Technology


On snowy slopes, fingers glide down the touch screen



I love skiing: the thrill of racing down a tricky trail, the tingle of icy air in your lungs, the mountaintop views, the sips of mulled wine. Like everyone, I take a tumble now and again, and I am prone to getting lost among the trails and ski lifts, and stuck in the occasional snowdrift. At least my red hair helps my friends find me on the slopes.

On my ski vacation next week, I'll be using apps to help with almost all of these problems.Skiers can always do with a lesson or two, and nowadays you can use your smartphone for advice with apps like Ski Tips for iOS. Its design is simple, consisting of short videos on all sorts of techniques. There's also an audio feature so you can listen to the exercise track on headphones while you practice.The Lite edition is free to give you a taste of the lessons; there are three apps at $4 each covering more difficult skills.Don't expect TV-quality production values, or the attention you get from a live lesson. But the app has reminded me of a few things I can improve on (including getting my hip position right in a jump turn).

Skiers and snowboarders know how fiddly paper maps are; luckily, there are apps to help. SkiTrailMaps Pro on Android is $4 and pretty reliable, though you should remember to download the maps you need before you start skiing. On the iPhone, iTrailMap (free) is similar, offering a digital version of a resort's paper map.There's also iTrailMap 3D ($5 on iOS), which allows users to zoom around using screen gestures. This app may be useful in planning your day if you're at a new resort because it gives you a better sense of the trails' complexity. You can also display your position on the map using your phone's GPS if you've gotten confused.

One concern is that not every slope is represented in detail. The 3-D map for the resort I am visiting, for example, lacks trail names and details on the ski lift network.More experienced skiers may like to track their position on the slope or time themselves to measure performance. One app that does this well is AlpineReplay Ski & Snowboard (free on iOS and Android). It logs your progress using your phone's location sensors. All you need to do is press the "record" button, whiz downhill, and press "stop."

The app links your data to a free account on a website, and both app and website display your data, like average speed, calories burned, number of jumps and so on.There's a social networking system so you can compare stats with your friends or other skiers at the same resort.The Ski Tracks app ($1 on iOS) is more sophisticated. It lets you enter many details about your location and snow conditions for each run you track. It has extras like a music player, and it can log photos you snap while skiing.These extras make it more complex to use, however, and its smaller buttons may not be welcomed by bare fingers in cold air.One of the other useful things an app can do before and during your ski trip is brief you on the weather. The Ski Club Snow Report app from the Ski Club of Great Britain (free on iOS) is straightforward, and it covers 44 resorts in Europe and North America. Its interface is text-based and unfussy, delivering important details like when it last snowed, snow depth and a basic forecast.The free iOS Ski and Snow Report app from Zumobi is more complex, letting you arrange weather data for several resorts on a summary page. Tapping on a resort's icon takes you to more details, like a five-day weather forecast and resort webcams (if there are any) so you can judge conditions for yourself.

The neat bit about this app is it can send you alerts when your favourite resorts get fresh snow. There's a similar free Android app, Ski & Snow Report, from SkiReport.com that's popular, though it has a more pedestrian interface based on text rather than graphics. — KIT EATON/The New York Times News Service

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