Small-scale, mobile-first social networks are on the rise – just look at the likes of Path or Pair for proof of that. Now Snowciety is launching at The Next Web Conference to bring a combination of social networking and location tracking to the ski slopes of the world.

The Amsterdam-based startup was founded by Timan Rebel and Ronald Treur, two entrepreneurs with a shared passion for snowboarding. “We found that there are no really good tracking apps for skiing and snowboarding with social features. So we decided to scratch our own itch and built it ourselves,” says Rebel.

Available initially only for iPhone but with an Android version to follow later in the year, the idea is that on ski slopes, it’s easy to lose track of your friends and family. To solve this problem, Snowciety offers up a combination of Google Latitude and Path. You get beautiful maps of all the world’s ski resorts, including lifts and slopes, onto which friends’ locations are overlaid. Meanwhile, a timeline view keeps you up to date with their current activities.

Tracking is a big part of the app, too. Your progress on-piste is tracked, showing your distanced travelled, time spent skiing, and your speed. As well as keeping you informed of your personal progress, it means you can compete against friends for bragging rights. Turn-by-turn navigation is planned for the future, letting skiiers find points of interest or their friends with ease.

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Snowciety was originally planned back in 2009 as a browser-based service for planning skiing trips, but Rebel and Treur never ended up launching it. Now they’re hoping it’s the right time for a mobile, real-time take on the idea.

That said, the timing of the launch may seem a little odd. As summer approaches in the northern hemisphere, many popular ski resorts will be out of action for several months.

“It’s better to launch now, than waiting another six months till our season starts again,” says Rebel. “Customer development interviews can only tell you so much – only with real users you can test your hypotheses and make changes according to that. We are big fans of Customer Development by Steve Blank and The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. From May on we are focussing on the resorts that are open 365 days a year, plus don’t forget it is getting to winter in the southern hemisphere; a real upcoming market!”

Won’t mobile roaming data costs spoil the party though, seeing as many skiiers take to the slopes outside their home country? That’s not a problem, says Rebel. In addition to roaming data prices dropping, there are a significant number of people skiing in their own country.

Rebel says that on the tracking side of things, Ski Tracks is Snowciety’s biggest competitor. “It focusses on very detailed stats and has no social features at all. We show you the most important stats to keep the interface simple and clean, really focussing on the UX.”

Snowciety is available now for free, but will probably be increased to €0.79 in the future, with premium features offered as in-app purchases. The startup is also looking into partnerships with travel agencies, ski resorts and hardware manufacturers.

➤ Snowciety

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