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January 2019

Mountain Spy :: January 2019

Can I use Snowfeet at your area?

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The Question: I just found out I’m getting these things called Snow Feet for Christmas. Can I use them at your mountain?

When a new snow-sliding product hits the market, somebody is bound to get it and will want to try it on your mountain. It happened with snowboards, snowskates, ski bikes—with some products gaining traction and widespread acceptance, others not as much.

The jury is still out on Snowfeet, mostly because folks have no idea what Snowfeet are—at least, the people I spoke to didn’t. They all needed a description of the product, which I said were like snowboard bindings with metal edges that you wear on your boots and slide down the mountain on. I got put on hold a lot.

I’m sure my query wasn’t the oddest one fielded by resorts on Spy Mission day. Do the rest of the industry a favor and send me questions you think would be good for Mountain Spy to ask. It’s easy to do. Just send an email to:

Mountain #1, WY

Answering phone: Automated machine. Connected to operator.
First contact: Female.
Staff: Can I place you on a brief hold?
SAM: Sure thing. (on hold for nearly 3 minutes)
Staff: How can I help you? (you’re welcome for holding, btw.)
SAM: Stated question, plus description.
Staff: Oh. OK. I think I know what you’re talking about. Basically a mini snowboard?
SAM: No, just the snowboard binding. One on each foot, strapped to your boots. Like skis that are only the length of your shoe.
Staff: More like a snowshoe?
SAM: Kinda, but not really. You slide down the hill on them.
Staff: As long as you can get on and off the lift safely, and come to a complete stop, then you’re good.
SAM: Well, I hope I can come to complete stop. If I can, and can load and unload the lift safely, I can use them there?
Staff: Yup.
SAM: Awesome. Thanks!

Score: 3
Comment: Putting me on hold for that long was a bad start. Not acknowledging the delay when she finally picked up made it worse. But at least I got a decent answer.

Mountain #2, VT

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose general information.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question, plus description.
Staff: Hmm. Snowfeet. Let me take a quick look for you. Just a moment. (holding…)
Staff: You have brought a great question to my attention, and my supervisors don’t know the answer to it right now. But I can get your phone number and give you a call back. Would that be OK?
SAM: I’m actually in transit, so it would probably be easier for me to give you a call back.
Staff: No problem. I will look into it for you, and when I have an answer I’ll make sure the rest of our agents are aware so when you call back we’ll all be able to tell you either way.
SAM: Great. Thanks. It is kind of a different thing, so that’s why I called.
Staff: Hey, ya know, snowboarding was a new thing how many years ago, right? Now it’s the norm (laughs).
SAM: That’s true! I could be an early adopter to the next big thing!
Staff: We’ll see! Thanks for calling!

Score: 9
Comment: Super polite, and offered to go out of her way to get me the answer when she couldn’t get it the first time. Plus, the comparison to snowboarding made me feel good about my forthcoming Christmas present.

Mountain #3, NH

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question, plus description.
Staff: Hmm. Good question! (laughs)
SAM: Yeah, they’re a little different.
Staff: No, I know exactly what you’re talking about. Um, OK, let me ask. I’m gonna put you on hold.
SAM: OK. (on hold for 3 minutes…)
Staff: Hi, thank you for holding. So, this has been interesting (laughs). We even talked to ski patrol! So, you would actually put it on your ski boot, correct? (Ah! So you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about.)
SAM: You actually strap them to a winter boot or a snowboard boot.
Staff: Ohh, oh. Right.
SAM: It’s not a click-in binding. It’s like a snowboard binding and the whole thing is basically the length of the sole of the boot.
Staff: OK. So they… are not … sure … if we’ll allow that. OK?
SAM: OK, no worries.
Staff: OK? OK. Alright, well, good luck with that.
Staff: OK, thanks, bye.

Score: 3
Comment: She did a lot to try and find the answer, was humorous, but when confronted with actually not knowing the answer, was quick to awkwardly dismiss me.

Mountain #4, NC

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question, plus description.
Staff: Ahh, I’m not sure, but I’ll send you to my supervisor and she’ll be able to let you know. Just leave a message if she doesn’t answer, OK?
Second contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question, plus description.
Staff: Ahh, if they have a retention device on them, we would. But if they don’t, we would not allow them.
SAM: Oh, OK. Yeah, they’re like a snowboard binding, strapped to your boot.
Staff: You still have to have a retention device, like a leash or something attached to both of them.
SAM: Ooohhh. Gotcha. That makes sense. I don’t know if they have that or not. But if they do, I’m good?
Staff: You know, you should probably check in when you get here, because they’ll probably start asking you questions on the hill if they don’t know what it is.
SAM: Good call. I’ll do that.
Staff: OK, sounds good. Buh bye.

Score: 7
Comment: First staffer didn’t waste any time getting me to someone she thought would have the answer, and that someone did: no leash, no lift.

Mountain #5, AB

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question, plus description.
Staff: They’re called snow feet?
SAM: That’s what the product is, yeah.
Staff: OK, I’m going to take a look at the written policy. Bear with me.
SAM: Thanks. They are a little different. That’s why I’m calling.
Staff: You sound really excited about getting this gift. (laughs)
SAM: (laughing)
Staff: Yeah, I’ve never heard of them. So, the policy says: apparatus must have metal edges, must have some form of restraining device …
SAM: So, like, if they fall off my feet I need to have some sort of leash?
Staff: Well, even it’s with like ski bindings … (I can tell she’s reading). It does say no snowskates.
SAM: Yeah, those are binding-less, though. Like a skateboard deck. These are strapped to my feet.
Staff: Ya know, do you have an email address? I’ve never had that specific question, so I just want to make sure we can get you the right answer.
SAM: Let me make sure I’m actually getting them first before you go through any additional trouble. If I am, I’ll holler back.
Staff: Sure. Sounds good. Have a good day.

Score: 7
Comment: A little lethargic, but very nice. Referencing the written policy—and having it on-hand—was good. And finally offering to follow up with a definitive answer was good, too.

Mountain #6, MI

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question, plus description.
Staff: Yeah, OK, so you’re binded in, right?
SAM: Yeah, it looks like they have two straps on the front, but I’m not sure how the heel is secured. They look pretty snug in videos.
Staff: Do they have a leash or some sort of stopper on them?
SAM: That’s a great question. I don’t know. (laughs)
Staff: (laughs) Yeah, so we don’t allow, like, snowskates because you have to be strapped in and have a leash, or have brakes on them like skis do. But I would say, if you’re strapped in, umm, or if there’s a leash connecting you to it, I would say … yes? But, um, it’s kinda hard without actually seeing them.
SAM: That makes sense.
Staff: OK, cool. What are they called again?
SAM: Snowfeet.
Staff: OK, I’ve never heard of those before. I would say as long as they’re strapped to you—we require that for snowboards. We just don’t want anything coming off anyone and flying down the hill and hitting other people. It’s definitely a safety thing. So, you know what? If you do get them, bring them here to rentals and ask them what they think. I don’t want to say yes or no without knowing exactly what they are.
SAM: Sounds good. If I get them and they don’t have a leash, I just won’t bother bringing them.
Staff: Well, you can actually buy leashes here for like five bucks. So that shouldn’t stop you.
SAM: Oh, cool.
Staff: Yeah, not everyone has them for their snowboards, and since we require them we just tell folks to go to the shop, get one for five bucks and you can go on the hill (explains the safety benefits of a leash). So, bring them here and show them to rentals anyway just to be sure. I hope they’re allowed! They sound like fun.
SAM: Me too! Thanks for the info.

Score: 9
Comment: Safety is super important, and that’s where her mind went first. And she was very accommodating and polite. Nice work.

Mountain #7, NY

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose guest services.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question, plus description.
Staff: Umm, I don’t believe we allow them, but let me double check. Hang on. (holding…for more than 3 minutes)
Staff: Hi! Thank you for holding.
SAM: Hi! No worries.
Staff: So, we actually had to look them up. I’ve used something similar for ski boots, but haven’t seen these new things. We actually don’t allow them here on the slopes, and there’s a multitude of reasons for that. They don’t really have the same kind of brakes that regular skis or snowboards do (huh?), so they could easily slide off and hit someone, um (pause). There’s also, um, just a lot of safety issues with them, as well as the fact that it also digs into the snow a lot, so it’s not great for the slopes.
SAM: Gotcha. OK.
Staff: Sorry about that. But I might actually look into these for myself!
SAM: Nice. Well, thanks. (Yes, I should’ve asked where she would use them.)
Staff: No problem. Bye.

Score: 3
Comment: Thanks for taking (a long) time to look into it, but saying no because they don’t have brakes would’ve been enough.

Mountain #8, CT

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question (interrupted before description).
Staff: OK, let me transfer you to someone in snowsports. Hang on. (transferred)
Second contact: Male.
SAM: Stated question, sans description.
Staff: Ooohhh, mmmm … I’m not 100 percent familiar with them. You just put them over a regular shoe?
SAM: Yeah. Well, a boot. I’d use snowboard boots. They strap right to them like snowboard bindings, and they’re only as long as the sole of the boot ,and they have metal edges. So you strap them on and you slide down the mountain on them. They’re a little different, so I wanted to see if you guys allowed them.
Staff: I don’t think so. I really don’t think so. I don’t know why, but I don’t think that we’ll be allowing them.
SAM: Gotcha. They are attached, but you don’t think they’ll be allowed on the lift?
Staff: Yeah. That’s probably what it is gonna come down to, is on the lift. Ummm… (pause) I really don’t think so. Sorry.
SAM: No worries. Thanks.

Score: 1
thumbs downComment: Well, that was a poor effort. It’s OK if you don’t allow them, but at least give me a reason—or try to find one other than the reason I fed you.

Mountain #9, CA

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose general information.
First contact: Male.
SAM: Stated question, plus description.
Staff: Oh, yeah. We allow those.
SAM: Oh, nice. I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I was going to get.
Staff: No, no, I’ve seen those before. They’re cool. Just so you know, we’re one of the only mountains that pretty much allows anything. Snow scooters, snow bikes, whatever. We love it.
SAM: I like that philosophy.
Staff: Hehe, yeah, definitely.
SAM: Thanks a bunch, man.
Staff: No problem. See you out there.

Score: 10
thumbs upComment: We have a lot of rules in the ski industry, and for good reason. But sometimes it’s nice to call a place and not feel like you’re getting a finger wagged at you. Bonus points for the entertaining message on the automated machine—“…located just a stone’s throw from Sacramento, if you can throw a stone 91 miles.”
Identity revealed: Sierra-at-Tahoe