In 2011, as Julien Locke neared his high school graduation, the avid Canadian cross-country skier realized he needed a paying job to “be a ski racer.”
He learned the basics of web development and that same year launched his own business. Over the next handful of years the Nelson, British Columbia, native continued to ski race – securing himself a spot on the Canadian national team – and helped cross-country ski clubs and resorts develop their own websites.
Through that work he noticed a glaring hole in the cross-country ski world: There was no centralized and easy-to-access portal for grooming updates. Instead, each club or ski area posted their grooming updates however and whenever they could.
Locke decided to fix that and last year launched Nordic-Pulse.com, a website where clubs and resorts can post their grooming status and skiers can check in and see what’s good. Washington State Parks has developed a similar system for cross-country skiers and snowmobilers in the Evergreen State.
“Our goal with the system is to make it that skiers anywhere can figure out where and when to ski, as easily as possible,” Locke said.
Locke’s website has been a hit. As of this week, there were 75 participating areas or clubs – including Washington’s Priest Lake ski areas and the Methow Valley ski areas. So far, 100,000 people have used the website this year.
“We’ve done no advertising,” Locke said. “It’s been mostly word of mouth.”
This is how it works: Groomers at participating ski areas download an app Locke designed and run that app while they are grooming.
That uploads to the site and shows users what has been groomed. Groomers can also add notes and condition updates.
The ski areas pay Locke for the service (although he offers a free version with fewer features for ski areas that can’t afford it).
The service has been well received in the Priest Lake area, said Jim Lea, a volunteer at the Priest Lake Nordic Club, although getting users to transition from checking the Facebook page, or just showing up at the trailhead, has taken some work.
“With Nordic Pulse you potentially have one-stop shopping for ski reports from many or most cross-country ski areas regionally or throughout North America,” Lea said in an email. “One of the nice things about this company is it is designed by and for Nordic skiers. A ski area’s cost for the app is based on its size and whether it’s for profit or nonprofit.”
The Priest Lake club is paying $600 for the year, Lea said. Plus, Lea added, Locke and Colin Ferrie (another skier and Nordic Pulse’s only other employee) are responsive and helpful.
“Sometimes I feel guilty emailing them with stupid questions, but they unfailingly get back to me with helpful information,” Lea said.
The website has taken off, Locke said and it’s now his “more than full-time job.” Part of that growth may be attributable to the pandemic pushing more people outside and into cross-country skiing.
“Our sport has really grown in the past two years,” Locke said.
“COVID-19 has been really good for our sport. Almost every ski area I talked to had over 30% growth last year.”
As of now, Nordic Pulse doesn’t have an app for users. Conditions and grooming reports must be accessed online, although Locke is working on developing a user app.
While Locke is happy to have found a job that supports his ski racing, Nordic Pulse is more than just an income generator.
“I’m doing this because I love it,” he said.