While some of us are slower to embrace technology, Nate Greenberg, co-author of Backcountry Skiing California’s Eastern Sierra, is expecting technology to propel the guidebook and the information it provides to a new height. We reached out to Nate and asked him about the new Backcountry Skiing California’s Eastern Sierra app on Rakkup. Here’s what Nate had to say:
In 2008 I set out to create a comprehensive and modern guidebook for California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada. After several years of skiing in the range, I was awestruck by the quality of skiing, and overall ease of getting into ‘real’ mountains – quickly. I, together with Dan Mingori, gathered combined years of first-hand experience to write Backcountry Skiing California’s Eastern Sierra. In 2013, after five years of successful sales, we released the 2nd Edition with two goals:
1. Increase the terrain covered in the book
2. Implement a classification and iconography system to help users quickly look at terrain and make Go/No-Go decisions
As an avid backcountry skier and co-founder of the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, my interest in writing a ski guide was more than just publishing popular descents and promoting this region. Rather, I am keenly interested in helping people make better decisions and terrain choices in the backcountry. I hoped that by providing the community with a variety of descents, classified by relevant characteristics, it would afford people options that they may have previously overlooked. While the 2nd Edition made inroads in this area, I have always wanted to do something more.
With a background in Geographic Information Systems, today I serve as Director of Information Technology for Mono County & Town of Mammoth Lakes, CA. Through my daily work, I spend a lot of time thinking about the intersection of information and technology, particularly as it relates to open data and geography.
In some ways, it is remarkable to me that in 2016, when there are more mobile devices in the world than personal computers, that the avalanche industry is still at the technological place it is at. While there is an ever-growing landscape of digital tools pointed at improving information dissemination and decision making, for the most part we struggle to figure out the best (and unified) path forward. This is not to say that there aren’t promising approaches out there – MountainHub for real-time data sharing and trip planning, AvyLab for data collection, and a litany of industry-driven mobile-friendly utilities to help us access avalanche center data.
About a year ago I was introduced to the small, Seattle-based app start-up, Rakkup. With a passion for climbing, the two partners at Rakkup set out a few years ago to transform the guidebook industry, and send it kicking and screaming into the digital world. Over the past 12 months, we have set out to rebuild their digital guidebook platform to accommodate winter backcountry content. The result of that effort launched on December 1st, 2016 with Rakkup v20 for iOS and two guidebook titles – Backcountry Skiing California’s Eastern Sierra, and Teton Pass Descents (authored by Jamie Weeks).
The catalyst for this project and moment defining my path forward came to me while visiting my wife in Boulder, CO last year. Being a Sierra skier, I am naturally terrified of skiing in the Rockies, while simultaneously being drawn to the impressive steep terrain of places like Rocky Mountain National Park. As a trained and responsible backcountry skier, the natural thing to do was to pick up Mark Kelly’s guidebook and thumb through it, highlighting the obvious descents and making a short list for the weekend. The real challenge, however, came when I tried to apply the information coming out of the CAIC to the actual terrain that I wanted to go ski, and seeing if those nasty persistent weak layers lined up with my list.
It turns out this is a challenging pursuit, even with all the resources and technology we typically have access to. Despite pins dropped on interactive maps showing recent observations, and some of the best avalanche forecasting in the US,
relating information coming from avalanche professionals to the real-world terrain that we want to ski is a real chore. Especially as an outsider. Sure, the forecast says “avoid north facing terrain above 10,000,” but who in today’s world ventures out randomly to seek out non-north facing terrain below 10k? We want a list of objectives (with directions and definitions) of where we can, and should go.
Our objectives for the initial product launch of Rakkup v20:
· Establish a platform – that clearly displays content and provides users with interactivity – on which multiple guidebook titles could be authored
· Leverage a business model that encourages and monetizes authoritative content development with easy to use authoring tools
· Provide a set of search, sort, and filtering tools to help users quickly ‘Red Light’ terrain based on avalanche forecasts, and target terrain based on where the best skiing could be found
· Work offline, on USGS topo maps and aerial imagery with approach/descent lines overlaid alongside your current GPS location
· Display multiple photos with route lines, written descriptions, and other information that helps users find their way
· Begin a conversation around developing standards for how we classify and categorize backcountry terrain features relative to difficulty and hazard
We hope, and honestly believe, this app will change the way terrain selection is taught, while simultaneously empowering users with the ability to quickly and easily apply everyday conditions to make solid terrain choices. As additional titles are written and new perspectives are included on the Rakkup team, we envision a long list of added features and functions which will thrust the app even more into the ‘must have’ category of backcountry enthusiasts. In the near term, we strive to develop the ability to consume data coming out of avalanche centers and other real-time data sources, contribute observations and conditions back to local centers, and effectively engage the community via social media.
For more information contact Nate Greenberg, or visit rakkup for download and purchase details.
Nice work! I’ve read your books and look forward to trying the app.