I read about a new a new update to Google "Street View" in a recent article in the Sierra Sun, Going Live: Google's ‘Street View' offers virtual tours of Lake Tahoe ski resorts, and it's pretty cool! You've probably tried Google "Street View" before. It's a feature in Google Maps where you can see a street level virtual view of many places all over the world. It's even a little scary. You can not only visit famous places and landmarks like Disneyland, Stonehenge, Lego-land and various universities, but you can also see many ordinary streets you never would expect Google to know about. I recently looked up the address of a friend for directions and decided to click on Street View. This was a non-de-script dead end street in a small town in Nevada that you would expect to be pretty anonymous but there was her house, just like I was standing in front of it, with her car in the driveway. Of course it wasn't live, that would be really creepy, but it was fairly recent. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stick up and felt sort of Big Brother-ish.
Google started Street View in 2007. You probably remember seeing pictures of them driving around in cars with big roof mounted cameras that took 360 degree views of the surroundings. You may also remember stories of them getting chased out of neighborhoods from concerned residents over privacy issues. It seems like everything Google does has two sides to it, it's both innovative and amazing along with feeling intrusive. I've always believed Google to be true to it's motto, "Do no evil", so maybe that's the trade-off we have to make to get truly amazing and useful things for free. That's an individual judgement we all have to make for ourselves. I'll have to admit I'm a Google junkie, using Gmail, IGoole, Google Voice, Google Reader, Google Docs and on and on daily, and I've never felt my privacy threatened. I've only been amazed that it's all free, but let's get back to the slopes!
Google has been busy mapping ski resorts all over the world and now has most of Lake Tahoe's ski areas mapped including Squaw Valley, Northstar, Heavenly, Kirkwood, Sierra-at-Tahoe and, just recently, Homewood Mountain Resort. This all started in 2010 when they wanted to do something special for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Google mapped the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb so people from around the world could experience the slopes housing the various events such as the downhill and the slalom. They mounted a camera that records a 360-degree view on a snowmobile. The Sierra Sun article went on to say "Once the filming is done, Google puts the photos into its mapping software and blurs the faces of skiers and snowboarders gaping at the cameras. A few months later, the new first-person maps are launched."
I decided to try it with Squaw Valley USA. All you have to do is type the name of the ski resort into Google Maps to find your resort, then put the little yellow Street View man into the blue lines on the slopes and navigate the ski resort using the arrows at the bottom of the image. Try it, it's amazing! It's not only great to check out ski areas you've never been to but you can also take a quick virtual run down your favorite slope right from your office.desk. Just don't get too excited and yell out as you jump off the cornice if you don't want your boss to know!
With many resorts closing soon for the season, this could also be a great way to get your ski fix, maybe the only way short of traveling to Chile or somewhere else in the opposite hemisphere. I guess you could also go to the local arcade and play one of those skiing games or maybe they have one for the video game Wii. I'm going for Google.
Don't forget to celebrate Earth Day is right here in Olympic Valley at the Squaw Valley USA ski area. It's the North Tahoe Truckee Earth Day Celebration today, Saturday, April 21, 2012, starting at 11:00. Keep up to date with all that's happening at Olympic Village Inn and Olympic Valley on our Facebook page. Have a great week!