He's a ski bum with a big heart who wanted to give back to his favourite mountain playground.
For Doug Sproul, that's meant learning to become a guidebook author, map-maker, layout whiz, Google Earth master, mobile app designer and publisher. And thanks to Kickstarter, throw in successful fundraiser.
The rewards — for both Sproul and Rogers Pass ski touring devotees — is his new Rogers Pass: Uptracks, Bootpacks and Bushwhacks guidebook, and its companion GeoBackcountry mobile optimized guide and printed topographical map.
A Revelstoke, B.C. resident for nine years, Sproul has spent two decades exploring the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirks as a climber, mountain biker and backcountry skier and ski mountaineer.
Now a permanent resident of Canada, Sproul was born in the U.S. and grew up in Massachusetts. He grew to love skiing in Colorado, but once he discovered western Canada's big mountains, and the steep, deep powder of Rogers Pass, there was no turning back.
"Now I live here, powder central," Sproul said.
While's he's a certified ACMG assistant ski guide, becoming a guidebook publisher was work Sproul discovered he could do legally while living in Canada as a U.S. citizen. Thoroughly self-taught, the learning curve was challenging.
"This is what I can do to support myself," Sproul said. "This book has been 10 years in the making. I started on a super old laptop."
The results are nothing short of stunning. Its beefy 304 pages are crammed with colour and black and white images, and eye-catching chapter intro pages. The book is smartly organized into eight geographical areas, all clearly marked on the corresponding topo maps — those in the book, and the terrifically detailed 1:20,000 geo reference backpack-friendly paper one. Clear, sharp photos show accurate route lines with numbers corresponding to text info. He's included a mountain's worth of helpful tips for skiers not familiar with the area, plenty of which will likely benefit skiers who are, but who still have much exploring to do. His beta includes pointers on cliff bands and gnarly sections not always easy to decipher on a map, as well as national park restrictions, Alpine Club of Canada huts, appropriate gear for routes involving glacier travel, which slopes hold the best snow the longest when the baking sun is forming a nasty crust, and "Quickies, Classics & Epics" suggestions for each area.
A self-confessed map geek, he's especially proud of his topographic creations, which are based on high-tech, detail-rich European models.
"There's a lot to be said for old-fashioned paper maps," Sproul said.
His previous projects include an interactive guide to the 130-kilometre Bugaboos to Rogers Pass ski traverse mapped in KML and viewable in Google Earth or a GPS app, and an 81-page PDF Bugaboos to Rogers Pass ebook. His 345-page PDF ebook, Rogers Pass North, lists 173 ski touring and ski mountaineering routes. Both PDF books are Mac or PC-friendly, and were well received.
But with 100 routes illustrated on 201 high-resolution images, plus thirteen 1:20,000 high resolution maps, his Rogers Pass mobile optimized guide really caught the attention and imagination of the outdoor community, setting the benchmark for interactive, electronic mobile maps and guidebooks.
A savvy — and genuinely enthusiastic — self-marketer, while chatting with other skiers in the parking lot after a day of skiing he'll show them his mobile app on his phone marked with the day's waypoints. Knowing that Internet service only works in some places in Rogers Pass, the app caches Google Earth. "The guidebook is right in your phone," Sproul said, adding his impromptu demos help sell apps.
Without doubt, he admitted lessons learned through his previous projects served him well for his print book.
"You have no idea, man!" Sproul said with a belly laugh. "I've learned a lot, and I've learned what isn't a good idea."
Case in point, for the print book he reined in his meticulousness for detail displayed in his Roger Pass North ebook. To bankroll the project, he turned to Kickstarter, the online fundraising platform.
"It wouldn't have gotten done this year without it. There was no way I could come up with $22,000," Sproul said. As the project — and his enthusiasm grew — he decided to include printed maps and mobile apps with book purchases, depending on the amount pledged. Overall, 713 backers contributed $41,323.
"But it's going out just as fast as it came in!" he said, lamenting how shipping costs have added up at both ends.
"It's been a journey for sure," Sproul said. "A lot of managing, projecting, budgeting — I've gone from ski bum to spread-sheet guy."
That said, he's adamant none of his clothes are patched with duct tape.
"That's for 20-year-olds," he said. "You gotta sew it."
The guidebook, however, is just one way he's sharing his love for Rogers Pass. He made a donation to Parks Canada and formed the Rogers Pass Ski Club to help provide Parks' managers with feedback from the skiers who frequent the area.
"If a dirtbag ski bum can contribute to the betterment of the world, as I have with this book, then anybody can," Sproul said. "The terrain, the access, the consistency of the conditions — there's no place in the world like Rogers Pass. It's designed for skiing. There's lots of other great places in the Selkirks but you can't just drive up to them. You need a sled or a helicopter to get to those."
And for anyone suggesting he's shared a bit too much info in his book, Sproul suggests they go exploring.
"I've left entire areas out on purpose to leave a bit of the exploratory factor," Sproul sad. "There are entire mountains without any lines on them. All you gotta do is open your eyes and have some imagination."
For your own copy, visit www.geobackcountry.com.