Now you may think people who spend their time on a bluebird powder day hanging about the side of the piste and peering at their smartphones are a bunch of complete tossers who need to get a life. And clearly I could not possibly comment, though personally I do try to refrain from getting mine out under those circumstances. And the phone as well. Fnar.
Still, I can see that having spent anything up to £500 on the gadget you might want to get some use out of it, though I suggest that trying to post photos of your fabulous off-piste skills to Facebook while on a chairlift probably isn’t the best way to do that. Not until they add a feature which allows you to do it while the phone remains safely in an inside pocket at any rate. Though no doubt such an innovation will be forthcoming at any moment, given the speed with which these things evolve.
One of the first thing I did on acquiring an iToy last spring was – obviously – to search on ‘ski’ in the app store. Which turned up practically nothing of much interest, I have to say. Searching on the name of your favourite resort, on the other hand, yields results.
2Alpes is offering techy skiers its own resort specific app this year, courtesy of the tourist office and the people at Lumiplan Montagne, who supply those big electronic piste maps you see in resort, with all the little lights on them showing what’s open. Rude not to try it, I thought, so I downloaded it, had a prod around at it and took it out on test over the weekend.
It has to be said that the whole thing looks very nice, especially for a freebie, and is very much uninfested with annoying advertising. I realise we have to pay for these things somehow or other, but if the ads get on your tits you’re going to delete the whole thing and look elsewhere, aren’t you? Developers take note.
The interface is very simple and easy to use (always good when you have five seconds before frostbite removes your fingers), and the app is packed with up to date and accurate infomation, something which frequently can’t be said of these things. In fact there are places where it’s more up to date than the tourist office’s own publicity material, presumably because it’s a lot easier to update a piece of software than it is to reprint all your resort brochures. The only thing you won’t find on here is anything relating to accommodation, (on the not unreasonable assumption that you’ve already sorted that out before you got here) and a map of the town, which is a bit of a glaring oversight. You can always use Google maps, obviously, but even so a plan of the village would be nice.
The piste map is available in standard or HD format, and I’d strongly recommend downloading the HD version, as the thing is small enough on a 3.5″ screen as it is, and anything which makes it clearer is a plus. It’s not really a substitute for a paper (or indeed multifunction goggle-wipe) map because a) it’s a bit small, b) you can’t see the screen in bright light however much you squint and/or try to hide it in your armpit in a bid to get it out of the sun, and c) dropping a piste map off the chair isn’t going to cost you more than your holiday did in the first place. But it will do in a pinch if you’ve already dropped the piste map, and provides a handy excuse to stop for coffee without having to admit to your children that they are skiing the legs off you and you are close to collapse.
Other features include a three-day weather summary (along with avalanche risk, road conditions and what’s open), webcams and a basic GPS tracker widget which will tell you your maximum speed, number of descents, total distance etc etc. It doesn’t have anything like the functionality of something like Core Coders’ Ski Tracks but it gives you more than enough useless information to convince all your fellow chalet guests that you are a sad stats-obsessed nerd and make them avoid you all week.
We ran the tracker for a bit over two hours on an iPhone 4 and used about 20% of the battery, which isn’t going to leave you without a phone half way through the day, though you’d be well advised to make sure you have a full charge in the morning if you’re planning to use the GPS. I wasn’t using the phone for music at the same time, and I suspect that if you want to do both at once you’re going to double the power consumption, so even more reason to make sure you have a full charge at the beginning of the day.
The gizmo allows you to post your daily data to Facebook (so you can be ostracised by all your friends on there as well as your chalet-mates), but doesn’t save any of it locally, so if you want a record of all your week’s skiing (and why on earth would you anyway) you’ll be better off with something like Ski Tracks, which will set you back a whopping 69p. Irritatingly, the app doesn’t appear to allow you to stop recording over lunch and then start again at the same point, but resets everything to zero. A bit of a minus point there, as this would save quite a lot of the battery life over the course of the day. But it was free – what did you want, blood?
All in all, the thing is remarkably useful, boasting a decent piste map and weather summary, enough practical information that you don’t have to faff about going to the tourist office, and a fun GPS function. But potentially its most useful feature is the help button, top right of every screen. Tapping this gives you your latitude and longitude plus an emergency call button which takes you straight through to piste rescue. I can’t imagine that sort of detailed location is a lot of use to them, but you can always do the retro thing and just tell them which piste you’re on. Works for me.
- easy intuitive interface
- bags of up to date practical information
- HD piste map
- detailed webcam views
- easy emergency call function
We didn’t like:
- still using the old piste map rather than this season’s updated version
- no ability to pause GPS recording during breaks
- only available for iPhone
- interactive map of the town
- accommodation info with access to an online booking system
But we’re nitpicking a bit, to be honest. This is a really useful piece of software well worth downloading. Get it from Apple’s app store, or via the QR code on the piste map. Unfortunately it’s only available for iPhone at the moment as I said, but you have to assume they’re busy on an Android version at least.