including….
A printable trail report used at the front desk of local lodging destinations
Digital Signage used at the resorts.
Winter Park Email Integration We also integrated with Watson (IBMs) Marketing Cloud API so that the data is included in the daily snow report email that our resorts send out. We write to a DB table with updated data on a set publishing schedule, and then the data in that table gets automatically populated into the email and delivered to the customer.
Custom feeds were created that allowed us to create a custom Alexa Notification that can be added to customers flash briefing for an up to date description of the conditions at the Intrawest resort of your choice. The creation of this app allows for seamless integration into your news day.
Text Alert Signup
Lastly the website http://alerts.quicktrax.com was created to allow customers to sign up for text message alerts when specific user-selectable thresholds were met. For example if I wanted a photo of the snowstake whenever there is snow I can sign up for that, or if I only want to know when 12” has fallen, or is expected in the next 48 hours, I can sign up for those as well. This website allows our pass holders to rest easy knowing that they will never miss a powder day.
We knew it would be sensitive getting users to give their phone numbers to us, so we worked with our legal team to specifically create a wall between this website and our other more marketing-specific websites. Any phone number entered here will NEVER get spammed by us or sent any sort of marketing messages. This is a strictly transactional website. Customers get what they requested, nothing more, nothing less. Sign-ups here have been extremely successful with well over 100K text messages being successfully delivered every month of the season. If you are a skier and go to our mountains this is a fantastic app to sign up for as it stays out of your way when it isn’t snowing.
As you can see, what started out a simple app to make the Snow Reporter experience more efficient turned out to become a multi-faceted product that provides value to our customers through a large number of verticals. Through smart planning and extensible technology we were able to deliver a product that can work for users on their terms. I’m extremely proud of how this came out and look forward to many years of usage at all of our resorts.