By my best estimates, I’ve written more than 25 posts about ski/trail/resort maps.
From audio-guided mapping like Dwight Eppinger’s Sherpa to illustrated maps from James Niehues or Senan Gorman, it’s a problem that’s solved pretty well. Yet, it’s never solved quite well enough for innovative minds to dream of bigger, better ways to help folks get around.
A few months ago I saw a new name pop up on my radar: Wander Maps. They combined a thoughtful approach with quality design and some impressive early momentum.
Let me dig into a few things that have intrigued me thus far as I’ve learned more about this brand.
#1) Not Just Trails
One thing I like is their vision. In this case, they’re all about navigating around a destination. Not TO the destination, not exploring one PIECE of the destination, but getting people to and from points they care about while they’re there. For a resort, that’s takes the scope of what they’re doing beyond trails and into the villages, restaurants, the community, and beyond.
#2) Offline, Embed, App, Web
Beyond that, however, they’re focused on not just solving one map problem, they’re looking to solve a platform problem. Resorts with maps on Wander get a QR code that, when scanned, sends folks to a web version. But this web version can also be embedded in the resort’s website.
Wander also has a main app where folks at resorts with limited connectivity can download offline maps that work in the app even without cell service or find destinations / maps to explore (I’ll talk about that more in a second).
#3) Admin Map Control
One problem that Wander if really trying to solve is the ability for admins to add to and update their maps. I remember Dwight walking me through this interface with Sherpa and realizing how important this was for that concept. When a map is viewed as a canvas instead of a final product, it opens the door for some really interesting ways to, say, promote less permanent things like events, demo days, detours, etc.
#4) Building Users
But the most interesting aspect of all of this is the fact that they’re also building a brand and base of users for their app directly. This does two things. First, it can help drive a little bit of discovery for resorts who are on their platform. On the app store, their tagline describes Wander as “a global network of locally built maps.” Second, it gets destinations an “app” without having to build or license or white label an app.
As they reach critical mass in certain markets, resorts coming onto the platform will have a really interesting opportunity to solve the mapping problem on a system their guests are used to and already using.
For a platform that’s relatively new on the scene, I’ve been really impressed with the speed and quality thus far. When I had a chance to chat with the founder, AJ Brau, it was clear she’s not planning to let her foot off the gas. She and her team have big plans and are building out a strong business to get there.
Wander isn’t built specifically for ski like other products we’ve seen, but given the challenge of building depth and quality into your product when your market is as limited as our is? Well, that lack of ski-specific focus may not be a bad thing.
And with some ski resorts already jumping on board? Wander is definitely one to watch.
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