Marketplace: For skiers, Snocru is the app for that
November 18, 2016
In his young 20s, Ed Lewis and the friends he'd met during college on the mountains of Vermont established a tradition. Every Presidents Day weekend, they would escape to Utah and spend a few days doing nothing but shredding the slopes and enjoying each other's company.
Slowly, however, the group began to dwindle. One by one, Lewis' friends got married, then had children, and the relationships drifted apart. Afternoons at the ski resort, once a big party, became lonely.
"We started with seven or eight of us," he said. "Then by the time 2009 rolled around, there were three of us. Then two dropped out and ditched me."
It was then that Lewis realized it didn't have to be that way. After discovering that there was no app or website to help skiers and snowboarders connect with others on the mountain, he created his own, called Snocru. Don't want to ski by yourself? With a few taps on a touchscreen, users can find a new group — or cru — of friends to spend the day on the slopes with.
Lewis launched the app in 2011, and after a few tweaks, it was met with acclaim. Over the following five years, its seen its functionality expanded, grew to nearly 150,000 active users (and about 500,000 downloads) and earned recognition by numerous media outlets as one of the best apps for skiers and snowboarders.
Now Lewis, who moved to Park City from the East Coast to start the app, is hoping to take it to the next level. For the first three years, he said he focused on building the brand and developing a community of users. Just as important, he also devoted countless hours to ensuring the app provides an experience worthy of customers' time.
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In addition to polishing Snocru's social functions, Lewis added a number of features for skiers who aren't necessarily looking to mingle on the mountain. Primary among them is the app's tracking ability, complete with a leaderboard, that allows users to view statistics such as their top speeds, distances skied and vertical gains and compare them with other skiers. Users will also find detailed weather and snow condition reports for ski resorts around the globe.
After getting the functionality just right and building a customer base, Lewis turned his focus to a task all startups must eventually face: making the company profitable. He experimented the last couple years with different pricing models, and believes he's finally struck the right note for this ski season.
The way it works is simple. Users can take advantage of many of the app's basic utilities for free. But for $9.99 a year, they get access to its full array of functions. Subscribers can also choose a monthly package for $4.50, a weekly option that costs $2.99 or a day pass for 99 cents. The aim is to keep casual users on board while providing another layer of value for those who want to dive deep into the app's features.
"Obviously, I'm a little biased," he said. "But I think that's a sweet deal."
Lewis remains hopeful the app will become big enough to get bought out by another company or become self-sustaining. Five years after it first appeared in app stores, Snocru is still there, when many tech startups don't even make it past the first year. He's learned a lifetime worth of lessons and is grateful for the chance to keep going.
"You need to be committed," he said. "When I first started, I said I would give it five years and make the call to stop or start. And here I am and it's like, 'Snocru definitely needs another five years.' In order for me to feel fulfilled, I don't want to quit on this.
"I think being an entrepreneur is a really sexy idea, and it's trendy," he added. "But it takes (guts) and tenacity."
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