1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Cyclemeter app
Courtesy Cyclemeter
Apps such as Cyclemeter allow skiers to track their progress throughout the day.
By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
msnbc.com contributor
updated 12/8/2010 10:24:02 AM ET 2010-12-08T15:24:02

Before he downloaded an iPhone app called Cyclemeter, Donald McNeill had only a vague idea of where he’d skied on any given day.

But after he hit the slopes of Killington, Vt., for a few early-season runs earlier this winter, he knew exactly where he’d been — right down to the minute.

"I could track the number of runs, vertical feet, and how long I’d been skiing," said McNeill, a retired sales manager who lives in Bridgewater Corners, Vt. "The app also accesses Facebook and Twitter, where it updates your status as you reach certain intervals."

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual Worl...

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

Now that a new season is upon us, developers and resorts are releasing a flurry of applications for skiers and snowboarders. They include everything from high-profile contenders like Vail Resorts’ EpicMix, to less flashy initiatives, such as Newry, Me.-based Sunday River’s new Facebook application, Sunday River Patches.

"Social media has a huge opportunity in skiing," said Dave Aidekman, whose site, Adventurati (www.adventurati.com) released a new social application for skiers in December. "As resorts build social aspects into apps on mobile devices the opportunity will — forgive the pun — snowball."

The reason? Skiing is a social sport, and with location-based services just coming into their own, the new apps are natural fit. Plus, they appeal to resorts, which see them as opportunities to encourage guests to spend more money and come back sooner.

No more snowjobs
Social media has already helped skiers and snowboarders. A recent study found ski resorts across the U.S. and Canada reported 23 percent more snow, on average, on weekends than during the week. In other words, the more business they stood to gain, the "deeper" the snow.

Turns out there’s an app for that problem. It’s called SkiReport.com, and it allows skiers to independently verify snowfall levels . The program is credited with ensuring these self-reported snowfall numbers are accurate.

"Social media as a whole has really just increased transparency and opened up communication channels for friends to talk to friends and companies to talk to their consumers," said Jon Brelig, the founder of SkiReport.com.

Mountain resorts have also become more honest with themselves as a result of social media in general, and the new generation of apps in particular.

"For a number of years, there was a corporate air about many ski resorts," said Evan Reece, the co-founder of Liftopia (www.liftopia.com), a website that sells discount lift tickets. "At first, companies tried to project perfect images of themselves, and slowly realized that they could not control their image by burying unique attributes — positive or negative — when they popped up online. Once they embraced the dialogue with consumers instead of trying to control what was said about their brands, their success in social media began to take off."

More than trail maps
The most high-profile of the new apps is called EpicMix (www.epicmix.com), an initiative of Vail Resorts, which owns Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone ski areas in Colorado, and Northstar at Tahoe and Heavenly Ski Resort in California.

EpicMix, which is available on the iPhone and Android platforms, captures the activity of guests throughout each of its resorts through radio frequency scanners on lift tickets, tracking rides, calculating vertical feet skied and days on the mountain, and recognizing special achievements by granting guests commemorative digital pins.

  1. Most popular

"Skiing and snowboarding have always been about sharing your experiences on the mountain and talking with friends and family the great runs you took or remembering a powder day," said Rob Katz, the chief executive of Vail Resorts. "EpicMix marries the very real social experience of skiing and riding with the fun and sense of sharing created by location-based social media, making it accessible to everyone."

But EpicMix is hardly alone.

  • Ski Tahoe just released a new iPhone app that features weather and snow conditions, a seven-day forecast at the resort, ticket prices, road conditions, and a "flip to view" trail map. (www.mtrose.com/imobile)
  • The North Face introduced a new version of its Snow Report iPhone app, which gives skiers and snowboarders instant resort-specific and community-based updates on snow conditions at most domestic and international resorts.
  • Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort in Utah recently launched an app billed as an "insider’s tool to keep you deep in the know," which offers everything from snowfall totals to live Twitter feeds from the mountain and a ski-day counter.
  • Sunday River’s new application, Sunday River Patches, builds on the nostalgia of embroidered patches often seen sewn onto jackets and backpacks, allowing visitors to earn any of 25 patches by checking into key places located throughout the resort’s eight interconnected peaks.

This is only the beginning of a location-based, social media revolution for skiing and snowboarding, predicted Chris Wallace, co-founder and chief operating officer of The SuperGroup. His company recently worked with the Weather Channel to develop a program called Snowjoke.com, which lets users create videos of themselves participating in various downhill winter sports.

"Social media is all about interacting with other like-minded people," he said. "There’s obviously a community of skiers out there, and a large number of them are certainly social media users. In the near future, online communities will report snow conditions in real time, allow people to share their stories of downhill adventure, and offer advice to those wanting to graduate from the bunny slopes."

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at celliott@ngs.org .

Submit:

Send Christopher Elliott an e-mail.

 

 
(3000 character limit)

All about you...

 

Please, no HTML tags.

 

Your e-mail address and/or phone number will not be published.

Photos: Popular ski and snowboard playgrounds in America

loading photos...
  1. Heavenly run

    Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., offers skiers 91 trails and 4,800 acres of terrain. (Corey Rich courtesy of Heavenly Ski Resort ) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Busy at Beaver Creek

    Colorado's Beaver Creek Snow Resort averages 311 inches of snow per year, gets 300 days of sun and offers more than 1,800 acres of skiable terrain. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Beaver Creek Snow Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Oh boy, Alberta

    Whiskey Jack Lodge is pictured at the foot of the ski hills in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the larger ski areas in North America with 4,200 acres of terrain. (Andy Clark / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 2-mile-high club

    Looking for a high-elevation rush? The base center at Utah's Snowbird Ski Resort sits at 8,100 feet. The resort's highest point, Hidden Peak, climbs to 11,000 feet. (Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Va-va-va-Vail

    Vail, Colo., located west of Denver, is one North America's better-known ski towns. Vail Ski Resort features more than 5,200 acres of skiable terrain over 193 trails. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Vail Ski Resorts) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Après ski

    Skiers and snowboarders can do more than hit the slopes in Vail, Colo. Visitors can visit spas, go shopping and enjoy nightlife, festivals and family-friendly activities. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Vail Ski Resorts) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Take a Telluride

    Also located in Colorado, Telluride Ski Resort has 18 lifts, 120 trails, more than 2,000 acres of terrain, and features "Galloping Goose," the resort's longest run (4.6 miles). (Telluride Ski & Golf) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Road trip!

    Ski and snowboard enthusiasts can easily drive to Telluride from the Four-Corner states. Located in Southwestern Colorado, the drive time is seven hours from Denver and Phoenix, 2 1/2 hours from Grand Junction, Colo., and 2 1/4 hours from Moab, Utah and Durango, Colo. (Telluride Ski & Golf) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Stowe away

    Stowe Ski Resort is smaller when compared to competition west of the Mississippi, but it is a hot spot in the Northeast. The area offers 485 acres of terrain, but an average trail length of 3,600 feet -- longer than any other New England resort, its Web site boasts. (Stowe Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Great spot for beginners

    Buttermilk Ski Resort is small compared to some of its Colorado neighbors. Located just outside Aspen, Buttermilk has carved out its niche by focusing on snowboarders and beginners. Buttermilk offers 435 acres of terrian over 44 runs. (Hal Williams Photography Inc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Experience required

    Aspen Mountain is the backdrop for a horse and carriage ride in downtown Aspen, Colo. Aspen Mountain features 76 trails -- 48 percent considered "more difficult," 26 percent "most difficult" and 26 percent "expert." If you're a beginner, you probably want to get your feet wet some place less daunting. (Hal Williams Photography Inc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Take a hike

    Members of Aspen Center for Enviromental Studies (ACES) take a snowshoe tour in Ashcroft, Colo.Ashcroft Ski Touring/Cross-Country Area offers about 22 miles of groomed trails, and is located 11 miles from Aspen. (Courtesy of ACES) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Lock and Keystone

    Another popular ski option in Colorado is Keystone Ski Area, located about 90 minutes from Denver International Airport. The area features 20 ski lifts, two gondolas and more than 3,100 acres of terrain. (Bob Winsett courtesy of Keystone Ski Area) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Grab a six-peak

    Vermont's Killington Ski Resort stretches across six peaks. Skiers and snowboarders can reach the area's 752 acres of terrain with 22 lifts. (Killington Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Beautiful Breckenridge

    Big crowds may descend on Colorado's ski resorts, but that shouldn't be a problem at Breckenridge. The resort has two high-speed SuperChairs, seven high-speed quad lifts, a triple lift, six double lifts, and others, giving it the ability to move nearly 38,000 people per hour. (Carl Scofieldd courtesy of Breckenridge) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Bring the family

    Smuggler's Notch in Vermont bills itself as "America's Family Resort," and offers services, activities and education aimed at making sure everyone in your clan has fun. (Smuggler's Notch Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 63 years and going strong

    Colorado's Arapahoe Basin has been operating since 1946. "The inaugural season opened with a single rope tow and $1.25 daily lift tickets," its Web site reads. Prices and equipment surely have changed, but "A-Basin" offers the skiers and snowboarders 900 acres of terrain -- more than half above the timberline. (Arapahoe Basin) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Long way down

    Utah's Alta Ski Area is scheduled to remain open through April 18, 2010. It features 2,200 acres of terrain, more than 100 runs and an average snowfall of 500 inches per season. It does not, however, allow snowboards. (Alta Ski Area) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Not for the faint of heart

    Of the 116 runs at Jackson Hole Ski Resort in Wyoming, 50 percent are "expert" and 40 percent are "intermediate." That's great news if you pass up the bunny slopes for some challenging skiing and snowboarding. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. On -- or off -- the beaten path

    Jackson Hole Ski Resort offers 2,500 acres of terrain, plus an open backcountry gate system that offers access to an additional 3,000 acres. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Sun Valley -- how original

    Seriously. Idaho's Sun Valley, started in 1936, claims it is the original ski resort. "Born out of a desire to bring the magic of the European ski resorts to America, Sun Valley quickly became a phenomenon without peer on this continent or any other," its Web site boasts. (Sun Valley Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Do you believe in miracles?

    American Shaun White is pictured competing during the Nokia Halfpipe Snowboard FIS World Cup on March 4, 2005 at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, N.Y. Lake Placid has hosted the Winter Olympics twice -- in 1932 and 1980 -- and offers a variety of activities, including downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, ice skating and more. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Old West reminder

    Seven thousand feet up in the Colorado Rockies, nestled quietly below one of the largest ski mountains in North America, sits a small ranching community that serves as a constant reminder that the Old West is alive and well. Never far from its ranching roots, Steamboat remains firmly linked to a Western tradition that sets it apart from every other ski resort in the world. (Larry Pierce courtesy of Steamboat) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Big skiing in Big Sky Country

    Whitefish Mountain Resort in Whitefish, Mont., collects 300 inches of snow each year and features 3,000 acres of terrain, 94 marked trails and a 3.3-mile run called Hellfire. (Donnie Clapp courtesy of Whitefish Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Sweet on Sugarloaf

    Sugarloaf Ski Resort features 1,400 acres of skiable terrain, including Tote Road, a 3.5-mile-long stretch running from summit to base. Sugarloaf's redesigned terrain park features the 400 foot long Superpipe, a magnet for snowboarders throughtout the region. Portland and Bangor offer airport service to Sugarloaf, and Boston and Montreal are four short hours away. (Grant Klene courtesy of Sugarloaf Ski Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Crossing borders

    With more than 400 inches of snow per year, nearly 8,200 acres of skiable terrain and 200 trails, Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort in British Columbia, Canada, is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. (Randy Lincks courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb ) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Carrying the torch

    Some athletes will become world champions of their sport on the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb when the Winter Olympics roll into British Columbia early next year. (Paul Morrison courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb ) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. TODAY

    video Can herbs help? Dr. Oz explains Eastern medicine

    4/24/2014 1:17:28 PM +00:00 2014-04-24T13:17:28
  1. TODAY

    Carla Bruni: I don't miss being first lady of France

    4/24/2014 1:30:05 PM +00:00 2014-04-24T13:30:05
  1. TODAY

    video Volunteer’s mission sparks a life-long friendship

    4/24/2014 1:29:27 PM +00:00 2014-04-24T13:29:27
  1. Rogue cop kills 3 Americans at children's hospital in Kabul

    A rogue cop shot and killed at least three Americans at a children's hospital in the Afghan capital on Thursday, officials said.

    4/24/2014 11:00:04 AM +00:00 2014-04-24T11:00:04