The great outdoors was our last bastion against the never ending onslaught of push notifications, text messages, email alerts and breaking news updates. Alas, we’ve succumbed to our technological overlords. The decline began with improved cell coverage, even deep in the backcountry. It was compounded when fitness trackers and smart watches buzzed every time you reached your target heart rate or Phil from accounting had a question about spreadsheets and the after-work drinks you were desperately trying to avoid.
Who am I kidding? Our insatiable appetite for Instagramming our #bestlife sealed the deal. We have nobody to blame but ourselves, so we may as well lean-in and embrace an “enhanced” outdoor experience with some of the best apps out there. You’re only clicks away from upgrading your skiing, hiking and biking. Just remember to look up and enjoy the views every once in a while.
- Ski Tracks: This app turns your phone into an advanced telemetry recorder as you hurtle down the slopes. It tracks vertical feet, speed, altitude, slope angle and a bunch of other information that’s essentially meaningless when taken out of context, but the app’s low battery drain—it doesn’t require cellular data or a wifi connection to work—meaning you won’t miss out on any juicy info. It’s pretty fun to compare your stats to your buddy’s during a heated après conversation, but be aware things can get a little dicey when you’re chasing 70 mph down a groomer intersecting with a crowded cat track. corecoders.com/ski-tracks-app/
- Snocru: Despite that adage espousing the virtues of being antisocial on powder days, skiing and riding with friends is simply better than doing it alone. Snocru’s “Near Me” view lets you see where your posse is in real-time so you can shred together. Track every run you’ve skied on an interactive map, view trail maps, check resort conditions and share your stats with friends while challenging them to beat your personal bests. snowcru.com
- All Trails: Even the most persnickety hikers can’t complain with more than 50,000 trail maps at their fingertips. Start it off with detailed driving directions to even the most obscure trailheads. Hit the dirt with GPS tracking to aid navigation with real-time map overlays, and save your stats and favorite routes to share with friends. New safety features let you designate friends and family as safety contacts to see your planned route and expected return times, a reassuring thought for anyone who’s seen 127 Hours. alltrails.com
- Peak Finder: Nothing ruins your credibility as an expert outdoorsman faster than mumbling and faking your way through an answer when someone asks, “Which mountain is that?” Just point your phone at a ridge of peaks, and Peakfinder will illustrate and label exactly what you’re looking at. It’s certainly helpful for navigating in a pinch, but the expert move is to take screenshots and study them at home, impressing your hiking compatriots with all your mountaintop knowledge. peakfinder.org
- MTB Project: MTB Project is the best route-finding tool when you ride into a new area on your mountain bike and have no idea what to expect or where to look. Browse the crowdsourced routes, pick from the top-rated matching your trail preferences and track your progress and navigation with an interactive map with GPS so you aren’t dependent on cellular coverage when encountering an unknown fork in the trail.
- Trailforks: Trailforks allows you to get a little more creative when choosing your route. You can still see popular rides, but they don’t have the crowdsourced consensus of MTB project. However, Trailforks has more trails, includes detailed quantitative and descriptive minutiae for every trail section and is constantly updated with new trails and conditions. The app was designed in cooperation with the world’s largest mountain bike media hub, Pinkbike.com, and is the tool of choice for emergency rescue crews in many locations, including Park City. The emergency feature dials out to emergency services and provides latitude and longitude coordinates. If you’re willing to take a few minutes to stitch together your own ride, Trailforks is the perfect partner. trailforks.com
- Strava: How can you tell if someone’s a Strava user? They’ll tell you. Strava’s the app people use while trying to become their best selves, which is another way of saying it’s the calculable bragging app for hyper-competitive runners, bikers, skiers and hikers. Hey Strava users: A few of us are impressed, but we’re all irritated. We can see when you cheat by looking at your route maps, by the way. That said, as long as you keep your rides private it’s a pretty fun tool to challenge yourself. Just take it easy on verbalizing those #fitnessgoalz. strava.com
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