The dolaGon is the first autonomous utility task vehicle to provide a new way for people to access the backcountry. It will allow skiers and riders to access terrain without a permanent lift.
Built by Logan Banning, an engineer from Steamboat Springs, and Dr. Seth Neubardt, an orthopedic surgeon out of New York, this project has been in the works for the past three years. The dolaGon began as Dr. Neubardt’s brainchild four years ago. His goal was to create an autonomous vehicle that could bring skiers up the hill and meet them back down after their lap.
It acts as a lift allowing access to any slope desired. Passengers can drive the dolaGon up to their desired location, then command it to follow the same path back down to the “base,” where it will pick them up for their next run. Dr. Neubardt’s original model was built on a snowmobile but easily crashed and proved quite unsafe. His newest model is built on a Polaris Ranger and can take up to four passengers up at once.
Their goal with the latest model has been to improve safety and make it more reliable. The vehicle features LiDar, light detection, and ranging technology that allow the dolaGon to sense any obstacles, as well as a high-tech GPS to keep it on track while autonomously driving itself back down.
The dolaGon was invented with the intention of at least one passenger being an experienced backcountry guide. As of now, they plan to market it to private guiding agencies and larger snowcat outfits. With the dolaGon, guests will have a more personalized experience as there will only be 3 of them, whereas, on snowcats, there can be up to 14.
“We think the people in dolaGon are going to have a much better experience and be happier than the people who went on the snowcat,” Neubardt said in an interview.
Neubardt’s intention in creating the dolaGon began after realizing there has been a disconnect in the experience of skiing at a resort with the natural environment. For a sport centered around enjoying nature, the time spent waiting in lines at the resort is the opposite.
By creating the dolaGon, a vehicle that can access terrain where lifts cannot, people can enjoy a backcountry experience without having to skin uphill for another run. They have created a new alternative to enjoying skiing in general.