Finding the Need
My sub-theme from the winter mind map was skiing, an outdoor activity that originated in Norway where people strapped boards to their feet and stood as they slid down hill. Though the sport has been around for more than 4000 years, it continues to evolve and change still at an annual rate. How? By finding the need of it's present and future users.
Step One: Asking for the Right Things: Interviewing Current Users
After completing the required readings, I created a standard set of questions to get the conversation going and get the stories to flow. These questions were intended to me vague to leave room for additional questioning based on the response to the question.
What is your years of experience with skiing?
What equipment is required?
What is the weather like when you engage in this activity?
Tell me about an average trip skiing?
Angela is a 17 ski instructor at a local ski hill in central Minnesota and Alpine racer with 14 years of skiing experience. She is a state competitor for her local high school team. During a normal ski season she skies 6 nights a week between work and practice.
Angela discussed her experiences as a slalom ski instructor for children ages 4-8 with setting up courses for giant slalom and alpine. She noted that when trying to teach kids how to read a course that kids that age often have a hard time understanding what is meant to be high, low, early on a gate and to what extent on that particular course. Previous attempts included putting windshield wiper fluid lines along the course, but this is to no use at night. Students are also developing coordination skills and often have troubles rolling their skies in time. As a racer, Angela herself has trouble even with all her experience to have the reaction time in her legs and abdominal muscles to make the turns. She experiences difficulty transporting her equipment the current case she has, which requires her not only to remove her gloves, but also the assistance of another person to get everything in. Ski equipment is not allowed in lodges and it is often late at night and cold when she has to put her equipment away. Lastly, Angela discussed her dislike for the amount of layers of clothing required for participation. Her ski suit in particular often requires assistance in removal as well as her boots.
Side notes: Angela tilted feet and leaned from one side to another when talking about rolling of skies. She also mocked holding poles out in front of her, but all while she was sitting. Since she was under 18 she was not allowed by her parents to have video or a photo taken.
Maddie is a 23 year old college student who has 12 years of skiing experience, but has not skied in the last 8 years due to converting to snowboarding.
First thing I had Maddie Do is draw what skiing was and things to be careful of when doing it. She ended up going with downhill skiing and listed "hazards".
Maddie often referred back to cold when talking about skiing. She noted the optimal day for the activity was 30 degrees fahrenheit, plenty of snow, not icy, and no wind. Without wind the snow stays in place at the top of the hill where it is more usually more windy which exposes the ice layer underneath. This leads to people to fall more at the steepest area.
As far a clothing, one wears everything to the ski hill, all layers no bags. This is due to the inability to leave things on tables or in cubbies due to theft and the lockers being too expensive. One would wear a sweatshirt and jacket rather than 2 sweatshirts, one never doubles up on the same kind of clothing that produces the same warmth results, instead just wear a warmer product. She says if she isn't warm, she doesn't go, but if you have too many clothes on it restricts movement and flexibility, which is irritable as a result. She noted that skiing was more for all ages compared to snowboarding and was to be done with family, friends or by oneself.
Side notes: Maddie was not as open to answering questions or telling stories which made it difficult to get usable information. She continually asked for examples of what I meant instead of relying on her own interpretation.
Elwin was a 51 year old man who had worked as a lift operator, ski instructor, snow maker, and racer. He had been skiing since he was 8 or 9 giving him over 40 years of experience. He had also been a racer in high school for alpine racing.
Elwin discussed that in his time, ski equipment has evolved dramatically. He had started out with wooden skies, some of which he would make himself for when he was out trick-skiing. These would be shorter, about 2.5 ft long, which would allow him to move as though he were iceskating down the slopes. Boots have evolved from leather to plastic to fiber glass, but noted that boot design hasn't altered much since the the 1970's. Skies have changed more than boots going from extremely long to more precise parabolic skies. Over the years he had experienced many design failures such as delaminated skies and edges, broken skies and boots, snapped poles and broken bindings. The equipment could not hold up to the situations he used them in, such as ski jumping. He noted that even his legs didn't stand up to the abuse, and just this year had to get a full knee replacement. He attributed much of that damage from the hard-pack ski areas make around jump areas, but also the height, distance and speed he would land from. As far as the weather, he had been skiing anywhere from -40 degrees with windchill to 50 degrees. Clothing was to prevent frostbite, that was it. He noted that ski pants and bibs don't allow you to carry a wallet or phone where it is easily accessible. The point of skiing is to have fun, so the any improvement should be made to make skiing more enjoyable, not more work or hassle.
Side Notes: This interview was conducted while the individual was driving so he was unable to draw or act anything out.
Step 2: Observing the activity.
I was unable to observe directly, but I did watch some videos on youtube to get a better idea of what people do when they're skiing.
Alpine skiing: professional Giant Solemn courses designate their lanes with a blue dye of some type. The stance is crouched. The upper body stays center as the legs transfer from side to side. The suit is made of a stretchy cling material. Ski edges are used more than the whole bottom surface of the ski due to the angle of the ski that lifts the outer edge off the ground when carving. Alpine skiing is about agility and is the most technical type of skiing requiring precision and speed with no room for error. The use poles called gates to maneuver around, short ones for training and longer ones for competition.
Recreational Skiing: Young children are often so covered in clothes that they often look like Randy's brother when he is in the snow suit in the movie the christmas story, their arms just stick out. This gives them the appearance of star fish. Parents often follow their children closely. When teaching them, parents put the child between their legs as they teach them how to turn and stop. The child's skies often get stuck underneath the adult's skies. Other parents were shown to use a leash like harness on their kids.
Trails are usually groomed, orange snow fencing is used to direct people.
Step 3: Market Research
A 2007 study conducted by the National Ski Areas Association in Aspen, Colorado show that the customer base for ski resorts is getting older. The snow riders' average age was 36.6 years old last season, up from 33.2 in the 1997-98 season. There were proportionate drops in younger age groups in skiing, but an increase in the number of snowboarders. The survey also showed that skiers and snowboarders tend to be much wealthier than the overall population and are more likely white. About 61 percent are male. A decade ago, 37 percent of skiers and riders said they would hit the slopes at least 15 times. That jumped to 45 percent last season. The portion of those who said they would visit between four and 14 days dropped.
Another study showed that the age group of 25-30 had the largest amount of people compared all other age groups.
Angela needs a travel container that allows her to easily put her equipment in without the assistance of someone else and that she would be allow to keep he gloves on.
Skiers need apparel that reduces layers, but keeps them warm in varying conditions because layers become bulky and reduce flexibility.