Top 5 Ski Apps
While skiing will always be a classic example of man vs nature, it’s impossible to ignore the impact that cell phones (and more widespread cell service) have had on the mountain experience. Gone are the days of clunky walkie-talkies, brick flip-phones and the message boards at the bottom of the lift being the main way to contact your friends/family.
While we can still take solace in the fact that certain mountains are remote enough to not have cell service (or other quirks, like AT&T working at A-Basin, but not Verizon), we can lean into the many great apps that seemingly improve our skiing experience. With that in mind, here are some of the apps we’ve found most useful for keeping track of each other, keeping track of the runs skied, and ultimately, keeping track of who has earned the bragging rights on a blower day.
There is nothing like sitting back after a powder day with some buddies, each going around with their favorite run, how good the snow was, and the gnarly lines they stomped. It’s like a broken record that you don’t mind listening to. While one of the beauties of skiing is that it doesn’t need to be at all competitive, we now have the analytics to back up the epic-ness of the day.
Like anything else these days, we are now able to capture and analyze our movements with a stunning degree of accuracy, and the Ski Tracks app is a great example of this. Using the app is simple: you just need to press play on the main screen, and it runs in the background while you are skiing (which is helpful for those of us whose phones tend to die in the cold!), so there is no need to constantly maintain it during the day.
Who doesn’t want to know what their top speed was, or see how many miles they skied that day? The app maps out your runs as well, with a couple different viewing options (the satellite view is especially cool, as it can tell you about the topography of the mountain in a way that trail maps are sometimes unable), and you’re provided with run-by-run breakdowns of each successful powder grab. Lastly, the app records each individual day, which makes for a ton of fun as a season recap!
But what’s a powder day if you lose your buddies and can’t share in the fun? There is a sizable contingent (the author included) who might say “screw it, no friends on powder days”, but it’s still nice to be able to meet for lunch. And on a practical note, it’s way safer to ski with buddies, particularly if you’re getting into some heady stuff.
That’s where an app like SkiLynx (clever name, right?) comes in mighty handy. The app uses GPS and the available trail maps to help keep track of you and your friends. As mentioned previously, this might not work in places with limited cell reception, but for most mountains it’s a great way to keep an eye on folks. This is especially helpful when someone takes a wrong turn (we all have that friend), and you need to find a good place to reconvene. The app displays not only the run your wayward friend is taking, but it also shows their progress so you can intervene and save them from a tourist trap, or at the very least, loneliness.
Another giant leap forward in the realm of skiing is our ability to know what’s coming. While there are many apps that provide this service, Open Snow tends to have by far the most accurate forecasts, and with a network of dedicated snow observers, you’re covered in whichever region you’re looking to score some pow. Founded in 2011 by Joel Gratz and Andrew Murray, these two meteorologists were unified in the divine mission of helping people locate the best pow!
The app is free and easy to use – simply type in the name of the mountain (or backcountry area) where you are looking to ski, and you’ll be provided with a detailed 5-day forecast of not only the conditions you can expect, but also in a detailed breakdown – hourly for the next day ahead, and then expected precipitation for the day and the night for the four days following. Dividing it by day and night is super helpful, as a combined 24-hour snowfall doesn’t necessarily indicate what the conditions will truly be like the next day, especially in places with heavy skier traffic – other reports may indicate that a foot has fallen, but the reality may be that it all fell the day before and has been skied off by the time you get there. The current forecast is a bit dire, but hey, it is the start of October!
“In Joel we trust” says my dad, a lifelong powder-hound (who won’t be trifled with mediocre conditions), and so should you!
While Open Snow is free to use, they also offer a yearly subscription option (best $19 you’ll ever spend!), which provides the user a 10-day forecast, as well as a handful of other metrics that help make the difficult choice of where to go a bit easier.
Say you’ve carefully analyzed the snow reports on Open Snow and you’ve made the choice to go somewhere new. When you’re not poring over the map to see which piece of soft, fluffy canvas you’ll create art with next, you might look up and notice that you’re in another gorgeous and unknown mountain range (sorry Midwest folks, this doesn’t really apply to you). With the PeakFinder AR app, you simply take a picture of whatever glorious hills you are beholding, and the app will provide you with the names and elevations of each respective peak. While this doesn’t necessarily affect your experience on the mountain, it’s always fun to learn more about your surroundings, and who doesn’t love all the quirky names that our forefathers have bestowed upon the seemingly endless terrain?
Lastly, we go to the sexiest app on offer – that’s right, one focused on safety! In this case, the Avalanche Forecasts app provides the user with the current avalanche danger levels in each region. Now you might ask, “I’m skiing inbounds, why would I need this?”, and that’s a fair sentiment. Sadly, inbounds avalanches are a legitimate concern. While these are certainly extraordinary circumstances, we must assume certain risks in dangerous terrain, and, if the slope is steeper than 30 degrees, an avalanche is always a possibility.
There are plenty of us that enjoy the unpatrolled side-country adjacent to major mountains, and thus it can be a life-saving idea to check out what the conditions are like prior to exiting through the gate.
While there are tons of apps out there that will improve your skiing experience, don’t forget to check with us first for discounted tickets, so you can focus on the glorious day ahead and not on the sting in your wallet.