Early this December I took my first trip to Lake Tahoe for a friends birthday celebration, just staying at an Airbnb in Truckee about twenty or so minutes away from the Northstar Ski resort. It was also my very first time skiing! I honestly knew nothing about skiing other than to point your skis into a pizza shape to stop. Thankfully, I had a lot of help from Renato to help get me started.

But let’s back up a few slopes and just let me geek out a little over how impressed I was with Northstar’s service design for their process of picking up gear and getting fitted on the day.


The process to pick up our gear, get fitted and grab lift passes took a little over 25 minutes for the both of us. Upon my first initial step into the pick up centre, I was pretty impressed with the friendly staff and attendants helping us out in directing us where to go and what to look out for.

There were two lines, one that directed guests to either register to reserve equipment on the day and another to check guests that had pre-registered print outs of their online order for gear. We had reserved our gear together a few days before as encouraged by our friends so it’d save us a ton of time and the website even offered incentives for advanced reservations.

We handed our print out order for an attendant to verify and scan our names and the first thing they provided us with were helmets to try on to make sure we found the right fit. I took notice during the pre-registration process that Renato had only asked me for my height, weight and foot size which I assumed were required to determine the correct ski size, boots and poles for us and I guess head size was a bit harder to measure beforehand.

We were then directed to follow the carpet way-finding arrows to a seating area where another attendant brought over our reserved gear and assisted us in putting on our ski boots. Our existing shoes were placed in the shelves our original ski boots were stored for safe keeping.

After all our equipment was given, we signed off on a couple safety waivers and were good to go pick up our passes at another building beside the ski lift line up.

Ski resorts probably get hundreds of guests by the hour looking to rent gear and get fitted. By streamlining this process online, it definitely helps create an efficient process for guests to quickly come in and out by splitting up efforts to fill our personal information ahead of time at home.

I dug up our Tahoe trip group chat of some screen shots our friends communicated during the prior weeks to reserve ahead of time in order to save about $10 to $30 or more on both gear and tickets.

Analyzing some of the screen shots of the order selection and payment process of reserving gear and purchasing tickets, it was clear that these booking experiences wanted to communicate savings to guests; using terms like “Save $X by booking in advance” or “Special online price”.

When it came to reserving gear, I noted some of the gear selection was pretty customizable in offering different equipment types depending on experience level as well as optional items like boots and helmets which some continuous skiers may already have.

Here’s a more in-depth screen shot captured journey of rental reservations online taken prior to the trip. The main steps within this flow follow a general order of:

  1. Selecting a pick-up location

  2. Determining a pick up and return date/time

  3. Reviewing offering types for skis and snowboards

  4. Providing personal information on weight, height, shoe size

  5. Reservation summary information

  6. Check out process


Thinking about this rental process order flow at second glance (seeing as I was not the one that originally booked our trip’s equipment), it was interesting to see that the order of inputting personal information came after gear selection.

From a back end perspective, it may be concerning in the case that a guest had the intention of renting some gear out but then getting to inputting their personal measurements only to realize that they are out of stock for the specific gear they were initially presented with a screen before.

Perhaps if personal information had been collected prior to gear type selection, this would prevent a friction point for guests to only see the available offerings available to them.

I really enjoy working through mini design exercises and thinking of ways to improve existing processes for fun. Especially instances where it’s problem solving things that I’ve personally experienced.

Above are some sketches thinking through a potential mobile app solution for rental ski or snowboard booking. Initially, I felt pretty fixated on the specifics of an individual’s snow gear equipment at first, coming up with flows that break down the differences between skiing and snowboarding, to personal measurements that translate to gear type.

After hearing some additional thoughts; there were also other important factors like the importance of considering multiple guests for group trips and availability of equipment per day, how to visualize availability within certain time frames, how guests might select different equipment type depending on skillset or premium options, etc.

Given this quick brainstorm, I learned the importance of narrowing down on a specific thing to focus on in order to really improve the UX and flow. There are many edge case considerations that are important to keep track of while designing and a good method to stay organized is keeping a list of user needs, assumptions, goals and constraints to reference while ideating.


Hoping to write a little more personal takeaways from my Tahoe trip later in the week, but for now hope you enjoyed this quick blurb on my love for some service design and some quick wireframe sketching practice.