Being a huge fan of the snow, I was lucky enough to spend the past two weeks skiing in Japan. Whilst there, I came to realise how much the internet and technology have come to play a part in how we approach this, and many other sports. Gone are the days when you wake up to half a metre of snow and it’s a complete surprise.
To begin with, there are hundreds of websites providing up to date reports of what the weather systems are doing, how much snow we can expect, the temperatures throughout different times of the day and even when it is expected to fall. You can also find out how much snow the resort you are in had the same time last year or the same time 20 years ago. While this information can be useful to plan your day it can also put a dampener on your experience. It’s hard not to be disappointed when you go to bed expecting 40cm of snow overnight and you only get 5 or when you read on a website that the resort you are in has received the 3rd lowest amount of snow on record for the past month. Weather is notoriously hard to predict so expectations are often not met. You can’t change it so sometimes I think it’s better not to know in the first place.
A trend I read about in a ski magazine was the introduction of a phone app in a large US resort that embeds a chip in your ski pass. You then download the app on your phone, enter your code and you instantly have access to information about the resort, up to date weather reports and historic data. The app also uses GPS technology to track where you are on the mountain, the distance and altitude you have covered and what runs you have skied. If you link in with friends you can see their whereabouts in the resort too. From a safety perspective this app could potentially make skiing safer by increasing the chances of finding lost skiers, especially for those of us that like to venture in to the back-country, but it does rely on the customer having a smart phone and taking the time to access the app in the first place. If you’re like me, the last thing you want to be doing when there is good snow is to be playing with your phone. As for the information that the app can record, great if you are a data freak, but if you are a true lover of the snow I am sure you will agree, what makes for a good day on the mountain is not something that can be measured by an app.
Whilst reading I also came across an article about a woman who had just set a record hiking and skiing the Fourteeners. For those of you that don’t know, the Fourteeners are the 54 peaks in Colorado that reach over14000 feet. What this woman had done differently was that she hadn’t set up a blog or website and she wasn’t constantly posting her progress in the digital world. Instead she set about this challenge only talking about it with her friends and colleagues in the real world. Her preference not to share her experience live on the internet caused outrage in the skiing world with some claiming what she was doing was unfair and unsportsman like – quite ironic I think for people that embrace the great outdoors so vivaciously. At the end of the article she (and sorry I can’t remember her name) said something along the lines of “It seems in this day and age that if it didn’t happen on the internet then it seems it didn’t happen at all”. I couldn’t agree more. We have become so reliant on the internet in our everyday life that we believe something has to exist on the web to really be worthy of existing at all. We want up to date information about everything in an instant and we’re prepared to access it regularly.
I remember the days when unless you could understand what the foreign weather reporter was reading out on the news the only indicator what was happening with the weather was to look out the window. If you woke up to a big dump you were excited and if not, you didn’t have any expectations anyway so you had fun regardless. You read about people’s achievements in magazines months after they happened and you spent your days hanging out with your friends rather than tracking them on your phone. From a skiers perspective I think these days were better. When I ski from now on I’ll be leaving my laptop and phone at home and I’ll pray to the snow gods instead.