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Technically Geeking: Ski With Your iPhone


a blogumn by Justin Time

My wife and I spent the holiday break in British Columbia, which I found to be far more British than Colombian. We skied a few days in Whistler-Blackcomb where the Olympics will be hosted next month, and I wanted my iPhone to be snow-ready. So I downloaded a handful of trail map and snow report applications from iTunes to try them out, and now you get the benefit of my wasted dollars.

Some of the apps available are free, and in my tests, the winner in the free category was REI’s Snow Report. It has a slick cover-flow based UI, and it’s really easy to find and add a bunch of different ski resorts to your favorites. It even offers push notifications for condition changes at one mountain. The downside (as I learned in Canada) is that it requires internet connection, and that’s no good if you leave the country and don’t have Wi-Fi access.

I usually prefer paid applications, since they tend to cost 2 bucks or less (which is like free) and generally are way better quality than free stuff. But I was surprised at the junk that developers are getting away with charging for in the snow sports category. I could tell you the names of some real stinkers that I paid for, but instead I’ll give you two solid winners – iSki Trail Maps and SnowReports.

Trail Maps ($0.99) does use an internet connection to download maps, but it only needs to download the map once, so you can do that at home, then go to the mountain and use the already downloaded map. And they seem to have great customer support and update the maps often.

SnowReports ($1.99) is more basic than the REI app, so you might wonder what you are paying for, but sometimes less is more as they say, and the UI on this application is beautiful simplicity like a danish modern chair.

While we are on the subject of iPhone apps, I just discovered this clever little newcomer – Walk & Type ($0.99). It uses the built-in camera to show you what is behind the phone as you are typing on it, theoretically so that you can pay attention to what you are typing but not crash into that wall you are about to walk into. I’m glad they didn’t call this “Drive & Type,” but I’m sure that is what most people will use it for anyway.

Just so this post is not entirely about “useful” apps, here is a game that I downloaded in the Vancouver airport to pass the extra hours our crew needed to recover from their New Year hangover and bring our plane around – iBomber ($2.99). You are a WW2 bomber and you steer your way through a bunch of flight plans dropping a ton of bombs on ground targets. It’s more fun than it sounds, believe me. I kept playing for several hours after we got home.