I’d be the first to say that technology and nature can coexist nicely. But shouldn’t. To many skiers and riders, they’re the antithesis of each other. But with the advent of the iPod and iPhone as the new global appendage to the human body, this small form of technology has made its way into the hearts of people who want their entire lives in the pocket of their parka. Or just plain want some tunage while they shred.
I’ve downloaded a ton of snowsports apps for the iPhone. If you plan on doing the same, I’ve weeded out the ones you’ll probably delete. Here are the best of a very large bunch:
I'm a serial student. I'm all about learning. And I remember watching Martin Heckleman’s learn-to-ski videos probably 10 years ago, when my skiing bug was fairly new. And at that time, at least his ski outfits were already 20 years old. (The fact that I watched his tapes on VHS is also a giveaway.) “Marty,” as my ski housemates used to call him, in his 80’s day-glo one-piece, gave useful tips on everything from making carved turns on shaped skis to trying your hand at moguls.
So it pleasantly surprised me that he (and his jazzy winterwear) came out on the cutting edge of the iPhone revolution for skiing apps. His Ski Tips 2 app is an impressively logical use for your iDevice on the slopes. To complement the app’s series of instructional videos on everything from basic turns to moguls and skiing steeps, Ski Tips has looped recordings of each lesson, voiced by Marty himself, geared to play on-slope. It’s like having your own private instructor in your ear. Thanks Marty!
iTunes store - FREE (Lite); $3.99 (Full)
It’s nice to see that Augmented Reality (AR) has more uses than finding the closest pizza parlor. RealSki has ingeniously mapped out the trails of all your favorite resorts, along with the amenities, and put you inside of it. On mountain, you can take a Six Million Dollar Man-style scope of your resort’s trail map right through the camera of your iPhone. Once the lens is open, trail signs, directions to the lodge, and all those trails behind the trees show up as signs superimposed right over your real-life camera view. Turn around and you’ll whatever directional signs are in that direction too.
Each resort is available as a separate (purchased) download. I used RealSki at Killington and Steamboat. At the latter, it was able to help me and my buddies down the mountain in deep fog— when we couldn’t even see trail signs. RealSki found the proper trails, and indicated the way down the mountain in kind.
Only setback to using RealSki: on sunny days, the glare on an iPhone’s screen can cancel out the useful AR overlay on the camera. But, a small inconvenience for times when you really need to live the trail map.
iTunes store - FREE; $ .99 per Resort
(On The Snow)
There are tons of ski report apps out there. This was a tough category in which to pick a winner: Pretty much every ski & snow report app brings something special to the table. It can be as dizzying as the white-out conditions.
Ski Report’s offerings are in line with all the other apps. You can add your favorite resorts and get the skinny on conditions at a glance. What sets Ski Report apart, though, is a front-page Twitter-style feed of first-hand user reports about the current conditions. Pretty good for circumventing the mountain's sometimes biased snow reports. Although there’s no verification system for these reports, and they can be uploaded anonymously, I’ve typically seen them to be above board. For snow chasers, the Powder Points and Nearby sections show you where the deep stuff can be found, or whatever’s closest. I also like the fact that the “Map” section shows not a trail map, but a Google map that makes it handy for when you just need directions to the mountain. Only "con:" Sometimes the user reports take a day to make the feed. Still, useful when you want honest takes over the course of a weekend.
iTunes store - FREE
The Snow Report
Although another snow report app, it’s graphically unequalled and feature-packed. The summary page gives you the lowdown on your selected favorites. Choose a mountain and on the next screen you’ve got a full-scale display of weather, trail map, resort locator, and more. And that’s just skimming the surface. The Details section of a resort listing lets you access the webcam, open runs, and vital mountain stats. The Track button keeps track of your days at the mountain. You know, for those of you who put in a ton of days per year and forget where you’ve skied by April. TNF didn’t stop there. The Share tab allows you to post to Twitter and Facebook. I could go on about this app. It's packed just about everything you need to know about your favorite resorts into one hot-looking app. Only "con:" some of data is downloaded from mobile versions of other sites-- sometimes making for an awkward load and some squint factor.
iTunes store - FREE
(Core Coders Ltd)
There are some people who like to take pics of their time on the slopes. And there are some people who want to record every foot of vertical and second speeding down it as if they were the Official Bulova timekeeper at Innsbruck.
Ski Tracks takes the fitness part of skiing and riding and brings Nike-style fitness tracking to your slopestyle. Using the GPS feature of your iPhone, Ski Tracks will track your speed, distance skied, vertical, altitude, number of runs, and even the slope angle. Some good ideas are even built in— battery saving features, in-app photo and music controls, to start. Give it a shot. At the end of the day, you might be surprised at the runs you just did before you fight for bragging rights with your pals at après-ski. Ski Tracks is definitely the lie detector test that will put everyone's skiing & riding day into quite a fresh perspective.
iTunes store - FREE (Lite); $.99 (Full)
All of these apps are available at the iTunes App Store.