Building a Better Ski App.

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It’s that of year again. The time when I go digging in the attic for last year’s ski gear while thinking up some way to justify some new gear purchases for the trip (or trips) ahead. And of course technology plays a big part of every ski trip: the now-essential GoPro and associated accessories; my iPhone with the lates tracking apps; and various memory cards, batteries and chargers. The one piece of kit that needs to be improved, in my opinion, is the ski app.

Mostly I use RunKeeper. It is what I use for running and cycling, but also it does include downhill skiing as one of its standard activities. For the most part it does a decent job, and can be used without a data connection, but there are still a few missing features. With this in mind here’s my wish-list for a better ski-app:

  1. Offline resort maps – it should be possible to download a piste map for the resort directly into the app with all of the usual points of interest, lifts and runs or course but also restaurants, snow parks etc. these must be accessible without a live data connection because roaming charges are still problematic.
  2. My profile should allow me to enter my various stats (height, weight, standard) for easy gear hire and I would also like to be able to register the gear that I use on each trip; sometimes I vary the type and length of skis and it would be nice to track this and see how or if it relates to performance.
  3. For the purpose of tracking, the app should be able to distinguish between lifts/gondolas/drags and runs; this shouldn’t be too hard if accurate piste maps are available. Presumably we are not too far from being able to use our phones as ski-passes, in which case registering lift on-boarding and alighting should be a snap by using the gate sensors at the lifting stations.
  4. Also for the purpose of tracking, the app should be able to distinguish between run types (blue, red, black, off-piste etc) and to register current snow and weather conditions (taken from an available resort feed).
  5. I take a lot of photos on a trip and I’d like to be able to connect this with the app to easily locate photos on the piste and to quickly identify areas that remain to be photographed.
  6. There are lots of key performance metrics that could be tracked that go far beyond the simple measures of average speed and distance provided by the likes of RunKeeper. At the very least I’d like to know my max speed, number of turns, altitude changes, slope incline etc all sliced and diced by day, trip, resort, run, run-type etc.
  7. It would also be great to get a more accurate measure of skiing effort and associated calorie cost. I suspect the calorie formula used by the likes of RunKeeper is not optimised for skiing. Factors such as the number of turns per unit distance and altitude drop combined with some estimate of turning force may help here.
  8. I’d also love to be able to compare runs or days or even trips and resorts in terms of various key metrics.
  9. I usually travel with others so it would also be nice to be able to connect directly to ny ski group from the app. At the very least I’d like to see where everyone is on the slope and perhaps a simple messaging system can be incorporated for when we get lost … rare as that is 😉
  10. Coffee, food, and beer are an essential part of the mountain experience. The app should also be able to highlight nearby restaurants and bars and,, crucially, give some indication as to how busy they are.
  11. Speaking of busy services on the mountains, it would be an added bonus for the app to be able to indicate how busy different runs and lifts are; this should be straightforward, either from gate-data or from other app users’ behaviour.
  12. It would also be nice to build in some fun competitions between friends on the slopes: challenge runs, speed tests etc.
  13. Upon arriving at a new resort it would be great to be recommended graded “ski safaris” (short, medium, long).
  14. From a safety perspective a good alerts system is also needed. Obviously run closures, bad weather, avalanche risks etc should be reported in a context sensitive manner. It would also be good to receive an alert if it looked like there might be timing issues when it comes to catching the last lift at the end of the day. And of course an emergency services call button should be included in case of accidents or falls.
  15. Of course once an app like this is available it creates a very compelling opportunity for integrating a whole host of resort services from accommodation and gear hire to lift-passes and food and drink.

I don’t think there is an app quite like this as yet.. If there was I would pay for it. I’d like to think that I would even be willing to pay for the resort maps as part of an in-app purchase thereby providing a decent incremental revenue model for the app developer.

So far in my search friends have recommended an app called Ski Tracks as the best option out there. It seems to offer a decent set of ski-specific metrics and off-line usage but I don’t think it has any real resort data or recommendation services. And there are plenty of resort-specific apps that offer downloadable piste maps but these are are not live maps and there is no inbuilt tracking.

Edge Ski looks like a real contender. I actually tried this app briefly last week in Austria but it seemed to require an active data connection so I abandoned it. However the app site claims it will work in offline mode for tracking purposes so I need to give it a second look. It has a nice interface and claims to be resort-aware so that it can split tracked journeys into runs. It also seems to have a decent restaurant and points of interest database.

If anyone knows of other apps please let me know.

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