A Boise company is seeking funding to build a product it says will help save the lives of skiers.
Realtime Adventure Data, or RAD, creates and sells ski poles designed to help backcountry skiers avoid avalanches. Each pole has a sensor system that profiles the composition of the snow beneath the user’s feet and sends that data to the user’s smartphone.
Drew Eldred, CEO at RAD, said existing avalanche safety standards focus more now on response than prevent. Meanwhile, “avalanche incidents are up around the world” because more people are going into the mountains, he said.
“The current system for determining whether an area is safe to ski is subjective. You dig an avalanche pit and say, ‘looks safe to me,'” Eldred said.
By measuring the composition of the snow in an area and providing data on the conditions that lead to most avalanches, RAD hopes to better arm skiers with the information they need before setting out. It also plans to collect the data gathered by skiers to sell to businesses interested in it such as ski resorts.
“People we have talked to say they are too scared about only having a beacon on their chest to protect them from an avalanche so they don’t ski the backcountry,” Eldred said. “We are developing this to serve as a preventative measure.”
Eldred and his partner Micah Johnson, CTO of RAD, became interested in avalanche safety through their own love of the outdoors. Johnson works as a hydro technician with the U.S. Department of Agriculture building water models and measuring snowpack, and Eldred is a former raft guide with YD Adventures.
The two men used $23,000 they won through entrepreneurial challenges at the Boise State Venture College to start the company.
RAD conducted a beta test last winter and had skiers take more than 4,000 readings in Idaho, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and parts of Canada. The company is now seeking $125,000 in investment for further testing and to get a $400 product into the market.
“Having lived in three resort towns, I have seen cases of the need for something like this,” said Jolene Anderson, chapter president of Boise Keiretsu Forum. “In Alyeska (Alaska) there was a child who went off course and and ended up drowning in powder.
“This is really exciting technology,” she said.
After the initial funding period is over and RAD has a product in the market, the company plans to do a second funding period for $250,000 to help with further product development and to launch a marketing campaign, Eldred said.
“I don’t know who, but someone out there, maybe an insurance company for a ski area or a tech company, will be interested in seeing this developed and helping to provide resources,” said Paul Judge, managing director of the Vandal Venture Fund and a RAD mentor.