Sometimes it takes new eyes to see what is needed. A Vancouver, B.C. newcomer started up a ride share website for skiers and snowboarders heading to Whistler Blackcomb. He has now added on other nearby ski areas and has plans for including more.
Florent Devellennes, 24, found himself commuting from Vancouver to Whistler for two weeks shortly after he moved to the city in October 2010. He picked up hitchhikers en route in his car. "We got to talking about the idea of hitchhiking," Devellenes told OnTheSnow. "Plus, the bus is really expensive."
Devellennes happened to have the skills to do something to connect hitchhikers with drivers. The web designer and developer promptly created HitchWhistler.com. "I didn't have too much work at the time," said Devellenes, and the avid skier and snowboarder knew he'd be taking plenty of the four-hour round trip drives to Whistler this winter.
He launched the website in early November just before Whistler Blackcomb opened for the season. "I was quite impressed that it actually worked well," he said. "Slowly, the community is building up." HitchWhistler gained ground fast, garnering more than 500 members in less than two months and offering more than 250 proposed trips.
Membership in HitchWhistler is free. Members can register as a driver or hitcher. Drivers can charge for spare seats in the vehicle, and the site provides the first contact of communication between hitchers and drivers. Hitchers can also leave feedback on drivers with recommendations. "I keep meeting people through the site," said Devellennes. "Whenever I go to Whistler, I take hitchers. It's fun to talk to new people."
Feedback from users prompted Devellennes to add two other local ski resorts--Mt. Seymour Ski Resort and Cypress Mountain--to the destination options. He added other Greater Vancouver places of origin, too, such as Pemberton, Chilliwack, Squamish, and Kamloops. Devellennes found interest also from Seattle, the closest metropolitan U.S. city to Whistler at five hours away. Seattle drivers and hitchers can now link up to share transportation on HitchWhistler.
Devellennes would like to enlarge HitchWhistler beyond the Vancouver ski areas, perhaps by next winter. "I plan to make it more social, and my intention is to expand to rest of B.C.," he said. "But for now, we'll just test out how this works."