Dec 29, 2022 • 1HR 40M

Podcast #112: Aspenware CEO Rob Clark

“I’m on a mission to get technology considered in the same breath as lifts and snowmaking”

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Everyone’s searching for skiing’s soul. I’m trying to find its brains.
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Who

Rob Clark, CEO of Aspenware, an e-commerce and software company   

Rob skiing Vail Mountain. Photo courtesy of Rob Clark.

Recorded on

December 12, 2022

About Aspenware

Aspenware’s website declares that it’s time to “modernize your mountain.” As far as corporate sloganeering goes, this is a pretty good one. Skiers – like everyone – live on their phones. Ski areas need to meet them there – to sell them lift tickets, process their lunch order, sign their liability waivers, and rent them skis. This is what Aspenware does. “Close your ticket windows,” one of the company’s ad campaigns insists, “you don’t need them.” Alterra and Aspen Skiing Company agree. Earlier this year, the companies formed a joint venture to purchase Aspenware.

Why I interviewed him

I spend a lot of time rambling about lifts and terrain and passes – the meat of the lift-served skiing world; how resorts shape an interesting experience, and how skiers access it and move through it. But a modern ski experience does not just mean fast lifts and great snowmaking and diverse terrain offerings and passes that include the nine moons of Endor. It also means mitigating the ski day’s many built-in points of misery, which mostly have to do with lines. Everything we need to do that is already built into your smartphone. Ski areas just have to figure out how to tap that technology to streamline the experience. Aspenware is doing that.

What we talked about

Relocating to New England after nearly two decades in Colorado; Peek’N Peak; Holiday Valley; an Ohio boy goes West; 1-800-SKI-VAIL; running the Vail Mountain ticket windows in the pre-Epic Pass, everyone-buys-a-walk-up-ticket days; the Epic Pass debuts; RFID debuts; RTP in its heyday; a brief history of Aspenware and its evolution into a ski industry technology powerhouse; one of the largest organisms in the world; what it means to modernize a ski area with technology; how United Airlines inspired a pivot at Aspenware; how the ski industry went from an early tech adopter to a laggard; the problem with legacy tech systems; what happens when people ask me where they should go skiing; what happened when Covid hit; why some resorts ticket windows “will never open again”; tech resistance; “I’m on a mission to get technology considered in the same breath as lifts and snowmaking”; do ski areas need tech to survive?; what skiing is competing against; why Alterra and Aspen formed a joint venture to purchase Aspenware; which bits of tech it makes sense to develop in-house; the Shopify of skiing?; which tech skiers should expect in the future; Vail’s decision to move Epic Passes to phones next year; I still don’t think trailmaps belong on phones (exclusively); interactive trailmaps are terrible; why skiers should own their resort data; the evolution of dynamic pricing; and the one thing that actually makes skiers purchase lift tickets.        

Why I thought that now was a good time for this interview

As we all know, Covid supercharged the skiing tech cycle. In the eight months between the March 2020 shutdowns and the November-ish re-openings, the nation’s 470-odd ski areas had to figure out how to keep people as far away from each other as possible without blowing up the entire industry. The answer, largely, was by digitizing as much of the experience as possible. Aspenware met that moment, and its momentum has continued in the two years since.

Podcast Notes

  • Rob and I guessed a bit at the debut price of the Epic Pass back in 2008 – it was $579 for adults and $279 for children.

  • Rob referenced Start with Why, a business leadership book by Simon Sinek – you can buy it here.

  • I’ll make the same disclaimer with Aspenware as I did with OpenSnow: while Aspenware is a Storm advertising partner, this podcast was not part of, and is not related to, that partnership. Aspenware did not have any editorial input into the content or editing of this podcast - which is true of any guest on any episode (Rob did request one non-material cut in our conversation, which I obliged). I don’t do sponsored content. The Storm is independent ski media, based on reporting and independently verified facts - any opinion is synthesized through that lens, as it is with any good journalism outlet.


The Storm publishes year-round, and guarantees 100 articles per year. This is article 139/100 in 2022, and number 385 since launching on Oct. 13, 2019. Want to send feedback? Reply to this email and I will answer (unless you sound insane, or, more likely, I just get busy). You can also email skiing@substack.com.

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