King of the mountain
Popular smart phone app tracks stats and proves who's on top
by Matt Boxler/
Tom Hanson is in his 60s and well on his way to logging 3 million miles of vertical at Sugarloaf this season — even with a damaged heart and arthritic knees. That’s 5,000 miles of skiing — or about twice the amount average skiers like myself log in an entire lifetime.
It’s time I upped my game. Don’t get me wrong, unless there’s a big lottery win in my future, I’ve got no prayer of closing the gap on Hanson, who gets 100 ski days in before Valentine’s Day. I’m lucky to log 40 all season.
Nope, my only shot is to compete with Tom on the technological front and even this will be near impossible. See, Hanson already has armed his Android with the latest smart phone app sweeping the ski industry, and he’s already poised to win the King of the Mountain badge — and every other available badge in “AlpineReplay.” He’s even collecting pledges for each thousand of vertical he skis, all to raise money for the Ski Museum of Maine.
In sharp contrast, I more closely resemble the stereotypical technophobe quietly staring at the blinking 12:00 on the VCR received as a Christmas gift in 1982. Fortunately for me, technology will save me from technology. With my iPhone 4S, I should be able to download every app I need to take on Tom head to head, right?
“Siri, please download for me the most popular web apps that skiers and snowboarders are using nowadays to stay better connected to the sport they love. And start with AlpineReplay, so I can keep tabs on one Tom Hanson!”
“I’m sorry Matthias, I don’t understand your question. Can you say it again?”
Siri and I have a love-hate relationship. At least she keeps the clock right.
While Siri contemplates my query, I did some of my own investigating, the old fashioned way — by visiting the resort’s website. Sugarloaf unveiled its new mobile app, “Sugarloaf Replay” last November. It allows skiers and riders to track their experiences on the mountain, compile their stats online and share them with friends — all with the push of a single button. Sunday River and Loon have similar resort-tailored apps, all of which were developed in conjunction with the team at AlpineReplay.com.
The app utilizes GPS technology built into the Android and iPhone to calculate a user’s accumulated vertical feet, total mileage, number of runs, average speed and even calories burned throughout the course of the day and the season. User stats are stored in their profiles at AlpineReplay.com.
In addition, the app provides users with the latest information from up on the mountain, including up-to-date lift status, grooming reports, daily reports and instant updates through resort Twitter feeds.
I opened a free account at AlpineReplay to take a peek at the global leaderboard, just to see where I stack up. At the start of February, good ol’ “Tom H” from Sugarloaf was ranked on top with 2 million vertical feet skied. That’s more than twice the vertical of his closest challenger, “Robert L” from Mont Sainte-Anne. Sugarloafers “Fred P” ranked fourth, “Bill D” was 13th and “Seth G” was 17th. Other New Englanders cracking the top 25 were Smuggler’s Notch skier “Noah L” and Jiminy Peak skier “Sergey R,” both of whom were closing in on a half-million vertical.
There are statistical rankings in several other categories, including maximum speed, sustained speed, average speed, total distance, slope time, air time, number of jumps and categories. Users can sync their data with Facebook, so they can share and compare their experiences on the hill with friends and family.
“Skiers have been comparing their days and boasting about stats since the dawn of skiing,” said Brad Larsen, vice president of sales and marketing for Sugarloaf. “Sugarloaf Replay is the next step for Sugarloafers in continuing that tradition in an online, social media environment.”
Resorts are keyed into this age-old phenomenon by introducing new technologies to help guests keep track. Vail Resorts was one of the first with EpicMix, a Radio Frequency (RF) enabled ski pass system that automatically captures all your activity on the slopes and uploads it to your profile dashboard. The RF technology is installed on each of the resort’s 89 lifts. On mountain photos, vertical feet, days skied, trails skied — you name it — EpicMix collects it and awards points. The data can be shared on Facebook and Twitter.
Stowe Mountain Resort has teamed up with social-gaming app provider SCVNGR (pronounced scavenger) to introduce some high-tech fun for skiers and riders. Basically, the resort built Stowe-themed challenges on SCVNGR’s customizable social game engine for fun and for engaging guest loyalty.
For instance, sharing the name of a favorite Stowe trail or sending in a report of ski conditions will earn players points toward unlocking special Stowe Badges. Players who earn enough points to unlock Stowe Badges on SCVNGR also will have the chance to win prizes that are awarded weekly by the resort, such as lift tickets and Stowe Points Cards.
“We’re always looking for new ways to integrate cutting-edge technology and enhance our guests’ experience,” said Jeff Wise, director of communications at Stowe. “From our on-mountain experience to dining to night life, SCVNGR’s social-game engine provides a perfect way for Stowe to engage our guests with everything the resort has to offer.”
Vendors have joined the party as well. You’ve undoubtedly seen more and more skiers and snowboarders strapping cameras to themselves to capture action shots that they later share on their favorite social media sites. GoPro is making it even easier by releasing a WiFi BacPac that attaches to the back of a camera, allows it to be controlled from a remote control worn on the wrist, or from a smart phone or device.
That means kids riding through the halfpipe with cameras on their helmets could have their parents or buddies on the sidelines choosing when to snap the best shot.
Maybe this is where I can beat Tom Hanson. I could mount several cams on myself to produce the first-ever 3-D hero cam footage. I wonder if AlpineReplay has a badge for that?
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of New England Ski Journal.
Matt Boxler can be reached at email@example.com