Cutting Edge Technology Is Hitting the Slopes and Transforming Snowboarding

Image from Cerevo XON snow-1 app video demo

We, as the human race, love to tag things as quantifiable certainties.

But certain numbers are difficult for us to track: Ever since the 1920’s, scientists have been trying to put a quantified number on the expansion of the universe. The updated figure lands at about 46.2 miles per second, per megaparsec.

Just try to make sense of that for a second.

Luckily, things here on the big blue dot are a little bit easier to comprehend. Because of technology, we have quantified everything from our phone batteries to the dashboards in our cars. It’s important to us. It helps us set goals and make sense of everything.

Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed a surge of products built to quantify ourselves. A lot of these products often revolve around sports, which makes perfect sense because sports rely so much on numbers.

Fitness has been at the forefront of the quantified-self movement. From heart rate monitors and mobile apps, to watches and bracelets, the fitness market has exploded with tracking products.

Of course, we have seen the same thing in the big four sports as well. But alternative sports, like snowboarding, are quietly making moves into the quantifiable technology market, too. And this is something everyone can get excited about.

Making Sense of It All

Certain things in snowboarding can be difficult to comprehend. For novices and outsiders, numbers are universal language.

Think about snowboarder Sage Kostenburg pulling a trick dubbed the triple cork.

Crazy, right?

Just watching it can seem daunting. But after putting numbers to it, Kostenburg is spinning a total of 1620 degrees while launching from a kicker at roughly 58 miles per hour. Numbers help us better paint this picture.

As we have seen many times in the past, the good folks at Sports Science put their minds to the sport of snowboarding and unraveling the triple cork. The only problem is that data is not available on the spot. Rather, it’s figured out in a “lab”.

Fortunately for snowboarders and skiers everywhere, the human race is finding ways to bring the lab to the mountain. Being able to strap pieces of technology to bodies is helping quantify snowboarding in real-time.

The Mobile Trend

Strictly speaking, mobile technology has become a trend on the slopes. Connectivity has allowed this tech to rapidly expand.

The cellphone is much like a Swiss Army Knife in this case. Applications are really the keystone of any tech that hits the slopes, with few exceptions.

But take the Ski Tracks app, for example. Through your phone, Ski Tracks is able to record your entire day on the mountain. From your maximum speed and elevation, to distance and mapped routes. And the kicker: it tracks your ski trip without chewing up your phone data or juicing for a wireless signal. Ski Tracks is a pretty simplistic app, good for recording what you have been up to all day.

But if you’re out West, Vail Resort’s EpicMix app has a little more to offer and can be used at any Vail-owned mountain: Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Canyons, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Afton Alps, and Mount Brighton.

Using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, EpicMix is very comprehensive. By scanning your pass each time you grab a lift, the RFID and EpicMix app are able to track where you’ve been and how much distance you have covered.

The cool part is, “digital pins” are earned as rewards for completing things, like riding 75 lifts or covering a certain amount of vertical feet. You can take pictures, access trail maps, track your progress in ski or snowboard school, and even race other people down the mountain (including Lindsey Vonn).

As you can see, apps are one way to quantify skiing and snowboarding sessions. But really, they are just the foundation of what is starting to appear on the market.

Technology to Text Home About

With applications building a solid foundation, that can only mean one thing: It’s time to connect.

In an effort to record and put numbers to our snowy expeditions, companies such as XON and Recon are raising the bar.

First off, XON is a company full of innovation. Their Snow-1 bindings are packed with quantifying tech that makes this product, dare I say it, cutting edge.

If RoboCop was a snowboarder, these bindings would surely be his top choice. They come with four load sensors, two flex sensors, an accelerometer, bluetooth tech, and two rather dope-looking LED lights.

What this mix of tech accomplishes is the ability to track your weight distribution, center of gravity, board bend, and acceleration. Couple the Snow-1 bindings with the mobile app, and it’s easy to monitor all of this in real-time.

The app even allows a second user to record video of the rider with a live analytics style overlay. Although this product is only due out sometime this year, beginners and up may find these bindings useful for dissecting areas that need improvement.

And if RoboCop’s bindings aren’t enough, Recon has the heads up display (HUD) covered. The Snow2 (ironically, has no chronological relation to the bindings) is a HUD that comes loaded in a few of the most popular goggle brands.

Due to its mirror and prism technology, the display a rider sees is equivalent to looking at a 14” screen from five feet away. This allows information to be provided in an unobtrusive manner.

Just check out what this product can do:

  • Speed is accurately calculated by GPS and barometric pressure data

  • Jump analytics show airtime either in the park, or backcountry kickers

  • Track your vertical feet by run, by day and over the course of the season

  • The onboard altimeter tracks your altitude to within 1 meter

  • Find your way around new resorts and easily track down points of interest

  • Never lose track of friends or family on the slopes again

  • View calls and read text messages immediately, as you receive them

  • Be in full control of your favourite tunes as you ski or board

And for the geek in all of us, you can check out the tech specs here, which features 1GB of RAM and 2GB of flash. The only true drawback is the six hour battery life.

In case you were wondering, the Snow 2 comes with a “wristable” for easy control over calls, music, and other things, like what’s popping up in your field of view.

Going along with the whole fitness craze, this thing will even hook up to popular heart rate monitors. Imagine viewing your heart rate as you drop in on that double black diamond.

It doesn’t end there either. The Snow 2 will also hook up to third-party cameras as well, which brings us to our next gadget.

The AirDog is a drone that is capable of auto-following its subject matter. In other words, you set an altitude and follow distance; and the Airdog will follow you down the mountain, recording or streaming your every move on a GoPro.

This drone works by tracking the person donning the AirLeash. It will keep up with anyone doing up to 40 MPH.

But the Airdog could prove very useful on a freestyle run through the board park (although the battery only lasts 10 to 20 mins per charge).

Combining the AirDog with the Snow 2 could easily create an interesting situation. Ultimately, you could watch yourself ski or snowboard down the mountain while…err…skiing or snowboarding down the mountain.

Whether or not that is useful remains to be seen. But this idea at least outlines the possibilities of coupling such high-tech devices.

Quantifying with Only One Problem

Technology is clearly making its way to the slopes. Just like it is off the mountain, tech is enabling us to quantify ourselves while we’re on the mountain.

Just the few apps and devices listed in this article are enough to more than quantify one’s self, while “shredding the gnar”.

This quantification should allow a skier or snowboarder of any skill level to set goals. In turn, snow-goers can improve upon their skills and even make a record–statistically or visually–to reminisce about their improvements later on.

As of now, there is only one drawback to all of this: while technology is on a double black diamond path, battery technology is on the bunny slope. The lack of battery technology is a trend subtly outlined in this article. So for any scientists, engineers, or inventors out there, let’s put a little more thought into batteries, so everyone can have a fully juiced, quantified ride down the mountain.