A new way of seeing snow

There has been a boom in off-piste skiing and ski mountaineering in the last few years and snow safety has become a major issue for many skiers.  Getting a good understanding of the snowpack stability has never been easy and skiers rely on reports from experts that often cover a large geographic area. 

The diffuse nature of the information previously available and broad spectrum of snow safety experience with skiers is often the cause of difficult group dynamics and poor decisions during ski touring. 

Sknow brings a new way of measuring, analysing and sharing snow stability data seamlessly between skiers.  This allows each skier in the group to get localised information based on their own Sknow radar sensor data as well as previously recorded data for the area. Giving the skiers more accurate information and an equal voice in the group. 

The task at hand

Developing a technical product for skiers has its set of challenges. Freezing cold weather, gloves, sunshine, social engagement during tours, and focus on the activity. 

Alongside the development of the product we needed to take care to develop a product strategy that would succeed in introducing a “blue ocean” technology to a diverse user base.

We needed to discover how the user currently approached the use of a mobile device while out skiing and what level of engagement was acceptable.

Above all we set out to offer a product that would increase the users knowledge about snow safety without giving a false confidence.  

Meeting the skier

We were lucky enough to have access to a diverse group of backcountry skiers and spent some time getting to understand their motivations, concerns and wants.   Activities ranged from phone interviews to shadowing on multi-day tours. 

experts & noobs

Through our interviews and observations we found that we needed to take care of two very different groups of users; the snow safety experts and guides that deliver avalanche information as well as the bulk of relatively inexperienced skiers. 

We established a strategy where Sknow would act to support and connect the two groups by giving the experts a tool to collect and share their information in a simple way and at the same time give the less experienced skiers a tool to learn and access information while at the same time giving back valuable information to the expert.

 

User journey.

After the initial phase of getting to know the user group and determining the key personas, we dove into mapping out several scenarios where users might interact with the products. We took care to understand the level of interaction at each stage from the planning of a ski trip to the return home.

 

Trying it out.

We played out those scenarios with our different user groups using simple hardware and software prototypes doing quick iterations to refine and validate the progress. 

The product evolved a lot during this period and we found that a lot of what people expected from the product in the first introduction got old fast and we got to distill the feature set through constant feedback. 

The takeaways:

  • I learned a great deal about juggling different stakeholders in this project. It was absolutely paramount to engage the expert users and at the same time convince different stakeholders that the product would bring value to more novice skiers.
  •  Each user acts very differently throughout the different parts of the journey. Dont expect the same reaction when the external context changes.
  •  Dig for the answer…. 
  • What works in the lab might not fly in the wild.

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