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Illustrated maps that fold in 55 directions and messy dry-erase boards have long been ski areas’ preferred methods of announcing trail locations and conditions. But in 2014, three Colorado friends decided those analog resources weren’t the best means of conveying real-time information. In other words, they were tired of making their ways over to midmountain lifts only to find them closed and annoyed with wrong turns that led them to become accidental obstacles on slalom courses.
The trio—which includes an aerospace engineer, a Marine veteran, and a Harvard-educated virology Ph.D.—formed Centennial-based Alpine Media Technology and spent two years developing screens for gondolas and chairlifts. (The key was creating a now-patented electrical system that keeps its power in freezing temperatures; essentially, the apparatus recharges itself as it winds around the bullwheel at the bottom of the lift.) The company’s monitors are roughly the size of an iPad and scroll through details about, say, which runs have been groomed and which ones are closed; they also relay mountain happenings, like the start time for a concert in the main village. Alpine launched a pilot program at Winter Park Resort last year and will likely expand to 10 more locales (Telluride Ski Resort included) this season.
In an effort to keep the new technology from jacking up the price of your already expensive lift ticket, Alpine gives the devices to ski resorts for free. However, the company’s willingness to share may have one potential drawback for skiers looking to fully immerse themselves in the outdoors: Because a good chunk of Alpine’s revenue comes from advertising, your powder days now come complete with banner ads.