iPhone ski guide launched by Denver company | VailDaily.com

iPhone ski guide launched by Denver company

DENVER, Colorado ” A Denver, Colorado company that has been hawking its location-based services to help mobile phone users see where their friends are is taking its tricks to the ski slopes.

Billed as an interactive pocket ski guide, the new iPhone application Snocator (rhymes with “locator”) is the latest program from Liberty Media Corp. subsidiary Useful Networks.

Looking for the closest ski lodge at Aspen to grab some hot cocoa? Trying to avoid getting stuck on a steep, tree-filled ski run with no easy way down? Using Snocator, a skier can tap her iPhone and have it show her location on a GPS map with trails marked in color.

A few more taps pull up weather forecasts, views from mountain cameras, snow reports and trail maps of hundreds of resorts worldwide. GPS maps are available for more than 60 resorts in the U.S. and Canada.

“You never need to get a trail map again once you get this,” Useful Networks CEO Brian Levin said.

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Snocator works best on 3G iPhones with GPS capability and when the phones can get data signals or WiFi connections. When skiers are out of reach of cell phone towers in the backcountry, the GPS functions still work, but users would need to download trail maps before heading to the mountain.

The program went through a beta test last year with Vail Resorts Inc.

The potential market for Snocator is unclear. About 13 million iPhones have been sold worldwide. The trick is finding skiers and snowboarders with iPhones. At the 2008 Colorado Ski and Snowboard Expo this month, Useful Networks found plenty of snowhounds interested in Snocator, but not everyone had an iPhone.

Snocator also costs $5.99. A competing iPhone application from Podpro Systems, for one, offers some of the same functions free but doesn’t map a skier’s location.

Users also would have to get an updated version of Snocator each season.

Still, Levin is aiming for 100,000 users this season.

“It’s cheaper than a hamburger when you go to Vail,” Levin said.

Snocator plans to add revenue by integrating advertising. Versions for Blackberry users and for phones running Google Inc.’s Android operating system are planned.

Snocator also plans to help users keep track of friends on the mountain by integrating Sniff, a Useful Networks application in which users who sign up can send a text message and have Sniff map the locations of friends who are fellow Sniff users.

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