The question is not, “is there an app for that?” when it comes to skiing and snowboarding. The question is which of the dozens of apps out there are the best to use?
Here are five that, well, don’t suck. (And don’t require an iPhone 3GS, like the uber-cool new Realski app.)
411: The SnowTrails uses the iPhone’s GPS (only for 3G iPhones — sorry early adopters) to record a run down the mountain and play it back. It collects data on speed, elevation change and airtime. The data points from your run can be plotted on Google Maps.
Areas covered: SnowTrails claims to work at all ski areas around the world.
Snow, weather, maps: Does not include weather info, snow totals, or downloadable maps of ski areas.
Bonus features: This app calculates your maximum G-force down the hill. You know you’re curious.
411: With a detailed weather report, record of recent snowfall and first-hand reports on the area from other users, SkiReport could be a quick way to choose an area for the day.
Areas covered: U.S. and Canada
Snow, weather, maps: Includes snow totals, plus totals for past four days; three-day weather report gives info like wind speed and chance of snow. Area maps are not included, but like many ski apps, this one uses the GPS to find resorts nearby. The usefulness of this feature remains as mysterious as its accuracy — it thinks Boulder is a mere 40 miles from Vail.
Bonus features: The app accesses user posts from SkiReport.com for a given area, like this Tuesday post with some creative shorthand about Vail: “rediculosly crowded after 11. But the mornings are nice bfore the gapers are out.” Ah, entertaining and useful beta. It also has resort Web cams and a Powder Points tab, which shows new snowfall totals around North America — just in case you have an option to jet to Whistler.
411: Load a ski area on your phone and the GPS will pinpoint you on the slope in a 3D, Google Earth-ish map that you can tilt, rotate and zoom in on. 3G iPhones only.
Areas covered: Global. Big Air Software, the makers of iTrailMap, say they’ll add support for a missing area if you e-mail them.
Snow, weather, maps: Does not include weather info or snow totals. Paper maps of the resorts are available for download; they stay on your phone, so no cell signal required to use them. Slightly fuzzy when you zoom in.
Bonus features: Records your track, vert and distance.
Colorado Ski Report
411: This is a bare-bones app. It lists the basics on conditions at all of Colorado’s resorts — and that’s it.
Areas covered: Colorado.
Snow, weather, maps: In addition to the conditions basics, like current temps and recent snowfall, this app shows a Web cam at the resort and reports the number of lifts and trails open.
Bonus features: Buttons for areas link to the resort’s Web site and find it in Google Maps.
iSki Trail Maps
Cost: 99 cents
411: iSki is just a whole bunch of paper maps of ski areas — you know, the ones you pick up for free? — for your iPhone. Once downloaded, the maps are on the phone, so no signal required to access them. (The non-3D version of iTrailMaps does the same thing for free.)
Areas covered: Everywhere. Zermatt-Matterhorn or Valle Nevado, anyone? (Download before you go. International data plans aren’t cheap.) Makes for good vicarious skiing.
Snow, weather, maps: No snow report, no weather; the maps have good resolution and are easy to read.
Bonus features: None! This is another minimalist app.