New Web sites let skiers surf slopeside | ParkRecord.com

New Web sites let skiers surf slopeside

by ANNA BLOOM, Of the Record staff

Following a high-tech trend that is increasingly becoming a standard cell phone feature, Park City area companies are beginning to tap into the mobile Web arena, a marketplace that appeals to visitors and local residents alike.

For over a month now, snow hounds and the weather weary have been able to dial into mobile Web version for Park City Mountain Resort’s site at mobile.pcmr.com, and mobile.skiutah.com, which scoops the snow reports for Utah’s 13 ski resorts and select Nordic tracks.

Park City Mountain Resort’s Interactive Marketing Manager Eric Hoffman tracks approximately 50 users a day pulling up the resort’s Web site on their phones for current weather, events, snow conditions, lift status and bowl status. The mobile Web site also informs visitors which Signature Runs were groomed the night before.

"Technology has some really serious benefits in terms of communication and through the mobile Web, we really have a way to keep our guests informed," Hoffman said. "We’ve had feedback from guests and they really want to know when Jupiter Bowl or Pine Cone Ridge opened, and via your Web-enabled cell phone, you can actually check the status of those areas in real time."

Surfing wirelessly may have been a Blackberry members-only club a few years ago, but increasingly, computer-like screens for phones are becoming universal. According to a January article in the New York Times, numbers from a London technology-consulting firm indicate that of the 190 million people who own a cell phone in the United States, 150 million have a color screen.

Most mobile phones come equipped with the Internet tool, and accessing the browser is typically just a matter of activating the service by paying a monthly fee. For Verizon Wireless’ Web 2.0, for example, there is a monthly charge of $4.99, plus airtime.

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Since phone screens are significantly smaller, mobile surfers browse a modified Internet, where Web sites are translated into simpler versions with less text and fewer graphics. In tech-speak, this means content is "re-purposed" for handsets. The essentials are there, but the phone version of the Website has been trimmed of all the bells and whistles.

David Kavanagh, a parkcity.com partner and a Web designer, describes the process as something like returning to an earlier stage in Web site design.

"It’s not hard to design Web sites for mobile uses," he claims. "Mobile Web sites typically don’t have graphics or a lot of the dynamic content Web sites are well-known for now. It’s kind of a funny thing, because it’s like taking a huge step backwards in the design and development process."

Parkcity.com, owned by a South Carolina company, is marketed and configured as a travel portal to help what Kavanagh calls "out-of-market" visitors plan their vacations, often before they get to town. Kavanagh anticipates the mobile Web site version, on the other hand, will enable the company to reach travelers and residents locally.

In time for this weekend, the parkcity.com website launches its cell phone-accessible site, mobile.parkcity.com, which will offer visitors the ability to find phone numbers Park City restaurants and taxi cabs and scroll for local theater movie times.

"The mobile Web takes on a different perspective," he says. "Our thought and the principles behind this new site design, is that it’s about someone who’s sitting on the chairlift or standing on the street someone who’s already here."

In a few years, Kavanagh expects phone users will not have to use separate mobile addresses to visit Web sites the sites will be capable of distinguish between cell phone and computer users and direct them to the proper version of the site.

Though the Park City Chamber/Bureau is well aware of the new technology, the organization has no Web site projects for their site in the works just yet. Chamber/Bureau Tourism Marketing Manager Mary McPheters says that they are aware of the technology and that "we’d be foolish not to look at it."

She sees the mobile Web as more of a service to people once they’re in town looking for entertainment or restaurants, and not booking travel.

"I can see someone sitting on a lift wondering where to go to dinner and picking up their phone to figure it out," McPheters says.

McPheters says she is already tapping into the hip trend herself on weekend mornings on her way into town from her home in the Heber Valley.

"I go to Weather.com to check the weather," she confesses. "Usually Saturday mornings, I like to see what temperatures are like in Park City."

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