A Black Jack cross-country skier has created an innovative new program that tracks trail conditions across the country.
Nelson native and National Ski Team member Julien Locke created Nordic Pulse a website and mobile application where skiers can get instant updates on the status of the trails of participating clubs.
”The inspiration for Nordic Pulse came from two questions,” said Locke. “How to make grooming reporting easier for clubs, and how to make trail condition reports more accessible for skiers.”
For the past eight years, when he’s not on the trails competing himself, Locke has worked as a website developer and used his cross-country connections to tap into a network of ski centre’s websites.
“About six years ago, I was leading a website overhaul for Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre (Vernon, BC), and we posed the question: how can we make grooming reporting easier?” explained Locke. “Grooming teams work long hours, usually in the middle of the night, and the last thing they want to do afterwards is deal with updating tables on clunky systems.”
Locke originally created a web-based system for several clubs, which served its purpose, but he always knew it could be better.
“I have been asking questions and listening to feedback from clubs in the time since, which helped immensely as I started the development of Nordic Pulse.”
For the skier in Julien, he has been frustrated by the difficulty of finding grooming reports. In the West Kootenay alone there are eight ski areas all within an hours drive, and in places like Canmore, even more.
Inspiration and innovation soon followed, as Locke developed Nordic Pulse, an app-based grooming report system. Grooming teams use iOS and Android apps to track their GPS location in real time.
The grooming information is passed on immediately, so skiers can check the progress of the grooming teams while they’re out on the trails. When grooming is complete, the app has a set of tools for writing reports and updating particulars about each trail, Locke explains.
The user-friendly mobile web-app brings real-time trail conditions from a growing number of clubs with interactive maps, sortable lists, and an increasing number of useful features.
“On the computer, skiers can check the conditions data on the map and list on the same screen, and on mobile, they are just a swipe apart.”
Cross-country skiing is seeing an upswing as memberships grow in clubs across the country, including Black Jack.
“As someone who loves our sport, I’m delighted to see so many new faces at the trails,” said Locke. “Grooming reports have long been an integral part of the cross country skiing, and I feel they are even more important now with the influx of new skiers.
“My dream is that Nordic Pulse can play a small part in helping skiers choose when and where to ski, and help keep them interested in the sport.”
Locke began the development of Nordic Pulse just four months ago and in the past eight weeks has seen more than a dozen clubs from Parc du Mont Royal in Montreal to Willliams Lake, B.C. testing and providing feedback for the Groomer App.
Nordic Pulse first rolled out at the Nelson Nordic and Black Jack clubs earlier this month, and as of Feb. 12 over 1,400 people have signed onto the web-app, many on a daily basis.
Clubs throughout North America have shown interest, and Locke built the system with the intention to scale so is excited about its potential growth.
“I’ve been really encouraged by the ski-areas enthusiasm and commitment to the project. It’s been a huge boon to me through the development and now that we’re launching, the excitement is even higher.”
The elite NST skier suffered a severe concussion 18 months ago, and the challenges of a complete recovery continued through last winter. He was forced to take a break this summer, yet, as insidious as COVID is, it proved serendipitous as the racing season in North America was cancelled this year, giving Julien time to recover and develop the Nordic Pulse program.
“Of any years to not have the best training base, this is the one,” he added. “I’ve had a long term approach to my training from the get-go and I’m still very much focused on my racing career.”
Locke says he’s enjoying following Black Jack teammates Remi and Jasmine Drolet and Molly Miller, who competed in the World Jr./U23 Nordic Championships. He looks forward to joining them and preparing for 2022 with Black Jack ski team coach Dave Wood.