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Whistler Blackcomb joins other ski resorts with GPS

Flaik devices keep track of kids, people taking private lessons

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After a day on the mountain, kids with Whistler Blackcomb's ski programs can now find out exactly where they skied, how fast they went, their average speed and how much vertical they covered.

On Nov. 26 this year, Whistler Blackcomb introduced GPS-tracking units to keep track of kids and instructors on the mountains and compile their statistics into an easy-to-read format.

The units, made by Australia- and American-based company Flaik, are kept in a small package that attach to a skier's lower leg.  They run primarily off the cell phone network, and provide information back to Whistler Blackcomb's computers about where that person is in real-time.

"It is a pretty cool way for parents and kids to be able to interact about their experience after the ski day," said Rob McSkimming, vice president of business development at Whistler Blackcomb.

Copper Mountain and Steamboat both started using the Flaik GPS units in November 2008.

Since then eight other ski resorts beyond Whistler Blackcomb have also adopted the technology including: Winter Park, Stratton Mountain, Mont Tremblant, Smugglers' Notch, Alpine Meadows, and Homewood.

McSkimming said Whistler Blackcomb knew other Intrawest resorts were using the devices last year, but unfortunately they were not able to adopt the technology in time for the 2008-09 season.

He added Whistler Blackcomb's large children's ski program added another logistical barrier originally. On the biggest days, the program can have up to 2,000 kids aged three- to 17 years old on the mountains.

"We are just so big," said McSkimming.

"The number of kids we put through our program is so much bigger than other resorts. We just want to take the time to make sure we were going to be able to handle the kinds of volumes that we got."

After skiing, parents and kids in the program get an ID number, which they can use when they log onto a website to review their statistics for the day, as well as compare how they did to previous days.

The devices also trigger an alarm when a kid strays too far away from an instructor. As Mcskmming described it, a certain alarm goes off when a kid is 50-metres away from the instructor, and a more urgent alarm sounds when the child is 100 metres away.

So far, McSkimming said feedback from the program has been positive. Parents appreciate the comfort of knowing where their children skied, and teenage skiers enjoy being able to look up their statistics at the end of the day.

The program is also available to people taking private lessons with Whistler Blackcomb, with the ski resort having a total of 2,500 GPS devices to go around.

 

 

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