This week, Copper Mountain Resort officials announced that the resort’s on-mountain mobile application, Sherpa, is available on the Android market.
Sherpa, which officially launched in November 2013 on the iTunes market, is — in its simplest definition — a hands-free mountain tour guide, said Dwight Eppinger, director of marketing at Copper Mountain. However, Sherpa contains some very distinct features that set it apart from other ski-industry apps on the market.
Before Sherpa, traditional applications came in two basic flavors, Eppinger said — those that simply regurgitated weather and snow conditions and those that tracked personal achievement statistics, such as speed and vertical feet skied, to provide users a gauge of their individual on-mountain performance.
Sherpa, on the other hand, features a different kind of GPS technology known as geo-ware that allows Copper Mountain officials to place electronic markers all over the resort. When a skier or rider approaches one of those markers, Sherpa chimes in with a short bass line or a twangy guitar riff to alert guests they are approaching an area of interest.
A voice follows to provide guests with information about everything from safety tips, terrain status and little nuggets of Copper Mountain history to handy pickup lines to kick off a chairlift conversation with the opposite sex and the best place to score a lunchtime plate of nachos.
Markers also are strategically placed in areas where guests commonly stop. In those areas Sherpa will chime in to provide users with directions back to the base of one of Copper’s three villages.
To further improve functionality, Eppinger said mountain officials set out to make Sherpa a hands-free application, considering mobile devices generally aren’t conducive to skiing and riding. Once the app is downloaded, all users have to do is click on the Sherpa icon on their phone, plug in their earphones and go.
“We really think skiing is about improving the mountain experience, rather than bragging to your friends stuck inside a cubicle about all the stuff you did on the mountain that day,” Eppinger said. “When we started thinking about this concept, we decided we wanted it to be about the ‘we,’ instead of the ‘me.’”
Copper Mountain currently features more than 200 messages attached to the dozens of markers placed throughout the resort’s terrain. The markers feature an average of three to five unique messages to ensure the app remains fresh, even for Copper Mountain’s legions of faithful locals.
In addition to enjoying an ever-growing GPS markers and their regularly changing messages, users can customize the app to their ability level, Austyn Williams, communications manager for Copper, said. That way, a beginner doesn’t inadvertently drop into an expert run.
Users also can sign up to receive a variety of alerts, such as on-mountain deals and real-time terrain updates.
“If you’re new to Copper Mountain, you kind of have to rely on the buddy system to experience secret stashes or to find out when new terrain is opening,” Williams said. “Sherpa turns everyone who comes to Copper Mountain into a local.”
If that wasn’t enough, Sherpa also contains a radical safety feature: the ski patrol button. In addition to preloading ski patrol’s phone number into the app, Copper Mountain officials utilize GPS technology to track guests’ latitude and longitude.
When a guest uses Sherpa to call for help, his or her location coordinates are instantly sent to ski patrollers, eliminating the guesswork of trying to remember or describe where a guest is on the mountain and providing rescuers the information they need to respond quickly and efficiently.
Eppinger and Copper Mountain officials first began working on Sherpa in June with Made Movement, based in Boulder. Officials also tapped longtime locals Chris Colman, director of mountain planning; Hagen Lyle, director of ski patrol; and Janie Merickel, ski patrol foreman to provide some of the more colorful historical facts about Copper Mountain.
Jennifer Walker, who works in the Copper Mountain Ski & Ride School and heads up the summer ambassadors program, is currently building markers for summer-guided hikes.
But Eppinger doesn’t plan to stop there, saying he envisions Sherpa as a constantly evolving, user-driven product.
By next year, Eppinger hopes to have the technology in place to allow guests to drop their own personal geo-located markers for family and friends.
From there, Eppinger said the app really is in the hands of the guests. The current version already has a function to email Copper Mountain officials feedback and ideas.
“I think this is a real benefit to the guest, but we’re always going to be looking for ways to improve it and we welcome their feedback,” Eppinger said. “This is an evolving piece of technology and the goal is to make it as good as we can.”
Sherpa is available for download at no cost on Apple iTunes and Google Play.
“When we started thinking about (Sherpa), we decided we wanted it to be about the ‘we,’ instead of the ‘me’ ” in the skiing experience.
Director of marketing at Copper Mountain