I’ll admit it. I’m mostly anti-app when it comes to skiing
When I first started skiing with an iPhone, I tried a couple of apps and didn’t really like them. One had too much focus on speed (a “mom-problem,” I know). One drained my battery too quickly. One posted to Facebook whether I wanted it to or not.
None of them were just right.
Then along came Epic Mix from Vail Resorts. When I first read about Epic Mix, I was totally skeptical. “Why do I want to earn pins?” I asked myself. I couldn’t see the point and I had no interest in sharing pretend awards with my social media friends.
Then I skied Beaver Creek and got an email telling me about my day, the lifts I rode and vertical feet completed. It was actually pretty cool.
Jump ahead a few years and I’m still not that interested in pins or medals, but I am all in on Epic Mix photo. It’s almost the only time I show up in photos and for $40, I can download an entire season of “Christmas Card” quality shots.
But even more than the photos, I am 100% stoked and newly evangelical, about Epic Mix Guide.
Your Very Own Mountain Host
In early January we skied Vail (on our own, without local friends) for the first time in years.
As you know, Vail is enormous, 5,289 acres of skiable terrain and 3,450 feet of vertical rise. There’s plenty to ski at Vail, but if you don’t know where you’re going, there can also be plenty of confusion.
Enter, the Guide.
Epic Mix Guide is new this year, an additional free feature to the Epic Mix app. It’s available at the big Vail Resorts in California, Utah and Colorado (but not at the small ones in Minnesota and Michigan). It works like this.
Step One. Open the Epic Mix app and choose Guide. Then choose the mountain you’re skiing.
Step Two. Choose your starting point. At Vail, we had three choices: Golden Peak, Vail Village and Lionshead. We chose Lionshead. Scroll down and choose your ability level. Your options range from “First-Time Skier” to “Looking for Expert Runs” – with everything in between, of course. We chose “Looking for Expert Runs.”
Finally choose how long you’re skiing: A few hours, a half-day or a full day. We were in for the full day.
Step Three. Agree to the disclaimer that holds Vail Resorts harmless if you do something stupid. Notice the ad for the Ski and Snowboard School. Think to yourself, “that might be fun someday.”
Step Four. Your itinerary uploads. In our case, it was the Headwall Adventurer Route and it took us through Game Creek Bowl, across the Back Bowls, over to Blue Sky Basin and finally back to Lionshead.
Why We Love Epic Mix Guide
The Routes Aren’t All The Same. I haven’t used the Guide at a smaller mountain, but at Vail, the options were many. First, because there are three potential starting points, there are three double black/full day routes. Yes, there is some overlap, but not enough that you couldn’t enjoy choosing a different Guide each day. Or mix it up by choosing different levels and different lengths of time.
- Smart People Chose the Runs. The routes were programmed with input from Ski and Ride School instructors at each resort. These are people who know the mountain, the true insiders. Their goal was to craft itineraries that would help guests explore each mountain in a unique and appropriate way.
- The Routes Aren’t Obvious. We were impressed with how the Guide suggested runs that were a bit off the beaten piste. Using the Guide, we experienced terrain that we might not have chosen on our own. Many of the runs also provided a clear vantage point on other terrain, which we could come back and ski later.
- A Guide Eliminates “Discussion.” Maybe it’s just us, but we often disagree on where to ski. Not disagree as in fight, but maybe I want to go here and my kids want to go there, while my husband just saw a terrific line in the trees he wants to explore. With the Guide, we followed the Guide. We did not discuss. We just passed “Go” and kept going.
This is not to say that we followed the Guide to the letter. We got hungry before we’d reached a good spot for lunch and deviated from our route. At another point, we saw a line of mostly untracked powder that we simply couldn’t resist. Another deviation.
Still, the outline of the route kept us busy and happy all day, and we did in fact, ski all of the recommended runs.
You Still Have to Think
Although the Epic Mix app pulls down real-time weather and snow conditions, informs you of grooming conditions and lift status, it can only inform. It doesn’t think or exercise judgment and there is no one standing by to alter the routes based upon each day’s conditions.
You’ve still got to think for yourself, exercise prudence and evaluate changing conditions (hence the disclaimer).
There’s no app for that…at least not yet.
Keep Your Phone Alive
I continually struggle to keep my iPhone alive when skiing. Luckily my son has a ‘Droid that never dies and he played tour guide for us at Vail.
I’ve been asking everyone I know for ideas on keeping my phone warm, happy and vital.
Here are some suggestions.
External battery packs. Lots of people suggest these and charging cases. I tried a battery pack from Lenmar (they of Undead Power) and it couldn’t take the cold. When it warmed up, it provided a steady charge to my revitalizing phone.
Handwarmers. This seems like the easiest solution, although I’m not totally comfortable with its disposable nature. Friends with GoPros, as well as phones, recommend either stashing the device in a plastic bag with a hard warmer or rubber banding a hand warmer to the phone or camera.
Body Heat. Several friends recommended holding the phone in a close interior pocket, under an arm or in a bra. While this keeps the phone warm when you’re not using it, it doesn’t keep it from dying when you pull it out into the cold.
Put in on Airplane Mode. If you’re mostly using the phone for photos, switch it to airplane mode. Again, this won’t keep it warm, but it does seem to reduce the pull on the battery.
I’ve settled on a combination of the battery pack and hand warmers, stashed in an interior pocket. It’s working well!
Anyone out there have other suggestions?
- The Ski Racing World is Coming to Vail. You Should Come, Too. January 14, 2015.
- Happy Birthday Vail! January 9, 2013.
- Tight Turns: Epic Mix Racing, Liftopia Update and One Horn Tooting, October 29, 2012.
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