The Value of Ski Resort Apps

Ski expert Tim Wahl deep dives into whether ski resort apps are worth downloading to your phone.

A black iPhone on a table

Photo by Radovan

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Are ski resort apps worth it? The best answer is sure, sometimes. My honest answer is, well, maybe not.

With so many useless mobile applications on the market, it can be tough to decide what is worth downloading to your mobile device. Too many companies try to market and compete by creating unnecessary apps that have little value. There is an app for everything and anything nowadays.

Are ski resort apps on that list of unnecessary apps? They do have some value, but not nearly as much as going out to the resort—or mountain—with an open mind. Ski resort apps can have great information in them, don’t get me wrong, but there is unexpected value in choosing to miss out on some information.

Where Apps Have Value

Most ski resort apps can be pretty useful for certain things. Many include maps, deals, nearby restaurants, hotels, and more. You can find entertainment on the weekend nights or even track your trail runs, depending on what app you’re using; Jackson Hole and Squaw Alpine are a couple locations that have these great features. But if you’re bouncing around and shredding different locations, would you really want to clutter your phone with a bunch of different apps for each place? Probably not.

Ski Resort App Benefits

A wintery holiday resort town scene

Photo by Kamala Saraswathi

There are a few instances where I feel downloading a ski resort’s app might be worth it. If you’ve got a local mountain that you always go to, see if they’ve got an app. There might be some great information about the mountain or area that you never knew. Even though you might be a local expert, there could be some sweet deals that are only available on the mobile application. The worst case scenario is the app is no good and you delete it.

Another instance in which I think downloading an app might be worth it is for a ski trip. Maybe you and some friends booked a long weekend at a dreamy mountain buried in the snow. Check if they've got an app! Again, there can be some great local information there. Most of these apps will let you skip through the signup process, if there even is one. This will save you those precious minutes that are better spent on the mountain or by the fire with the book you’ve been meaning to read.

This particular season might be a good one to check out some mountain apps, actually. With COVID-19 throwing us into a global pandemic, person-to-person interaction is minimal right now. Thankfully, adventuring outdoors is one of the few recreational activities that we can still do. However, you might not be able to meet as many friendly locals that can show you that crazy backcountry line or the sweet dive bar that has no signage out front as you used to. And unfortunately, no app will ever replace these types of interactions or local gems.

But for the time being, ski resort apps might help fill a piece of that void. Great experiences come from diving into new and unfamiliar territory. These apps might help you scout out a new spot or help you grab a phenomenal deal. They can act as your local guide for now, when there is no one around to do so (although the app is not nearly as friendly or rad as a local person, I’m sure).

General Snowsport App Benefits

There are some other mobile applications that might be worth looking into as well, besides just ski resort apps. Options like Ski Tracks and OpenSnow are great mountain-based applications. They don’t come from a particular resort, and are some pretty sweet apps for winter/tech fanatics.

Ski Tracks allows you to record all kinds of data like maximum speed and distance traveled. It has a basic user interface and is a simple application. Ski Tracks is the most popular snowsports app to date, with millions of downloads, so there are plenty of positive reviews as well.

OpenSnow allows you to search most mountains and look through mountain reports, forecasts, maps, and more. Sometimes they will even have a live feed from the mountain's cameras which is pretty cool. They also have a website with the same functionality. OpenSnow can be useful if you’re planning a trip to an unfamiliar mountain. There are many applications similar to these ones, so really it’s about picking your flavor.

Where Apps Fall Short

A woman in a hot springs looking out at the mountains in the distance

Photo by Joshua Sortino

At the end of the day, I’m personally not a fan of these apps. I don’t think they are worth it, or necessary. The ultimate goal of a resort app, like any app, is to enhance your experience as the user and consumer. There is so much information available to be taken in. Trying to consume it all cheapens our real experiences. Just hit the slopes. Meet people and search out new experiences. Truly, the best learning is done on the mountain, in the hot tub, and out in the snow.

Sure, I’ve never known my max speed, but I know I’ve absolutely ripped some trails. I could tell from my pounding heartbeat and the ice in my beard. I prefer the extra headspace that having just a few key apps gives me. There's some clarity in being present with the mountain and its surroundings, in spending focused time with those who you venture with. No app can add to that experience and most will likely take away from it. Too many apps add clutter and noise in a world that's already full of it.

For me, the mountains have always been a place that feels like home. The mountains are powerful, beautiful, and tranquil. Spending a day at the mountain can give you that feeling of simple joy and happiness that isn’t reliant on absorbing as much information as possible.

We all get jumbled up with complexities: there's some sweet new gear to grab, lots of planning to do, logistics to figure out. But once you’re actually out there, it’s always about the feeling, that simple joy. It’s like when you finish a long hike and the mountain seems to open up to you and share its incredible views. It’s like when you blaze down a new trail and splash through the powder like it’s instinctual. Or maybe it’s like when you go down your first green without falling, and with a big smile you ride the chair back up to do it again.

John Muir said, “We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.” That’s the feeling. The mountain has lifelong joy attached to it. You can hike, bike, ski, and board, among other things. All you have to do is get out there and experience it yourself.

Three skiers hiking up a hill

Photo by Joris Berthelot

There is so much to experience at every single mountain. Learning happens naturally and no apps are necessary. And don’t forget about everything nearby, also. Check out all that the ski resort and local town have to offer. One of the biggest problems of counting on an app is that everyone sees the same stuff. You’re not going to find a crazy secluded spot for you and your friends to adventure around on an app. Hit the local shops and ask around. Don’t be shy to talk to people and search out those lesser known gems.

Be with the mountain and the people! Do a snow angel in the buff to feel the cold before jumping in the hot spring. Go for that huge feature that you know you can do, but have always been afraid to try. You don’t have to bury your face in an application to have the best time. See what you can find out there on your own.

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Written By
Tim Wahl
Tim Wahl
Ski Expert
I'm a former lesson teacher and avid freestlye skiier. Icy trails and night skiing in the park is what I grew up on. Shoutout Bristol Mountain! Originally from Fairport, NY, and now living in Boston, MA, it's safe to say I've been skiing the "Beast Coast" my whole life. I'm also a designer and have...
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