History, Vision, Future of SkiBuds (and why I need your help)
Before I get into everything, I want to say thank you to everyone who uses the app, and takes the time to read this article. A lot of people think there is a big team behind SkiBuds, but to me the team is all the users. I have labored through thousands of lines of code, and would have given up many times, but every time I met someone through the app it re-grounds me and gets back to the purpose.
SkiBuds started as an idea to find other people to share accommodation with and morphed into just finding people to ride with from a safety perspective and also to carpool to the mountains- reducing traffic, carbon emissions, and helping share the cost of parking.
It was built with React Native in order to easily compile down to both android and iOS in order to give everyone a chance to use the app, with a backend in Firebase. Built while riding everyday in Whistler during the 2018/2019 season a lot of based off ideas presented to me while talking to people on chairlifts and living in a 4 bed dorm room throughout the season.
This article is about what has gone into the app and what the future holds.
In 2019/2020 I moved to Colorado with one of my best friends Michael. He has inspired me to continue to put many hard hours in on the app, and continuously helps while being off at sea fishing off the coast of Alaska- from creating IG filters, helping run our social media, and continuing to get more people on the app. By the time I left Colorado in March, I had already met over 60 people on the app. That number has ballooned past 100 to date, and many people that I continue to keep in contact with and still ride to this day.
When launched, the app didn’t have features like push notifications and was quite buggy. A lot of this has been fixed, but for those of you that don’t know the app is completely free, hasn’t been monetized in any way, and has been fully built in my free time while working full time as the sole web developer for a health care startup streaming workout videos to people suffering from many active aging conditions. I love to work on the development- honestly that’s what keeps me going. To find new features and figure out ways to implement them. Unfortunately, I tell myself time and time again no mater how perfect any app is, if you don’t have the users it’s pointless, so I have spent numerous hours on marketing- grass roots- 130k stickers, flags, shirts, hoodies, hats, buffs, etc... Rather than building features almost everything you see out there has been designed and created during this time.
I can't even describe the amount of time I have spent talking to random people across different groups, the number of posts, the amount of time I have gone to the post office. This season I have been able to meet up with several of those people and it's been amazing. I hope to continue to meet everyone someday at the slopes.
When I left Colorado, I drove to SLC and flew up to Whistler to ride with one of my best friends, Justin who flew out from Vail.
We had an epic week, met many people and ultimately culminated in meeting a new friend, Aodhgan, via the app. We rode for 2 days at Whistler and had some good times. He was heading out to Kicking Horse. I immediately took him up on the offer to travel out there and we rode the last day at Kicking Horse before they closed. Then we hit Lake Louise their last day, and did a day backcountry snowmobiling in Revelstoke
Unsure of the future I flew back to SLC and decided to stick out the first 2 months of the lockdown in little cottonwood, close to Alta. I was really unsure of what was happening in the world like everyone else and decided to take a mental brake from the app for the next 2 months. I had no idea what was going to happen the next season and that scared me from continuing to put many hours in. I worked on some new side projects. However, after building a bed in my car and heading out to Oregon to meet up with Michael for a week before he took off to fish, the development began again.
I spent the next several weeks kiting the gorge (Hood River)/ pistol river, and the whole Oregon coast, sleeping in my car, and working on implementing lift status notifications.
Unfortunately, many of the api’s changed and it’s all based off current lift status’s on resorts sites. Many resorts stopped saying what is open and instead report what is expected to be open as open all the time. This feature was something I felt would be super useful on a powder day when you are trying to plan which lifts to hit based on when they open up. You can get notifications without having to constantly check your phone. Unfortunately, outside some of the smaller resorts (timberline still works great), this idea which took a lot of development time is somewhat useless. That being said, I am working hard to figure out ways to get actual status and hope to bring it back/ relaunch it next season.
Come September I was in Dominican Republic for a couple months and spent the first 2-3 weeks literally redoing all of the authentication, push notifications, and many of the backend code due to some major changes with firebase. This was a huge process and with a curfew between 7-9pm every night depending on the day of the week, I was constantly working, testing, and trying to get everything rebuilt.
I was continuously working on getting new skibuds designs for future apparel and once the backend work was done and integrated, I thought of another cool idea. Stories you can post to show what mountain conditions are like, meetups, or just to share your stoke with others. I spent a couple longs nights working on adding this in and then went back to getting the apparel ready.
Additionally, I built in functionality for geofencing for resorts so that it knows when you get to a certain area- remind you to check in, gives bar specials, tip and tricks for the resort, etc.. This is already created, I just have been on the train of trying to get local establishments to get on board with this. I already have a sheet with over 1,000 establishments contact info that was created over a couple weeks and am planning on using this next year. I have a deck I sent out to some, but really, the timing on businesses taking risks isn't ideal and I have instead decided to have materials ready for next season so have continued to grow this list.
I had no idea if there would be a season since most of Europe had already closed their lifts for the year. I was unsure what to do, but still kept trucking away. There were some setbacks with apple requiring I add in apple authentication because Google and Facebook are also included. This was one long morning of integrating, but because of names from private relay I need to figure out a better way for people from apple to be able to change their username.
I placed a big order with our new apparel line and then flew up to Seattle/Bellingham to get back to working with Michael and get some epic pow days in on Mount Baker.
We brainstormed some new ideas like flags that stick outside your car when you are riding hoping this would help grow the app more, and placed an order for more apparel.
We currently are selling apparel and have a shop set up with all profits going to adaptive ski and snowboard through the end of the 2020/2021 season.
While taking a trip to Colorado to ride with some of my best friends and see my family, I was able to completely build a revamped skibuds website. Part of this was to increase SEO, and partly was to have community members be able to share real articles about concepts not talked on a lot in the ski industry. We don’t want to be like any specific blog- we want to really have stories that are meaningful where you can learn about others cool experiences and get tips from others for going on some of these adventures- from teaching a baby to ski, doing yoga aimed at certain muscles, to building road gaps and how much work goes into it and the amount of stoke when it’s finally hit for the first time.
To be honest, I am not sure what value this blog itself will provide and really it is outside of my intentions of a blog post, but my hope is to really show how I have dedicated a lot this last 2 years. I have worked so hard to incorporate asks, try to grow the user base, and really make it possible for people to have a better experience. I probably would have stayed in Cabarete had it not been for this app. I would have never moved to Colorado, I would have made many different choices, but I have really put a lot of energy into trying to make this something that helps.
My hope is to encourage the community to give more feedback, find more developers, influencers, og riders, and get people to help provide what they want. I think this year has been a bit of a wash with uncertainty, and I really haven't given the full 100% I gave last year. I don't ride with a cape, I am probably at 40 days (I don't keep track anymore) instead of over 100 (153- 2018/19, 114- 2019/2020), I don't pass out stickers or approach random people. It's a different environment, but I am still invested.
Back in Tahoe/SLC I decided to do a frontend ui overhaul in order to allow us to build in many several front end features that we are working on. One that we have in mind and has already been started is the ability to have friends and check in. This is basically done, but just needs some testing. But the key with this is knowing when your friends are on the mountain and then them getting notified when you get there. This saves time texting and also allows you to connect with friends you never knew were going to be riding that day.
Given that the season is winding down I have taken some time to work in some up and coming blockchains and improve my knowledge in that space. I will probably catch a code bug at some point where I crank through some of the other ideas, but feel integration with blockchain into the app could have some huge impacts. I am now spending time looking into accelerators and incubators as the value they would provide would be great.
Last season we hit 6600 users and 350+ daily before the end of the season and this year it’s closer to 100-150 daily active users, but the users I see are much more active on the forum and I continue to hear of more and more meetups. Some people don't see this and I would love for you to share your meetups and send pictures to our IG.
What this article fully is getting at is that is almost impossible to try to launch a platform for skiing without money or with a very small team behind it no matter how motivated those people are.
If you made it this far, I would love for you to:
-Supply use with ideas to continue to make the app better
-Strategies you think might work at acquiring more users
-Negatives from the app in it’s current state
-Good, Bad, Ugly from the app
-Write a piece for our blog
-Leave a review on the app/ google play store
-Tell your buddies on social media or in Facebook groups about why it’s different (realtime meetup)
-Let us know Powwowllc1@gmail.com how you would like to help the team -from helping with social media, coding, working to get small businesses onboard with the geofencing idea (check into park city as an example - then you get a $1 beverage coupon - driving more traffic to the local business and benefiting the customer), or just send us photos to use or feedback on the app.
Hope everyone has a safe end to their season and we look forward to continue to grow. Thanks to everyone out there that still supports the app and the mission behind it. I will continue to try to build as many new features as asked in as while as making the app the most functionally smooth.