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Mountain Technology Symposium: Data and Adventure!

BY JOSH SCOTT

What do you get when you gather minds from all over the world to discuss what can be done with technology to grow the ski and hospitality industries? Collaboration? Solutions? Fun? The attendees at the 2018 Mountain Technology Symposium in Sun Valley, ID might give you a dozen different answers. And then they would debate the correct answer for hours until everyone still disagreed—because they are IT.
After the success of the inaugural event in Telluride, CO, the symposium committee of seven decided that continuation of the event was justified. For three too-short days during the weekend of Oct 13, 2018, IT experts from 4 countries, 22 ski resorts, all from 23 states and provinces, met in a beautiful Idaho area called Sun Valley. Our goal was to drive technology for resorts and hospitality facilities at a rate no one can do alone. The achievement of such a goal is difficult to quantify or grade, but when collaboration and communication between colleagues has increased, and new topic ideas explode onto an agenda for the next symposium, general success is clear.

The brain child for the first symposium in Telluride was Benjamin Whiting, IS Director. Chris Jaquet, Software Specialist for the same resort, took on planning, coordination, and a list of other cornerstone responsibilities too long to list in a magazine article. Between these two professionals and the rest of the symposium committee, they hit it out of the park. Compliments from attendees hardly stopped. Sponsors and presenters alike were more than satisfied with the turnout.

As one would expect, year one of the event was not flawless. Not all presenters were precisely aware of the desired presentation focus. There were some great speakers, and several sessions were both insightful and useful, but not everyone delivered problem, concept, and solution. Beyond that, from a higher level, the whole event was not exactly what it could have been for maximum benefit. In short, the hosts just didn’t yet know precisely what that was—what this seminar could be.

Due to dozens of discussion, loads of feedback, and one survey, these shortcomings were fixed for year two. Presenters not only discussed solutions, but also thought provoking concepts. Even the speakers that were praised in 2017 brought further improvements and fresh ideas to their sequel speeches. The community effort shaped year two into something that gave that community a greater awakening to the benefit a resort-focused technology conference than many imagined was possible.

The keynote by Sun Valley’s CEO, Tim Silva, was focused on the state of the industry and some fundamental challenges at its core. Let’s face it. Someone has to keep the professional goals of the technically minded aimed at the right target or they’d end up building brilliant machines that do amazingly expensive things that, well, might not perfectly serve the customer or the bottom line. Ultimately Mr. Silva expressed his appreciation for the event and how valuable he felt it was.

The symposium was not just about work, though. After a person has visited several mountain ranges around the continent, it’s difficult to rank them. Suffice to say, the views at Sun Valley are as uniquely beautiful as the rest. And as a business, the resort provides an impressive variety of activities and hospitality accommodations, including an ice rink, a shooting range, bowling, and a wide range of fine dining options.

No matter how much both Sun Valley and Telluride were adored, variety is at the root of inspiration. Year three of the Mountain Technology Symposium will take place at Jay Peak Resort in Vermont. 2019’s location has all the needed facilities and conveniences, as well as a full stack of bonus optional activities. The proximity to hundreds of hotel rooms, a reasonable drive to the Burlington airport, multiple linked conference rooms in walking distance from lodging should provide exemplary accommodations. To top off the experience, plenty of dining options, an 18 hole golf course, self-belay climbing for any skill level, and the Clips & Reels movie theater, the Pump House Water Park for all ages and categories of humans! It’s a good thing ski resort staff know how to balance work and fun.

After observing and experiencing the freshman and sophomore years of the Mountain Technology Symposium, including front row seats as a committee member myself, I’m not sure the junior year will be perfect. But I’m predicting it will be close. Don’t miss out! Keep an eye on mountainsymposium.com for updates on details. See you in October!

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