Written by Ben Jacklet
Published: October 19, 2015
Robot-shot from the sky. Photo from Cape Productions
Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline announced last week that they will be among the first ski areas in the nation to offer commercial drone video services to skiers and snowboarders. How much change will this bring to Mount Hood? What are the benefits? What are the risks? Who likes the idea? Who doesn't?
With those questions and others in mind, I reached out to eight Mount Hood regulars, to hear their thoughts.
Here are their responses:
Amy Weissfeld, skier and racer mom:
"Wow, this is NEWS with a capital N! My personal opinion is:
1. Holy crap. Why Meadows? Coup of sorts for them I think. Kudos to the resort and their team for forward / cutting edge thinking.
2. As a frequent skier however, I’m concerned about whether or how this will affect my own experience on the mountain. I love being outside and on the mountain in part because it’s an escape. I certainly don’t want to hear or see a drone filming on a regular basis. Maybe this is an over-reaction on my part, and it will be no more intrusive than the chairlift. Somehow though, I don’t think so. Exciting technical development; I just hope it can be balanced against the desire for a “natural” outdoor experience. (Ironic, I know, since we’re talking about lift serviced terrain)."
Asit Rathod, ski mountaineer and Ski Oregon Ambassador:
"I think it's wonderful. Few things that always stay true. The young change the world and us old folks like to comment "Back in my day....". Good for Mount Hood Meadows being the first to help family's and skiers document their experiences."
Ralph Bloemers, environmental attorney:
"I see the draw for folks because of how professional this footage may be, even if it just is more video of ourselves in what already seems like a massive collection of video and picture files that most of us have amassed these days. Certainly is better to use this technology for fun than for war. There is some amazing technology out there that is coming from the Gorge area, and I personally know a number of engineers in this field working on the camera gimbals and lightweight composites, as well as filmmakers that regularly use this technology. I expect these folks have this pretty well dialed to be able to get a permit for it and keep it safe.
From a conservation perspective, I would think that folks who are enjoying the designated Wilderness surrounding Meadows for quiet solitude would hope and expect some thoughtful buffer between the use of these drones near Meadows' permit boundary. There might be impacts on bird populations. Anecdotally I have seen hummingbirds get territorial (or maybe just curious?) when I have flown around the house. I have flown a quadcopter drone for almost two years (I have even progressed to doing flips). I don't know much about the impacts on birds or other animals. The ski area is already overrun with humans so I expect it is not good habitat for larger critters, and therefore, it is probably not an issue within the boundaries."
ON3P Skis Founder Scott Andrus:
"This is just a modern take of the on-mountain photographers seen at resorts for years. I'm surprised it took this long. Drones are the new helmet cam and won't be going away anytime soon. As with helmet cams, 99% of their use is just personal, with the goal of sharing the footage with friends and family, so I don't see any negative in this. If suddenly there are 50 drones following people down cat tracks and blues, I will personally find some humor in it, but that won't change my on-hill experience and based upon what is written in the Freeskier article, sounds like that won't be the case. That said, it will be a bit strange to see the first one flying around on hill."
Mt. Hood regular Dan Kneip:
"Since my drone rental business never got off the ground I am jealous. I decided it would take too much capital as the technology was changing so fast. I'll have to see how it plays out. My first thought was that it would be annoying, tying up ski-able terrain and creating a buzzing sound overhead. Using it for events like races makes sense, for individuals who just want a video of themselves, not so much. If I buy one of those that will follow you around and go out into Clark Canyon, who is out there to stop me from filming?
Later added through Facebook: I think I will likely photobomb a few videos this season."
Sandi Shaub, Skiyente Ski Club:
"This sounds pretty exciting, but my concern is, how will it affect the 'average' skier? It is not likely something I would ever do as an individual (as a group, maybe) since it will likely be pretty expensive. Will the service infringe on my personal skiing experience?
I'm not interested in standing around waiting for somebody to be videoed because they have the money to do this. I've paid for my lift ticket to enjoy the mountain, open to the public, not to wait for the 'rich' to have exclusive use of an area, only if for a few moments. During the weekend there is already plenty of mountain restricted because of race courses and snowboard parks. (Race courses are providing activity for a large number of people and snowboard parks tend to help segregate boarders and skiers, which has a safety advantage.) More restriction, just for a few, seems inappropriate."
Emilio Trampuz, Mountain High Snowsport Club:
"Hmm, ... mixed feelings. I wouldn’t mind using a drone like this to record some special descents in out of the way places, like out of bounds. Unfortunately, that’s the part that seems to be not allowed by the Forest Service.
But, having it easily accessible to the crowds at Mt. Hood Meadows could easily get out of hand if everyone starts using these gadgets, just to say: “Hey ma, look: this is me learning how to ski on Buttercup!” The sky above Meadows could be abuzz with a swarm of drones all day long. Or, if they impose limits on the number of drones, then there might be long lines for it and high prices.
I just hope the public won’t buy into this and the problem might go away by itself if there’s not enough customers willing to pay for the service.
My guess is that it will be a fad for a while and then will gradually fade away."
Diehard Skier and ReRack shop owner Bo Grayzel:
"Seems like a legit service to me, people love video of them doing cool stuff and these helicopters that can follow you and shoot from multiple direction will probably produce amazing footy."