The Startup Trying to Redefine Ski TripsBy
WeSki allows groups to arrange customized vacations online
Format could one day be used for diving, cyling, surfing trips
A Tel Aviv-based startup backed by EasyJet Plc and a co-founder of Waze Inc. aims to do for ski vacations what Booking.com did for hotel customers.
WeSki, launched this month by four Israeli ski buddies, allows groups to organize all-inclusive ski vacations that are customized to their needs and, the founders say, cheaper than packages offered by agents.
“Skiing is fun. Organizing a ski trip is less fun,” WeSki co-founder Yotam Idan told reporters in Tel Aviv.
Israel, which is more known for beaches or desert, might not seem the most promising market to launch a skiing app. The country has only one ski resort, on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed in 1981, a move not recognized internationally. Only three Israelis have competed in Olympic skiing competitions, and the country has never won a medal of any kind at a Winter Olympics games.
EasyJet’s investment in WeSki comes through the startup’s inclusion in the London-based Founders Factory incubator program, where the British airline is a corporate partner.
Idan had to explain to Israeli journalists the basic elements of a ski trip such as equipment, chairlifts and apres-ski leisure. According to WeSki data, some 50,000 Israelis have gone skiing or snowboarding, out of a population of about 8.7 million.
WeSki users can book a package involving all the elements of a ski trip, send friends a group invite and have everyone pay separately based on the extras they choose. The site’s algorithm surveys more than 100 tourism providers to put together a package tailored for each group’s needs.
Waze co-founder Uri Levine is among the backers who helped WeTrip, the tourism startup behind WeSki, raise $1 million. Waze was sold to Alphabet Inc. in 2013 for a reported $1.1 billion.
Next Up: WeDive?
Eventually WeTrip aims to offer other personalized vacation packages centered around activities such as diving, cycling or windsurfing -- social holidays that a group can plan and reserve together.
For now, packages are only available from the U.K. or Israel to ski resorts in France, but Idan hopes to market WeSki in other parts of Europe by next year.
Jerusalem architect Daniel Assayag, 61, has been taking ski vacations to Europe for 20 years, generally avoiding package tours and organizing the myriad details of his trips by himself.
”I have to say that if there’s a site where you can arrange everything, that will save a lot of headache and will help a lot,” Assayag said. “It definitely could be useful.”
Selling a Lifestyle
Despite the lack of ski slopes in Israel, Idan said it was easier to start the service where the founders understand the local market. With incomes rising and a “keep-up-with-the-Joneses” outlook common in the Israeli middle class, WeSki is pitching a lifestyle as much as a service.
A ski vacation “is not just skiing. It’s opening the window in the morning and seeing snow-covered mountains,” Idan said. “It’s a moment of total freedom, something you remember your whole life.”