Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and its wide-spread effects being felt across the globe, 200 amateur and professional-level athletes from six nations gathered to take part in the 2020 Aspen Snowmass Freeskiing Open in Pitkin County, Colorado. One of the last and longest-running independent open competitions in the United States, the slopestyle event is sanctioned by the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) and the International Ski Federation (FIS).
This annual event is quite special. The judging panel is highly experienced with many World Cup and X-Games events under their belt, and even a spot on the upcoming Winter Olympics. The Aspen Open takes place on the X Games course, which is held annually 2-3 weeks prior to the Open. The athletes are one step away from the world stage and this event gives them a chance to prove they are ready. With three rail sections and four jumps, they get to put together a run of their biggest and best tricks. The start of the slopestyle course sits at over 8,300 feet above sea level. The length of this course is approximately 1,950 feet with a vertical drop of over 600 feet.
A Big Course, Mountain Weather and the Rajant Answer
Events, such as the X Games and World Cups, are fully captured by TV cameras. The judges use this feed to judge the competition. This has not been the case for the Open since it just isn’t feasible in the budget. They have always been forced to use a split-judging panel for the rail and jump segments of the event due to a combination of course length and vertical drop. This adds additional complexity to the already challenging job for the judging panel forcing them to delay conferring to come to a collaborative consensus on the participant’s ranking.
Like any ski resort, Aspen regularly has subzero temperatures, heavy snow, and challenging winds. Building a network for such an environment would have been a challenge for lessor wireless networks, but for Rajant it is just another day. The event organizers experience the same types of challenges our customers face every day whether at a remote oil and gas field, a port terminal, or a mine. When they need mission-critical communication with autonomous adaptability, they turn to the option that has proven itself in these types of conditions, time and time again, Rajant Kinetic Mesh®.
Enter Think Vertical Now!
Being aware of the split judging panel situation at the Aspen Open, and with ongoing involvement in the extreme sports vertical, Think Vertical Now! (TVN) offered to demonstrate their pop-up video streaming solution in the form of a proof-of-concept (POC) to show the organizers and judges that it is possible to have a single but remote judging panel for events with otherwise challenging topographies.
Up to the Task
The POC successfully streamed high definition footage of the rail section to a remote judging panel. It also gave the judges the ability to view an on-demand, instant replay of any competitor. By implementing and deploying Rajant’s Kinetic Mesh network, along with their IP video cameras, network video recorder, and software, judges were able to conduct their job well, and a higher level of fairness than would have otherwise been possible. This was the first time judges had the ability to see an instant replay of a competitors run. The team from TVN overcame many challenges, including significant elevation drop, limited network infrastructure height, and the venue’s proximity to the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, which created quite a bit of local wireless interference. Additionally, the resort has little to no LAN connectivity anywhere but the base of the mountain. All these challenges made designing and implementing a reliable, mission-critical network a difficult challenge. Designing and deploying this network over two days was truly impressive.
To the organizer’s credit, they had thought of this solution previously. With such a big course and varied topography, along with no installed LAN on the mountain, designing a traditional Wi-Fi or LTE network is not feasible. Therefore, it was not until TVN brought a Rajant Kinetic Mesh network that this option was practical. The Rajant wireless network provides an adaptable wireless infrastructure capable of supporting streaming video in this demanding environment.
Rajant provides peer-to-peer radio communications enabling data, voice, video, and autonomous applications. By implementing a Rajant Kinetic Mesh network, the team from Think Vertical Now!, one of Rajant’s reseller Partners specializing in both industrial communications infrastructure and outdoor action sports, was able to use its IP video cameras to record, real-time remote display with the ability to provide instant replay and live-stream the event in high-definition video to a remote judging panel.
Six of Rajant’s IP67-rated ME4 BreadCrumbs® were deployed and operated reliably for the entire five days of the event, experiencing all typical alpine weather conditions. The reliability from the Rajant BreadCrumbs provided the ideal platform for high-performance and flexibility. In an environment as unpredictable and hostile as mountain slopes, the Kinetic Mesh network is fail-safe, and it dynamically re-routes network traffic via the best possible path to ensure optimum continuous performance and the delivery of critical data. Rajant’s network scales and expands, plus deployment, is a quick and easy process for those involved in installing the network.
Technology to Leave an Avalanche
TVN demonstrated Judges can have a better view of athletes’ performance and can merge what would otherwise be a split panel.
The deployment successfully showed the viability of a pop-up solution to support a high caliber event, providing IP video cameras along the course and stream HD imagery to the judging panel located wherever is most convenient. They also demonstrated the much-needed benefit of being able to live-stream the event, which can significantly improve visibility and sponsorship revenue for the participants and venue. Rajant’s network not only overcomes the complex terrain issues but also demonstrated its versatility in overcoming the physical obstructions and the local radio frequency interference.
For more information about Rajant’s efforts and to watch its video on the Aspen Snowmass Freeskiing Open, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAjvZ8_BvL0&feature=youtu.be.