High-Tech Skiing: GPS Tracks Runs

Several ski resorts are renting devices that allow skiers to track their day.

Feb. 17, 2010— -- It's long been tradition after a full day of skiing to take out a trail map, have a few beers and talk about the day's adventures.

But now some resorts are giving skiers a high-tech way not to just compare runs, but speeds, steepness and even the number of calories burned. Welcome to the end of ridiculous exaggerations about how well you did on the mountain. (Or you will have proof of your double-black-diamond awesomeness … but really, we all know it's the former.)

I tested out the SlopeTracker device during a recent visit to Utah's Deer Valley Ski Resort, and I have to say I was impressed.

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Not only did it keep track of what trails I skied and what lifts I rode up, but the device -- which uses global positioning satellites -- even knew how fast I was going.

At the end of the day, I returned the device to guest services where they printed up a nice color, small poster-sized map of the mountain. Red lines showed the trails I skied in order. Yellow lines showed which lifts I rode.

It even compared hours actually on the snow skiing or riding, compared to those on lifts or resting inside.

I only skied for an hour but got in eight runs and covered 8,190 vertical feet, 8.5 miles of trails with a top speed of 27 mph. I wasn't really doing any challenging trails -- apparently the average grade was a calm 18.3 percent -- but I did burn 476 calories.

Ski Resorts Go High-Tech

All of that information was on the front of my map. On the back was a breakdown of each trail, including the start and stop times and all the details about steepness, speed and distance.

If basketball, baseball, football and even bowling have detailed ways to track a bevy of statistics, why not for skiing too?

While I might use this to compare one day of skiing to another, or to keep as a unique souvenir, I could also see one person racing against another or siblings comparing their stats.

(But don't try to go too fast: the company limits the speed readouts to 50 mph to ensure that nobody takes excessive risks.)

Deer Valley is one of just a handful of North American resorts to offer the SlopeTracker GPS system to skiers.

Other ski areas with it include Park City Mountain Resort in Utah, Copper Mountain, Telluride, Winter Park and Keystone in Colorado; the Yellowstone Club at Big Sky in Montana; and Sunshine Village in Banff, Canada.

The one-day rental in Deer Valley was $35 and included the souvenir map and a plastic travel tube. The price is similar at other ski resorts.

The print-out is suitable for framing, though I'm not sure who would want to frame it. You would have to have either had a fantastic day on the mountain or just be really proud of your skiing. But I bet my friends would laugh at me and ridicule my giant ego if I tried to hang this up at home or at the office.

The small, 3-ounce band is worn on your arm. I completely forgot it was there until I took off my jacket during a break in the lodge and it fell to the floor. You can't check it for updates between runs; you have to wait until your day is done and you return it. But that's OK. That would take all the fun out of skiing.