PORTLAND — With winter in full swing, Mainers are getting out to enjoy their favorite cold-weather sports, from skiing to snowshoeing to skating and sledding.
To help them enjoy all that winter fun, two students at Deering High School and their teacher have launched a website and app designed to provide real-time, crowd-sourced updates about conditions at public outdoor recreation areas.
Winditions gives “quick and easy access to real-time winter conditions and (also lets) them update conditions as they change,” said Riley Rheault, a junior at Deering who’s helping market the app.
Sophomore Aidan Blum Levine designed the Winditions website and app at the urging of longtime math teacher Jeffrey Borland, who said he loves to cross-country ski, but it’s hard to know day-to-day whether conditions are favorable.
Borland said he’d actually had the idea for a tool like Winditions for a long time, but it was only last fall that he tapped Blum Levine to create the website and app.
“I knew Aidan was really great with computers and I thought this would be a good project for him to learn new skills,” while also creating something worthwhile, Borland said.
“He made it even better than I ever thought,” he added.
Borland has already used the app several times to check conditions at Riverside Golf Course, which is groomed in the winter to allow for both traditional and skate styles of cross-country skiing, even though there hasn’t yet been a lot of snow.
Borland described Winditions as a “sort of Yelp for winter conditions,” saying the only way it will work is if people start using the app.
“I think it could be really useful and a service to the community,” Blum Levine said. “I hope a lot of people start to use it.”
Rheault, who hopes to go into marketing as a career some day, has reached out to various media and been in contact with the city’s Parks, Recreation and Facilities Department to spread the word about Winditions.
She’s also met with Portland Nordic and hopes to meet with Portland Trails.
So far, according to Rheault, the response has been positive, especially from city recreation staff, who, she said, “loved the idea.”
While the 15 recreation areas on the Winditions website and app are all located in greater Portland, its creators say they hope people statewide will also use the tool for their favorite spots.
Blum Levine is working on a feature to allow users to add other locations, and both he and Rheault said they’re “excited to see what happens.”
Blum Levine admits he’s been tweaking the Winditions site since it went live a few weeks ago and said, “there are some things I should have maybe thought out more” – for instance, he added a map to help people better locate the various recreation areas highlighted by Winditions.
The locations featured on Winditions are “places where visitors can engage in winter sports that include ice skating, sledding, skiing and even using a fat bike,” Rheault said in a press release. They include places like Payson Park in Portland, Twin Brooks in Cumberland, Pineland Farms in New Gloucester and South Portland’s Wainwright Recreation Complex.
Prior to creating Winditions, Blum Levine said he hadn’t done much website programming, but “the language is similar” to other computer programming he was more familiar with, “so I just taught myself. It wasn’t that hard.”
Blum Levine also likes to ski, both cross-country and downhill, so he could see the potential for Winditions as initially described to him by Borland.
“I just thought it was a good idea overall,” he said.
Jack Borland, 10, a fifth-grader at Longfellow Elementary School in Portland, tries out the cross-country ski trails at Riverside Golf Course. His father, Jeffrey Borland, a longtime teacher at Deering High School, worked with two students to create a website and app that provide crowd-sourced reports about conditions at winter recreation areas throughout greater Portland.
Aidan Blum Levine, left, a sophomore at Deering High School in Portland, created the new Winditions website and app, while Riley Rheault, a junior, has promoted the product.