Remember Motorola Talkabouts? Great for emergencies and trash-talking strangers on random frequencies, terrible for everything else. Your smartphone, on the other hand, is the consumate handheld device. Communication, information, geolocation, media creation -- it's hard to believe you ever rode without one, right? But a phone without apps is like a mountain without trees: barren, unremarkable, devoid of opportunities to explore and learn. That's where we come in. Below you'll find 10 great apps that are guaranteed to enhance your riding experience this season, provided you can keep your phone protected and charged. Pre-load them onto your device today and kick-start your winter.
GasBuddy is a genius app that can save you literally hundreds of dollars per season, depending on how far you live from the mountain. Simply fire up the application, allow it to use your location, and boom -- watch as dozens of gas station locations filter onto your screen, filtered by price and grade. It removes all the drive-by guesswork of finding cheap gas, and you'll be amazed at how much you can save per gallon by being strategic. The GasBuddy database is updated in real-time by other users, so it's generally very accurate. Paging everyone who rides Summit County ...
You're all fueled up, but what's the optimal route out of town? Waze can help you outsmart the traffic. It works by crowdsourcing data from fellow users who report congestion, road conditions, speed traps and more. Picture this: a crew of early-bird riders got on the road 30 minutes before you, but they're stuck behind a major accident. One of them logs into the app and reports the accident with the tap of a button, distributing the information to thousands of Waze users who now know to take a different route (or at least stop for Egg McMuffins until the accident clears).
Search "snow report" in the App Store and you'll pull up over 100 results, but we've found this particular app to be simple, reliable and easy to use. Start by setting your preferences and selecting all your go-to mountains. If three or more inches fall, you'll receive an alert. The app also comes with a "quiet time" feature in case you don't want to know about fresh powder on, say, Tuesdays between 8-10 a.m. when you're stuck in those weekly sales meetings. For easy sharing of snowfall numbers, Ski and Snow Report also integrates with Facebook and Twitter.
SnowEdge [download: iOS]
Despite a UI that looks like it was designed in Russia during the Cold War era, SnowEdge is a state-of-the-art app that measures everything from your turn acceleration index (lateral G-force while carving) to your longest air (elapsed time in which your phone is essentially weightless in your pocket). This app will need to stay "on" in order to function, so it tends to eat up a lot of battery life, but the data you can pull is worth it. It's also interesting to check the app between runs -- technical steeps vs. floaty park laps vs. lightning-fast groomers -- and compare the different forces you experience while riding.
SnoCru is the Frankenstein of winter apps. Snow reports? Check. Badges and social sharing? Double check. Dashboard with max speed, total vert and total distance? Check, check, check. As a "Cru Member" you can also rack up Karma Points, which can best be described as snow-centric Foursquare badges: Local, Dawn Patrol, Après Royalty and so on (there's even a Snorkel badge for checking in at a resort reporting 8+ inches). Some of the features in SnoCru are a little superfluous (you probably won't update your status in this app -- that's Facebook territory), but the essentials make up for the extras.
You ride. You miss a call from a friend who just got on the lift. You return that call when you get to the lift. Your call goes unanswered because your friend is now riding. And so on, ad infinitum. Find My Friends fixes all that. Try it out. Get your crew to download the app and have them all agree to share their location data. Provided you get decent cell phone coverage on the hill, you'll be able to track their movements and strategically time your meet-ups (or avoid slow-pokes you don't want to ride with). You can also set up location-based alerts, so you'll know exactly when somebody calls it a day and heads to the bar.
ActionShot [download: iOS]
If you've ever subscribed to any ski or snowboard magazine, you understand how a good action sequence can bring an otherwise static image of a trick to life. ActionShot lets you be a hotshot endemic photo editor, using your riding crew as subjects. First you decide how many photos to shoot per burst (2-9) and at what intervals to shoot (1s-250ms). Then you take the shot, filming the action as you would a video. Once your photos are saved, you go back and edit them into a sick sequence. If your friend is claiming a new trick, ActionShot can help document it and call out his terrible style.
Ptch [download: iOS]
In addition to all the music you keep on your phone, you've been taking photos all day of powder-caked trees, and you captured a hilarious video of your buddy eating it on a rail. With Ptch, you can quickly and easily edit those assets together into a multimedia slideshow (called a "story"), add artistic effects (think Instagram lenses) and share it with friends. It's like having a mini-Final Cut Pro right on your phone. The coolest feature is that your friends can remix your stories and put a different spin on them. In five minutes, your friend who crashed on the rail can edit together a remix and make his accident seem like a heroic feat.
The camera on your iPhone can barely do justice to the breakfast burrito you ate on the way to the mountain -- do you really expect it to take a decent photo of the majestic mountain range in the distance? Enter Pano, a nifty app that lets you create surprisingly nice panoramic images. Use the semi-transparent grid to line up the shot, then pivot your device in an arc -- Pano does the rest, stitching your images together and blending the edges. The best thing about this app is the fact that it does exactly one thing extremely well. App developers: take note.
Education, experience, smart choices, dumb luck -- they're all factors when you venture into the backcountry, and your decision-making abilities can never be too sharp. That's why Ullr created the Avalanche Safety Tools app, complete with GPS, compass, clinometer (to measure the angle of a slope), avalanche forecasts and up-to-the-minute snowpack information. Don't even think about downloading this app until you've taken an avalanche safety course -- it was never intended to replace what you can learn in the classroom and field -- but once you are properly trained and equipped, you'll never regret paying $10 (Android) or $12 (iOS) for this one.