Photo/IllutrationThe Trek Track system allows the user trajectory to be displayed on a 3-D map. (Provided by Hakuhodo i-studio Inc.)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

YUZAWA, Niigata Prefecture--A ski resort here is offering customers a portable device that can quickly locate skiers and snowboarders for possible rescue operations if they become stranded outside the designated areas.

The Trek Track system has been in use at the Kagura Ski Resort since January, and it allows the transmission of data even outside coverage areas of cellphone networks.

A palm-size device that fits into a pocket automatically sends out location information at an interval of several minutes. Through those transmissions, the location and trajectory of the user appear on a 3-D map on a smartphone app or a website.

A third party, such as a family member, can also check out the information using only the user ID.

The Kagura Ski Resort is concerned about skiers becoming stranded after going off-trail by mistake or attempting “backcountry skiing” on snow-covered slopes not maintained by resort workers.

For such emergencies, the user can press the “help” button on the portable device to send a signal to the operation secretariat, which will then call the user or registered contacts, such as the user’s family, within an hour. In emergencies, it will contact police.

The Trek Track system covers the entire mountain area through three dedicated antennas installed around the ski resort.

The system was developed by Hakuhodo i-studio Inc. The digital ad agency began operating the service at Mount Mizugakiyama, Yamanashi Prefecture, in August last year.

Kagura Ski Resort is the first mountainous area where the service has been made available for winter.

The portable device can be rented for 700 yen ($6.57) a day at Kagura Powder Station, a ski equipment shop at the entrance to the resort. The device can run on dry cell batteries for three to four days.

The community affairs section of the Niigata prefectural police said 22 skiers or snowboarders were stranded in the prefecture last season, 18 of whom required rescue outside areas controlled by ski resorts.

One of the 22 was found dead, and four others remain unaccounted for.

Twenty-five individuals have been stranded this season through Feb. 8, with 12 of them needing rescue outside the areas under control.

Prefectural government officials are urging skiers to remain within the boundaries of the ski resorts’ runs. They emphasize that backcountry skiing can be just as dangerous as mountain climbing in the winter.