By Dan Rabin
Dan Rabin is a Boulder-based freelance writer and author of the guidebook, Colorado Breweries.
At the start of the 2014-2015 ski season, Copper Mountain released an update to Sherpa, a fun, informative and futuristic smartphone app touted as an on-mountain audio guide. The innovative app was first introduced for the 2013-2014 ski season. I spent a day exploring Sherpas capabilities last year and wrote about my experiences on this website. You can read my full report by clicking here.
To summarize, Sherpa tracks your location around Copper Mountain and plays a message, called an audible, whenever you come upon a place of interest. Audibles are communicated by voice through an earbud (you just need one) connected to your phone. Audibles provide information ranging from descriptions of nearby trails, to warnings of busy intersections ahead, to historical facts about the resort. You can also use the app to get weather and snow reports, buy lift tickets, call the ski patrol and a host of other useful functions. A given audible plays only once, so if you stay on the same terrain throughout the day, you wont hear the same messages repeated over and over.
Anxious to see what had changed in Sherpa 2.0, I made an early season visit to Copper to check out the apps new functions. In the new version, Sherpa builds upon its ambitious first incarnation by giving you the ability to create and share your own audibles and to access audibles created by friends, resort employees and local experts. There are numerous parallels between Sherpa and various social media sites, so if youre already tuned in to social media, Sherpa 2.0 should be simple to grasp.
Heres how it works. After downloading Sherpa 2.0, your first task is to create an account. Alternatively, you can create and access your account on your home computer, laptop or tablet without using the app by accessing the webpage https://sherpa.coppercolorado.com/signup. To make the most of your time at Copper, I recommend setting up your account before arriving for a day of skiing or boarding. During the signup process, youll select a username and password. Give some thought to your username as this will be the moniker by which your followers and potential followers will identify you forevermore. I had second thoughts after creating my account with the username geezer54, but discovered there was no way to go back and change it.
Youll also designate whether you want your audibles available to the public or only to approved followers. You can attach a photo, write a short bio and record or type in a unique alert that your followers will hear prior to hearing your audibles. My small circle of followers is greeted with Cheers Mate before my messages are played. Other information youll enter in your profile is your skill level and rider type, be it Skier, Boarder or Other. This information is used as a filter to make it easier for you and individuals with similar profiles to identify and follow each other. Except for your username, you can update your profile at any time.
The next logical step is to select other Sherpa users to follow. Sherpa will present you with a collection of Featured Personalities you can choose from, or you can find people to follow by designating a skill level and rider type, or by entering the username of people you know.
When you arrive at Copper Mountain and load the app, you wont yet have access to audibles. For audibles to play, you must first enter Sherpa Mode, a simple one-touch selection from the home screen. Once in Sherpa mode, youll receive a short greeting message that includes up-to-date snow and weather conditions, and other current information such as trail closures. As long as Sherpa mode is active, youll receive audibles both from Copper Mountain and from all users that youre following as you move around the mountain.
At some point, youll likely want to create your own audibles. The process is a straightforward once youve gone through it a few times. Your first step is to exit Sherpa Mode, which is used only to receive audibles. From the location where you want your audible to be recorded, you select the Audible option at the bottom of the screen. Sherpa has text-to-speech capabilities, so you can either speak your message into your smartphone or type it in. You can give your audible a name and set the boundary, which is the maximum distance from your current location that will trigger your audible to play. Select Save and youre done. Once youve created an audible, it cant be changed, only deleted and re-created.
To be able to hear audibles once again, you have to re-enter Sherpa Mode. For future releases of the app, it would be nice if toggling in and out of Sherpa Mode to hear audibles and access all the apps other functions were unnecessary. If youre toggling in and out of Sherpa Mode frequently, hearing the same greeting message whenever you re-enter Sherpa Mode gets a bit tiresome.
Since you can access your account at any time from any location, either through the app or online, you can use Sherpa as a planning tool. Once youre logged in, you can access a map view of Copper showing the location and audibles of any Sherpa user youre following. This is a handy feature for planning your next Copper Mountain visit. With the help of Sherpa, each visit to Copper can be a fresh experience.