Any technology post will be near and dear to my heart as I am an IT Nerd by trade and have been for almost two decades. This season has seen a very slow start to winter, but I was able to sneak away for a morning of fresh tracks and powder skiing during this crazy Holiday season. On my way up the mountain I decided to try several different apps to track my runs. When I'm out in nature I rarely rely on anything other than the occasional excellent playlist but I wanted to see how I could integrate my love of technology and my love of sports. This review was written based on apps installed on an Apple iPhone 8 and Apple Watch, however I have noted which OS these will run on.
Let's start with the must haves for planning any outdoor winter adventures.
OntheSnow - This is by far my favorite free Snow Report app. Because their website focuses on top reviews and advertising they are able to create a free app for iOS and Android that provides snow reports on just about every ski resort in the US. The app provides detailed information about each resort, including number of runs and lifts open. There is also the Live WebCam feature that will show you point in time resort cams, most importantly the "Snow Stake". The only con I've found is their weather forecast provides almost too much detail, but not in a summarized fashion. Therefore I head on over to my next app.
~~~OntheSnow App (Mountain News Corp.) - Free
OpenSnow - The second app I open when planning a day on the mountain is OpenSnow. This app is excellent for weather reports and forecasts. It is run by a whole slew of amazing meteorologists that love the outdoors. You get very specialized weather reports that are freakishly accurate. Their app is available for iOS and Android but will only allow you 5 Favorite Resorts without paying a subscription fee. Hey, they have to keep the lights on after all. At $20 a year it's worth it if you want accurate, up to date snow reports and need that extra in depth weather report for where you will be heading. This app also provides snow reports but I am not a huge fan of the layout and it does not provide detailed information about conditions at each resort. It also allows you to download trail maps, but I find them difficult to locate quickly with frozen fingers.
~~~OpenSnow app - Free with ads and some limitations. $19.99 to unlock ad-free, 10 day weather forecasts and unlimited resort snow notifications.
CAIC - The Colorado Avalanche Information Center just recently revamped their iOS and Android apps and I love it! If you are an avid backcountry fan this app is an absolute must!! It's free to use (please donate to their site any time possible). They do have very brief ads but also provide the most up to date avalanche information for the entire state of Colorado. The app is easy to use and provides data by mountain range. As always monitor conditions when you get on the mountain but this app is about perfect in helping you determine where you might want to head for a day of backcountry action.
~~~CAIC (Colorado Avalanche Information Center app - Free
Now on to the ski apps. I downloaded three apps, ended up using two then ran into a ski instructor who told me about a 3rd that I should check out. I've listed them all below.
Slopes - This simple and easy to use app for iOS only finds your location and will automatically map you to that resort when you launch it. Simply start tracking and away you go. It monitors your lift time and downhill time. The only time you have to pause the app is when you're taking an extended break. It's free, simple and provides accurate data. Once you stop your day it will even ask you if you'd like to add any photos you took that day to your data. If you're feeling social you can post to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on the fly. It tracks and maps your top speed, average speed, highest altitude, longest run, vertical feet and even calories. It also has an app for Apple Watch making it even easier to use. This free app features some ads but offers an amazing amount of data for casual use. There are several paid options that provide additional data, but honestly I do not see a benefit in purchasing.
~~~Slopes App - Free for Basic Tracking. Single Use, one week and season passes, $1.99/$4.99/$19.99
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SNOCRU - Hands down my favorite app I tried. This app for iOS and Android has it all. The main screen gives you weather information and a snow report for your "Home Mountain", which you define. It also provides a trail map for any ski mountain you can think of. No more cluster F of frozen paper trying to find your next run...just pull up the app and you can easily zoom in, out and around the resort to find your route. Tracking your day is as simple as pressing Check In and Start Tracking. Similar to Slopes it knows when you are on the lift and when you're skiing. The app tracks speed, distance, vertical feet and altitude. You can also enter detailed equipment information on what your wore/rode that day. It's great for me, especially now that I'm demo'ing so much new gear. The free version does have ads, but the season pass is $28 a year or $5 for a month. Worth it in my book and I definitely bought the season pass at the end of the day. As a bonus there is also an app for both watch versions.
~~~SNOCRU App - Free for basic tracking. Monthly Pass and Season Pass available, $4.99/$27.99 respectively.
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Ski Tracks - This one was a recommendation by a ski instructor I met on the mountain. The stats on this will be a little off because I didn't start tracking till later in the morning. This $.99 app for iOS and Android is a basic but effective tracker. There aren't many bells and whistles to it, but the main screen provides all the information you could want, speed, distance, vertical feet and altitude. The one feature I love about this one is you can play your music from inside the app. Just press Track, select your tunes through the app, pocket your phone and enjoy your day. There is also a watch app. For a buck, it's not a bad purchase at all.
~~~Ski Tracks app - $.99
Honorable Mention for all you Epic Pass members, the EPIC Mix app has a lot of fun features most notably Lift Status and average wait time at all resorts on the Epic Pass. It's great during peak season!
A few tips about all of these...find the one you like and use it every time. You can see the difference in top speeds and vertical feet between the top two apps. If you want to track, monitor and measure consistentely just pick one. I ran all three tracking apps at once and it will eat through your battery. I only skied half a day and my phone was at 50% when I stopped tracking. Keep your phone close to your body as the colder the weather the faster the battery dies. Lastly, enjoy the pow regardless of the app you use or lack there of!!